The Capital of Design

This fall, UNIQLO will open its first Italian store in Milan
—a world capital of design.
Milan is also the home of Michele De Lucchi,
maestro of the design world.
What are his thoughts on the relationship between design and functionality?

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aMDL CIRCLE:The Studio of Architect Michele De Lucchi
Michele founded his design studio in the early 1980s. In 2017, he added “Circle” to its name, as a gesture of solidarity toward the young creatives working on his team. Together, they undertake a staggering fifty projects per year. Pictured from the left are Monica from PR; founder and architect Michele De Lucchi; Davide, the Design Coordinator and Michele’s right hand man; Filippo, a graphic designer; Francesco, an architect; Guila, a graphic designer; and Alessandro, an architect.

What is the lifeblood of
Italian design?

“When will the UNIQLO be opening?”
“I wish we could’ve designed the interiors.”
“I buy my kids UNIQLO whenever I’m in Tokyo.”
Taking cues from architect Michele De Lucchi, the members of aMDL CIRCLE chat away. Italians eat their pasta daintily—no slurping allowed—and yet they blow their noses raucously, even at the dinner table. The Japanese have an entirely different set of ideals. They slurp their noodles but blow their noses as quietly as possible. Does this inhere a different mentality toward design? We asked Michele, a living legend of the world of design, to share his thoughts on UNIQLO’s theme for 2019 Fall & Winter, “New Form Follows Function.”

Michele De Lucchi Architect

“In my view, functionality cannot be universal. What passed as functional ten-thousand years ago could never pass as functional today. The concept has to change. It’s always changing. Simply being new isn’t enough to make a capability useful. Designs, or the products of these capabilities, can be thought of as specific ways of making things, but whether it’s architecture or design, it’s imperative that we focus on improving people’s lives. Our responsibility, as architects and designers, is to decide what we will leave the future, for the benefit of those who call it home. I’ll admit that we Italians are lazy and full of flaws. We love to eat, we love to sleep, and all we think about is going on vacation. All the men think about is women, and all the women think about is men, but we love being alive, and we see the worth in hoping for a better future. We want things to be comfortable and pleasant for everyone. What’s the point of living if life isn’t beautiful? This mentality gives all architecture and design its sense of buoyancy, but I think that you see hints of it whenever anything is made. Italian design is the creation of hedonistic Italians. A group I’m proud to call myself a part of. Everybody has an imagination. What counts is staying positive throughout the creative process. This is why I made my studio into a ‘CIRCLE.’ When you gather together a group of young, imaginative minds, things start picking up, and you can tackle an enormous number of projects. Together, we’ve made so many beautiful discoveries.”

For decades, Michele has partnered closely with architects, interior designers, and graphic designers—a whole suite of creatives at different stages of their careers, each of them proud to be part of the team, always ready to take on a new challenge. They would probably follow the grinning face of Michele anywhere. Just think how fun it would be for UNIQLO if we collaborated!

Michele De Lucchi / Architect
Born in 1951 in Ferrara, Italy. As a member of the design group Memphis Milano, he designs buildings and furniture for Italy and the world. Since 2018, he has been the editor-in-chief of the Italian architecture and design magazine Domus.

The Work of aMDL CIRCLE


Pictured wearing hooded yellow Ultra Light Down jackets are Giacomo (left), in his third year as an architect, and Benafsheh, in her first year as an architect. “Of course it’s light and cute, but the color really pops.”

Spanning the Mt’k’vari River, Michele’s “Bridge of Peace” has become a city landmark for Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. In fact, Georgia boasts several buildings designed by Michele De Lucchi’s studio.
This mockup, made by Michele himself, is for “Future Architecture,” a series of buildings built from local materials and adapted to specific environments, such as savannas, tundra, and mountainous terrain. Michele says this project is two years in the making.
The basement of the studio has a workspace where it seems like anything is possible. This is where Michele and the members of aMDL Circle create their mockups. The walls are decorated with materials from past projects.

Designers and ULD

Odo Fioravanti Industrial Designer

“Whenever I visit Paris or London, I always come home with UNIQLO. Since I’m 190cm tall, the pants are a little short for me, but the jackets fit like a glove. I love black, so that’s all I ever buy—as you can see, from this jacket and my Ultra Light Down underneath it. The products are so simple, but they always use cutting edge materials, which makes the cost-performance excellent. It’s hard to tell what brand it is right off the bat. This anonymous aspect of the style appeals to me. As a designer, I’m all too well aware that the second you create something, it’s already passé. We do our best to prevent this from happening, and I think the same goes for UNIQLO. I want things that I can use or wear for a long time. Creating things like that is what design is all about. My design philosophy is: ‘Put your heart into it.’ I see my work as my child. I want people to love the things I make. It’s fun to see what happens when these things are out there in the world.”

Odo Fioravanti / Industrial Designer
Born in 1975 in Rome, Italy. Graduating from Politecnico di Milano with a degree in Industrial Design, Odo has been active since 2003. In 2010, he held a solo exhibition at La Triennale di Milano. In 2011, he was awarded the Compasso d’Oro for the Frida wooden chair, which he designed for Pedrali. The boxes (pictured) are CD organizers that he made in middle school.

Odo describes himself as the type of person who wears a uniform, sometimes purchasing several of the same item. Under his jacket, which he bought online, he wears a matching Ultra Light Down.

Giulio Iacchetti Industrial Designer “Like a sweater, only better.”

