The best dressed chair in the world

French design firm Pinto has an important place in fashion history: its late founder, interior designer Alberto Pinto, was a close friend of Hubert de Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent. For Pinto’s latest project, new president and co-artistic director Fahad Hariri has invited Stefano Pilati, founder of fluid fashion brand Random Identities and former creative director of Saint Laurent, to collaborate on a capsule collection.

The results are a lost wax cast bronze armchair and sofa covered with a textured Pierre Frey fabric in a viscose blend, both with striking shapes reminiscent of origami. They’re inspired by a DIY furniture upholstery project that Pilati, a noted collector of mid-century modern design, undertook at an 18th-century Sicilian villa where he spent time during the pandemic.

Here, we talk with Pilati about her lockdown design project, her decorating philosophy, and the similarities between dress and chair making.

How did you get interested in furniture design?

I wouldn’t say I’ve always had an interest in furniture design. My interest in furniture was more to collect pieces to decorate my homes. It’s a very important place, home. I therefore devote a lot of time to studying the dynamics of a space, what the environment restores to me. You want to harmonize with the general sentiment.

I have already designed certain elements, for example the banister of a staircase that I had in Paris, or the kitchen and the closet of the guest room of my apartment in Berlin. The design of this chair and sofa was quite spontaneous.

What was your inspiration?

It turns out that during the confinement, my partner and I were in Sicily. We were lucky enough to find a really special living space, but since it had never been rented before, it was a bit run down. The moment I enter a new space, I need to live in the space. This is where I started thinking about how to optimize the experience. I didn’t know how long we would stay, so I hesitated to furnish the house.

Instead, I decided to cover things that were already there, piling pieces together and really dialing in new shapes and volumes. I found all these rugs, pillows, toile de Jouy, straw and dotted jute to use. So I kept working, having fun and at the same time making the space cozy and cute. The idea was actually to use almost all of these as mockups for something that could be improved in the future.

Armchair Pinto x Pilati


And they sort of became prototypes for the Pilati x Pinto pieces, right?

I pitched Pinto ideas of everything I liked, maybe I was looking for for my home, or things I would have liked to work on. It was really personal, because I had never shown it to anyone in my life. Among all these ideas, they chose the chair and the sofa that I made for the house in Sicily.

From then on, you obviously have to translate it into something more solid. I was thinking about different fabrics for the chair, which is perhaps also another reflex of being a fashion designer. You make a coat, maybe you make it in a few fabrics, in three different colors. So I started like that but they came back, it’s almost like saying, “Oh, no, this coat, we’ll do it in bronze. And you’re like, “Woah, I didn’t expect this. But I liked it a lot. »

As for the sofa, it was also a fantastic experience. They used a Pierre Frey fabric on such a volume to give this feeling that everything is made of one piece of fabric folded on the side. It really replicated what I did.

Does the way you design fashion influence the way you design furniture?

I’m not a loud designer. I am not a designer who embellishes. I understand how volumes interact with space; it is a projection of the woman. So for the furniture, I applied the same thing. The spaces should harmonize with the object you are designing. I guess it’s only natural that I think of furniture that way, because I’m a fashion designer. I’m not sure, though, that if you’re a furniture designer you can also make dresses.

pinto x pilati
Pinto x Pilati sofa


Could you ever see doing furniture design in the context of a creative director role? So many brands today offer fashion and also interior.

Well, I will end up designing furniture myself for my fashion house. But I understand what you mean, in the sense that I think it would be interesting for me. Whenever you are challenged by something, it opens up a learning process that can bring experience to nurture your primary profession. I’m here, I’m cold, I don’t insist, but I’m definitely open to it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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