For Daniele Lago, creativity has no boundaries. He is an anomaly in design that wants to train as well as educate, that brings together editorial writing and who tries to do the most complicated thing possible: create life in an empty space, always keeping in mind that, that space is the most vital thing. He has three cardinal rules; brain, heart and courage and it has taken his business, Lago Design from a 3 million euro turnover to 40 million per year to this day. They want him in politics but the revolution he has in his mind is one from the heart. He hates low cost, he chooses kindness as his ethos from which he sees the world. He designs tables but is adamant that it is what happens at those tables that matters. He is a visionary that reads Kandinsky to refine his idea of aesthetics, and during the last Salone del Mobile he managed to give Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper to everyone. He says he wants to change the world and to do that, it begins with pure genius.
Who is Daniele Lago?
A son, a citizen, recently a father, a designer, a businessman. Like many other people there are many things inside one person, perhaps with a few more gifts than an another or the simple luck that has got me to be more curious from a perspective of rendering things more interesting. I was born in Asiago and I’m the last of 10 children. We weren’t particularly wealthy. I was born in the middle of chaos, it was a small world inside a family, twelve people with whom you had to compare yourself to, where being competitive is innate because to have a voice, you need to compete. It’s one of the best gyms to have trained in and gain experience for the many challenges that lay ahead.
What is design?
It’s a discipline, an attitude that takes your curiosity and leverages it against the treasures that the world is offering and today it is the mechanism that could have the maximum capacity to bring significant change to the world. We’re talking about a discipline that has a holistic approach, a rounded vision that Steve Jobs said, ‘allows you to connect the dots.’ In a family business, in Lago used design with this approach, considering it not only as a way to create innovative products but also fuel and motor capable of generating innovation. We at Lago coined the term 3C: cervello, cuore, coraggio (brain, heart, courage) and so everytime we do a design project we keep this present in our mind that, man, needs all of these three components.
You have recently become a father to twins. Has your method of planning changed if you’re a father?
No, what changes is what drives you. Children are a fountain of pure joy, you can’t believe it. My lust for life grew when they arrived. On the theme of responsibility, I understand it well, I’m trained in this area. If anything I’ve thought less about it. My children then are children of the world, not only mine and Elena’s.
How much culture sits around a table?
I have found myself visiting beautifully designed and decorated homes with tables that, are perhaps beautiful but with an edge of sadness to them and so I’ve found myself asking, “what is design about?” It should be about shaking up the empty spaces with what are the real living spaces. We don’t live in the table or in the material. In the last few years at Lago we decided to choose a social theme and to mix that with our world, we incorporated the theme of travel in 2016, in 2017 that of kindness and we did it to bring to consumers a non elitist view of design. We want to disrupt home design, that’s why we give our products themes, an impetus that allows you to live differently in empty spaces. How much culture always depends on how much energy you add and the willingness to consider that life is an adventure, an experiment. Culture feeds off life, off research, from dirtying your hands, in that sense it’s interesting to consider that life is an experiment.
What about when interiors become intelligent?
I prefer to use the term, relevant more than intelligent. When you posses brain, heart and courage you are feeding human needs. We are mediterranean as a culture. Anglo-saxon traits are more rational they evoke more pity.
Changing paradigm. The modern home is not only a reserved living space but “feeling at home” has become a sentiment in the office, in a bar. To make this happen, where do you begin?
Do you want the premise or the recipe? Feeling at home begins with the idea of modernity or a “liquid” society by Zygmunt Bauman. We need to feel like we are being loved because sometimes we feel lost in the the myriad of changes that technology is bringing to us contemporaneously. How do you do it? It’s a topic to tackle when you are talking about design and its intrinsic qualities: We need to return to fight against this world of low cost not because it is unpleasant but because it doesn’t produce real value for a society and the world. Think of the rate of obsolescence of things: If you change an object every 20 years instead of every year, the environment benefits from it. I want to return to this and not surrender to Ryanair. Life is short, let’s live the best kind of life and Europe needs to wake up, it has the right ingredients, we are the old continent, the depositaries of the wisdom of know-how. Let’s return to produce magnificence in the right way. I’m not interested in the luxury world but I am interested in that of excellence and doing everything as best as we can all possibly achieve.
New tendencies in domestic living: where are we going?
We are in a radical change of paradigm. The technological world will have a huge weight on future changes. They are lifestyle changes, we spend more time away from home so the question becomes, is domestic living about where our home is, or where we actually live?
What does privacy mean for you?