“You’d think that I don’t actually have an office, since I’m always off somewhere, working on projects. It just so happens that you caught me here. I’ve been to the UNIQLO in New York City. This light down jacket is so versatile, perfect for a business trip. You can throw it on no matter what you’re wearing. Like a sweater, only better. It’s so basic that it works with anything. I wear a lot of jackets and chore coats, that sort of thing, and this works perfectly underneath. If my belly gets any bigger, things are going to get a little tight, but such is life!”

Giulio Iacchetti / Industrial Designer
Born in 1966 in Castelleone, Italy. In 2001, he was awarded a Compasso d’Oro for Moscardino, a biodegradable spork designed together with Matteo Ragni. In 2014, they won the same award for their manhole cover designs.

Giulio is pictured wearing the collarless Ultra Light Down Compact Jacket in coyote brown.

Ekaterina Shchetina & Libero Rutilo Industrial Designers “So nice and light, like it’s not even there.”

“Down jackets can be tight at the armpits, which makes them uncomfortable, but this one slips right on, and doesn’t make me look fat, either!” Libero chuckles. “It’s so comfy, like climbing in a fluffy sleeping bag out on a camping trip. Plus, it’s so light that you can barely feel it on. In our design work, we’re always trying to contribute something new to the stock of daily life. Something to grow fond of. The most important thing for us is to produce things people want to use.” Ekaterina is pictured wearing the Ultra Light Down Vest. “I love wearing hoodies, so this vest fits my wardrobe perfectly.”

Ekaterina Shchetina & Libero Rutilo / Industrial Designers
Born in 1978. Raised between Italy and Canada, Libero has sinced worked in Milan, under the architect Alessandro Mendini. In 2012, together with Ekaterina Shchetina, who was born in Russia, he opened his own studio, “DesignLibero.” Since then, his designs have won several international awards.

Pictured are the Puffer Jacket and Puffer Vest. With extra down, these are the new and warmest items in the Ultra Light Down series.

Four Milanese design shops
not to be missed.

Nilufar Depot

Viale Vincenzo Lancetti, 34, Milano, Italy
+39 02 3659 0800 OPEN 10:00-13:00, 14:00-19:00 Closed on Sunday

Nilufar Depot

Gallerist Nina Yashar founded Nilufar in 1979. In 2015, she opened Nilufar Depot in suburban Milan, where she displays large furniture and art in mind-bending arrangements.

Occupying three floors of a warehouse, Nilufar Depot offers a mix of vintage furniture and contemporary designs. In the same room, you might find a vintage 1960s table from Brazil arranged with a brand-new chair from Lebanon and an Italian lamp. Entering this space, it’s easy to imagine how these things might fit into your lifestyle. The curious transparent spheres are inflatable vinyl “rooms,” fashioned to resemble enormous eggs hatched like parasites inside the gallery.

Rossana Orlandi

Via Matteo Bandello, 14/16, Milano, Italy
+39 02 467 4471 OPEN 10:00-19:00 Closed on Saturday and Sunday

Rossana Orlandi

Rossana Orlandi opened in 2002, in what was once a necktie factory. Handpicked by Rossana herself, the selection ranges from designer furniture to vivacious contemporary art. The bins along the shelves lining the spacious second floor are full of other treasures.

Personally decorated by esteemed designer Rossana Orlandi, her namesake design shop makes you feel as if you’ve been invited over to her house. The courtyard is a treasure trove of furniture, lighting, and other objects from around the world. Loosely organized around the theme of recycling, the space is home to everything from Africa-inspired art to a collage topped off with a Smurf, along with plenty of objects created from recycled plastic, a medium which has become something of a local cause in Milan.

Memphis | Post Design Gallery

Largo Claudio Treves, 5, Milano, Italy
+39 02 655 4731 OPEN 10:00-13:00, 15:00-19:30 Closed on Sunday and Monday

Memphis | Post Design Gallery

Yesterday’s classics remain in production and are available for purchase, including “Tawaraya,” a boxing ring designed by Japanese group member Masanori Umeda. The gallery moved to its current location in 2017.

The only shop and showroom in the world devoted to the Memphis Group, a design collaborative active from 1981 to 1988. Owner Alberto Bianchi Albrici started Post Design in 1997 with Ettore Sottsass, an architect and core member of the Memphis Group. Responding to a renewed interest in postmodern design, the gallery continues to produce classic pieces from the Memphis Group, while introducing new creations by veteran members like George Sowden and Nathalie du Pasquier.

Hands on Design

Via Gioacchino Rossini, 3, Milano, Italy
+39 02 4867 8246 OPEN 10:00-13:30, 15:00-19:00 Closed on Saturday and Sunday

Hands on Design

Founded in 2015 by designers Kaori Shiina and Riccardo Nardi, Hands on Design combines traditional craft techniques from Italy and Japan with cutting-edge design, for new aesthetics contributing to a better quality of life.

Hands on Design pairs skilled artisans with designers to synthesize new handicrafts. Among the wares at Hands on Design you’ll find a wine cooler designed by Giulio Iacchetti and Libero Rutilo (pictured on P63) and manufactured by Shuji Nakagawa of Nakagawa Mokkougei Hirakoubou in Shiga, Japan. This is the future of traditional craftsmanship. The courtyard of the shop is quite solemn, the sort thing you might find in the studio of Alessandro Mendini.

Store Opening

Via Cordusio 2, Milan, Italy

September 13th marks the opening of UNIQLO Milan, its first location in Italy. Centrally located in Piazza Cordusio, minutes from Piazza del Duomo, in a three-story building from the early 1900s, the new store will have departments for men, women and children.

Photography by Kazufumi Shimoyashiki, Illustration by Adrian Hogan,
Coordination by Minako Shimada, Text by Tamio Ogasawara

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