Launching the Melbourne based lighting brand Articolo to the European market, founder and creative director Nicci Green took time out of her busy schedule at Milan’s Euroluce (the lighting fair held bi-annually as part of Salone del Mobile) to speak to Design daily about her ambition to make Articolo a lighting brand that is known and appreciated all around the globe.
D.d: This must be like a dream come true for you – presenting Articolo at one of the most prestigious lighting fairs in the world along side Roll & Hill, Flos and Vibia and smaller lighting ateliers like Bocci, Tato and CTO?
N.G: Yes, it is hard to believe but we have worked really hard to get here. Being in Italy has opened up some new opportunities for us too. Previously we have been blowing all our glass in Melbourne but the temptation of being a stones throw from Murano (in Australian terms) proved too hard to resist, so we have had a few meetings in and around Venice. We are dedicated to continuing to support Australian glass blowers but as we expand we need more capacity than our Australian glass artists can provide, so we have been looking for additional sources and it seems that for certain designs Murano might be a wonderful option. They have such an amazing history in glass blowing and tremendous skills but they have been hit hard by the economic downturn and a move away from bespoke chandeliers. Some of these companies that once employed 100 people have cut their workforce down to a handful or closed altogether - it’s terribly sad. If we can help keep them going - even in a small way - I will be extremely proud.
D.d: How have you found the Italian glassworks in comparison to the ones you work with in Melbourne?
N.G: I have been incredibly impressed by the attitude of the Venetian glass companies I have visited. We are a relatively small Australian lighting company yet they have been extremely enthusiastic about working with us. It goes without saying that their craft is truly exceptional. I have had companies deliver samples directly to the stand here at Euroluce that I only requested a few days before - that’s how enthusiastic and skilled they are!
D.d: Can you tell me about the stand you have designed for Euroluce? It is the opposite of many of the stands on show here - its extremely quiet and restrained.
N.G: It’s a proper architectural concept, not just a stand with a lot of lights. Like all of Articolo’s showroom spaces it has been designed by long time collaborator Studio GOSS. David Goss is an incredibly talented architect who just seems to be able to effortlessly create exactly what we want. The space for Euroluce is actually 4 metres high then runs up to 6 metres at its peak. It has a little of the feel of a Brutalist church internally due to the monolithic shapes and the diffused light. I am so delighted with how it has turned out. The joiner who we used to build it does the showrooms and stands for Molteni so we knew they would understand our obsession for detail and deliver something pretty special. We have built a number of stands before and they have been nothing like this – the precision and attention to detail is quite extraordinary. They wouldn’t leave until everything was completely finished and everything done perfectly.
D.d: What drove you to show at Euroluce this year in particular?
N.G: The interesting thing is that because we have had a large amount of interest from Europe and the Middle East for some years, it was not so much a case of showing new products but just giving the clients an opportunity to touch the objects and see the light that emanates from our fittings. Having said that our new Scandal and Trilogy fittings have both been getting a large amount of attention. People are blown away when we tell them that we blow all our glass in Melbourne. They have no idea that Australians have these sorts of skills. We hope to change this perception as we grow.
D.d: Tell me about your other major news - the new showroom in New York…
N.G: Well we are opening in about a month – its not been easy getting it done at arms length from Australia but we are nearly there. It has also been designed by David from Studio GOSS. Rather than a contemporary totally new construction we decided we wanted to bring in some of that old New York character so we found a space in a building on Broadway. It’s on the 12th floor and has amazing views. It feels more like a luxurious home than a showroom I guess. We have used a very soft palette using Belgian mineral paints and had silk carpet made. The windows have bronze mesh and many of the fittings will also be in bronze so the feeling is quiet but with a strong sense of materiality. Were expecting it to be finished on the 13th May and shot a few days after.
D.d: You have also hinted that you are opening a showroom in Europe can you tell me a little about this or is it still too early?
N.G: Since doing this stand for Euroluce I feel much more confident about delivering the next showroom because our Euroluce stand builders have agreed to build and install it for us. We hope to have it completed by the end of the year.
D.d: So where have you chosen to open the first European Articolo showroom?