I am a fluid creature in these things, I have a limited privacy in the sense that certain things aren’t shared in social media but those are my vices. Facebook is a good measuring stick for privacy, you decide what you want to share or not. Children don’t have as much say, but here we enter into a much greater discussion.
Did you know that your decisions influence other people?
It makes me smile thinking that my decisions can influence others, I don’t see it that way and I’m not interested in doing it but, if for others it’s that way, OK. I would laugh quite heartily if you were to call me an influencer. My ambition is to have an interesting life and to continue to do well in what I have chosen to do.
Salone del mobile 2018.
I am crazy in love with Leonardo da Vinci, that’s why we have chosen to support the extraordinary opening of Museo del Cenacolo to give praise to one of the biggest riches our nation has produced putting culture at the centre of his achievements. We wanted to offer the city of Milan the opportunity for a large audience to understand this masterpiece with its enigmatic and chromatic traits how it has inspired generations. Inspired by the genius of Da Vinci, ‘Never Stop Looking Beyond’ is the concept which we presented at Milan Design Week 2018, an invite to look beyond, like Leonardo used to with his observations and curiosity; his two most powerful and efficient instruments. We use the instrument of Italian-ness to render things interesting, we think about the Italian community abroad or the marketing director of San Pellegrino who uses all of his Italian-ness to have a global brand.
You used kindness as a theme in the last edition, it’s very feminine, did it work?
From a commercial perspective, it’s too early to say if it tipped the scales. The response internally from our workers has been very good. We were tempted to continue with the same theme this year.
Staying on topic, why is it so hard to respect women?
We have a difficult history to face, it is a long road to come out from this situation. The world is still chauvinistic, it’s a fact. Technology is accelerating a certain awareness but the question is answered by taking into account the differences between the genders, recognising their relative values.
The world of work doesn’t even allow you to be a mother. Are we living in the stone age?
The kindness theme was born after we were invited by a manager from Intesa San Paolo to take part in a meeting from the Bellisario Foundation with 500 women. In Lago we are trying to do things the right way, we have equality of pay, give us the time to figure out these issues and avoid flash in the pan solutions.
What’s your favourite dish?
If I need to cook at home, it’s risotto with radicchio. If I’m at a restaurant I’m a little more selective as I am allergic to nickel but I would probably go for something around truffles and eggs.
Which chef’s kitchen would you like to redesign?
That of Norbert Niederkofler, my friend. I love him dearly, I’ve eaten as his many times and everytime I’m with him, food is the subject that I least want to talk about. I care for him and he enters that category of Italian excellences and not just because he has three Michelin stars.
Has the web made the world smaller or does it just appear that way?
Absolutely, whether that’s a good or bad thing needs to be discussed. .
In 2017 you were awarded for innovation in commercial sector. Has social media, the web, changed the way you design?
Not a lot, however, it’s a great way to get feedback on our products from the community.
What impact does Made in Italy have today?
Lots, even if we are coming off the back of 20/30 years of not being the best. Italians are choosing to self harm playing this game. We are hurting ourselves, we are killing our aspirations with trivial things but, we are beautiful, strong and have interesting stories to tell.
Where does Lago get its brand power from?
We are an orchestra, we face things head on with our business, we take an inclusive approach to our products which translates to quality, built in a bio-factory where we question different ways of reaching our customers. We are talking about a new way of doing business.
The first and last design object that you bought?
The first? A Flos lamp, la Toio and the last was my iPhone. .
Creativity and business: When does one stop and the other begin? (Ultimately you need to sell items)
If there is brain, heart and courage you need not compromise to sell. There isn’t an absolute truth on how to sell but to be commercial isn’t also negative. It can only be a positive when you are producing pop objects with a positive use at the end.
For those that think design isn’t accessible, what do you say?
That we need to return to a time when we bought less but better quality. If we buy less objects, people live better. The important thing to remember is that if you give money, you must receive a balanced countervalue, and if accessibility becomes something trash I do not like it anymore. We make quality accessible .
Ecological compatibility, where are we at?
In Lago we believe in this, that’s how our idea of bio-architecture started. The German certifier of quality, the most rigid and credible trade body has just given us two certificates for this, 14100 (environment) and 18100 (safety). We are totally aware that the world’s problems are environmental.
A material that represents design?
Glass. We have shaped it into many different things and it has given us fortune and commercial success.
Who was your teacher?
I’ve always admired Achille Castiglioni but I’ve never had any formal training, I’m bad with teachers, I’m not trained in what I do.