• An interview with Incipit founders
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An interview with Incipit founders

A few days ago we received the visit of Francesca Cogoni from Pizza Digitale who interviewed our founders, Marta Bernstein and Roberto Hoz, about Incipit. The original text (Italian) can be read on Pizza Digitale. We publish here the English translation with the original photos.

Incipit. The Renaissance of Italian design has just begun.
20/1/2015 By Francesca Cogoni

Incipit is a lab, or better a workshop.  Like in the ateliers in the Renaissance, here young designers’ ideas become true thanks to incredible artisans’ help and are sold to the world on the web.
Incipit is now rising into the design sector; it was started in Milan in 2013 with the aim of encouraging and supporting young and promising creative talents, turning their ideas into high quality objects and accessories, that combine the liveliness of contemporary experimentation with the value of the Italian know-how. The first collection was launched during Milan Design Week 2014. The new collection is almost ready. Here’s what the two founders, Marta Bernstein and Roberto Hoz, told us.

You say you want to add new value to the concept of Made in Italy. How are you pursuing this goal?
Marta Bernstein: We have tried since the beginning to understand the meaning of doing design in Italy. For us the concept of Made in Italy does not only mean that all the artisans and suppliers working with us are based in Italy. Having an “Italian approach” to the product implies knowledge and understanding of the appropriate materials and productions for a certain project. Our products made of ceramic and terracotta e.g. are manufactured in Nove, a small town near Vicenza which is well-known for the production of ceramics; the wooden products are worked in Valle Imagna (a well-known site for wood-working, TN)… As the first Incipit’s collection was being developed, we progressively realized the importance of restoring the bonds with certain local traditions and at the same time connecting these experiences with young designers’ talent. Our bet is to bring together two worlds that normally do not talk.

Exchange, debate and collaboration are indeed the basis of Incipit‘s vision, right?
Roberto Hoz: We see craftsmanship as a system of knowledge that design has to conciliate. The artisan is unlikely to create design products; usually these are decorative and often expensive objects. We want to be halfway between artisan and industrial manufacture, so we search for openness and desire to get in the game, when we select designers and suppliers. We collaborate on one side with artisans able to evolve, on the other side with creative talents able to identify with the company spirit, to talk and take part in the project development openly, as our goal is to guide young designers from the birth of the idea to its fulfilment. All Incipit’s products are slightly different compared to the original project, because they are eventually the result of the strong synergy between the characters of the production process.

What do you think are the main hurdles for a young designer today, especially related to the market?
RH: Sometimes the projects lack concreteness. They are very interesting, but clash with huge costs and technological obstacles. This is why we try to support designers especially in engineering, marketing and saleability of products. The path from idea to product and from product to market is very hard. At some point fantasy has to be driven in the right direction, and sometimes schools don’t warn students about this. As a professor of Politecnico di Milano, I always try to do it. I think that education doesn’t encourage enough practice and hand skills today.

However Incipit is the proof that talent and creativity can move in the right direction. How do you select designers and evaluate their projects?
MB: We select in different ways. For example, two young designers submitted one of the products of the 2015 collection to us, and we chose it because it was very in line with our style. A different way of selecting products occurs through a brief. Some designers among those that we consult have already worked with us, others were introduced to us by someone else or met us around. We surely look for an approach to designing objects which is consistent with Incipit’s identity, including a certain sensitivity to materials and colours, and a “warm”, simple, yet not too minimal aesthetic appearance. For example, the idea of Tull lamp by Tommaso Caldera originated from the typical workshop lamp that, after refining the shape, was perfectly adjusted to the home space.  Pietro Bastia’s Sula vases-carafes have more strong and geometrical shapes, but in this case the material, terracotta, makes the object “warmer”. We like to think that our products are used to complete a space, to add a particular touch to the house. This thought helps us in selecting products as well.

How long does it take for you to implement a designer’s idea?
RH: It depends on the product. Approximately from three to six months from the choice of the project. The inner complexity of its engineering or manufacture plays a key role. When molds or technologies have to be developed, times get longer. It may happen that, after several steps and reconsiderations, an idea does not turn into product, but this is part of the game.

You make a wide use of crowdfunding, e-commerce, Instagram and similar tools. How much is the web important for a business like Incipit?
MB: We’ve wanted to invest in digital and web tools since the beginning. We are a small enterprise with no big capital available and we believe in a business based on costs optimisation, so making the most of web tools is fundamental for us. Thanks to the support of social media, blogs, etc., we can give rise to a virtuous cycle of visibility and reach a wider public. This is true especially for foreign markets, which are more open and responsive to e-commerce and certain web facts. We are very surprised to receive orders and appreciation from the US and Hong Kong barely one year after the first collection was launched, and this is a sign that we are moving in the right direction.
RH: We established three goals in our “constituent charter”: succeeding in creating a company with limited funds, using the web in every possible way as a living tool, and working not “with” but “together with” young people, i.e. paying attention to their needs and listening to their voices. We want to use the web to involve and discuss with our clients as much as possible, also in the production process.

Next steps?
MB: In late January we will take part in Maison & Objet exhibition in Paris. It will be our first international testing ground. Depending on the feedback we receive there, we will decide how to prepare for Milano Design Week. Then, in early February, we will be present at Stockholm Design Week with two designers, Tommaso Caldera and the duo Sovrappensiero, selected by Triennale Design Museum for the project “DesignfromItaly 2015”. In these days we are defining which product previews will enter the 2015 collection. We certainly will expand our lighting line with the production of two or three lamps, and then we will also move towards the use of different materials, in particular concrete and metal.

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