N.G: It’s a pretty amazing location actually – it will be in the Montmartre district of Paris. I thought that this area was just for tourists but we found a genuine artisan enclave that is extremely authentic. The shop has street frontage which we are really delighted about. It was originally the showroom of an ironmonger so has lots of interesting details – slightly curved sandstone walls and a number of columns. We hope to adopt the feeling, the authenticity, dare I say the Frenchness of the area we will be in rather than rolling out another version of what we have in Melbourne. I love every space we create but it’s important that we keep evolving and creating spaces that are relevant to the cities and countries that they are apart of. Actually our new collections Scandal and Trilogy have pendants and wall sconces that offer a more formal look that have elements of old grandeur - almost an art deco feel - partly due to their shape but also because of materials like the brass mesh found on Scandal (shown below).
D.d: Will you be shipping all these items from Euroluce to France for the new showroom…..how will it work?
N.G: Yes we have employed a logistics company that will take care of all of that for us, packing up the items from Euroluce and storing them until they are required in France, then shipping them over. It all sounds far-fetched when you are based in Melbourne but once you are here in Europe this sort of trans European organisation is actually quite straight forward and something companies do all the time. I now know that it’s very possible to do very big things in Europe. You just need lots of creative energy!
D.d: I guess the benefit of this approach is that it shows that Articolo lights aren’t only for a highly refined minimalist environment – that they will look amazing in an older, more characterful space too.
D.d: Wow, three showrooms in three cities in just over a year. Articolo is growing incredibly fast, how are you keeping all this together?
N.G: It really is incredible to think that a little over five years ago we were still doing the rounds selling just one lighting design – the Lumi. The feedback from that lamp convinced me I could make a go of lighting design and create a successful business. Now we have sixteen collections and an incredible flagship showroom in Melbourne with New York recently opened and Paris coming soon……..it has been a crazy but really exciting five years.
D.d: So what took you from a one hit wonder into such a professional outfit in such a short space of time?
N.G: Initially it was Bates Smart falling in love with the Lumi table lamp and specifying it in the Flemington Racecourse Winners Bar. They asked us what else we had in our range and we really didn’t have anything at the time. It made me aware that I had to stop messing around and start designing more and to create a proper range of lighting across a wide range of categories. Yellowtrace was the other great spark. They did a blog post on us in 2014 when we were in the back blocks of South Yarra and feeling terrified with the commitment of $20,000 worth of rent. We were in a converted garage at the back of what used to be a green grocer’s shop. We thought we would be there for a long time but actually had to relocate after 18 months – the international enquiries after the Yellowtrace post were so intense that we decided we needed to think bigger.
D.d: So what made you decide to open a showroom in the US first?
N.G: We wanted to take on a really big challenge I guess. We were getting lots of enquiries from both Europe and the States but we felt like we needed to break out and start with the U.S. It’s a much harder market to crack but also potentially much bigger. Every state’s certification requirements are different, so it’s a total nightmare certification wise………but we thought if we succeed in the US the other countries and Europe would be relatively easy by comparison. That’s the theory anyway!
D.d: And are there any plans for products other than lighting in the future?
N.G: Well, yes there are actually! I want to create a small furniture collection and a home scent range.
D.d: Where did the name Articolo come from?
N.G: The word Articolo is Italian for Article. Originally we thought we might name everything with a number so it would be Article, Hashtag, Number but in the end we went with names for the products instead and I’m glad we did. The lights have so much personality that it’s hard not to give them names.
D.d: You seem to be very mindful of the brands entire image – you use exceptional photographers like Sharyn Cairns to capture your spaces and products….
N.G: Willem-dirk du Toit shot the stand for us here at Euroluce – I saw the images the other day and they are like editorial, nothing like the stand photography you normally see. They are absolutely amazing. Our New York images will be shot by Brooke Holm, a Melbourne photographer who has recently made the move to New York. She is super talented so I can’t wait to see how these look. We also use our long term collaborator Sharyn Cairns to shoot for us when we can but she’s so busy these days its hard to pin her down! (Sharyn Cairns image of the entrance to Articolo Melbourne is shown below)
For more on Articolo visit their website www.articololighting.com or enjoy a visit to their beautiful studio and showroom (by appointment) located at 18 Willis Street, Richmond, Victoria (03) 8595 8011.
The Articolo New York showroom is also by appointment only and is situated at 1133 Broadway Suite 1226 New York NY +1 (646) 971 0065
For other stockists in Sydney, Los Angeles and London, go to www.articololighitng.com/contact