Design curator

Design curator
Patrizia Moroso, art director of Moroso, an Italian furniture company.

Patrizia Moroso works with the who's who in the design field, from Rod Arad, Ross Lovegrove to Patricia Urquiola, Marcel Wanders and Oki Sato, but the Italian is no designer herself.

Instead, as art director of Moroso, her family's furniture business, she hand-picks the people that design for the brand. "I love my role as art director," she says.

"I never thought of making things." She goes on to explain that she doesn't have the talent for designing.

"But I have the talent for choosing someone interesting and who is in line with my vision for the company."

Some of the designers were unknowns when she first met them, but they have gone on to international fame.

Ms Moroso was in Singapore recently for the opening of the Moroso showroom at Xtra.

She joined the family business in the 1980s. It was during the economic downturn, and the family had to make a decision whether to continue the business or to shut it down.

"I grew up watching my parents make furniture, and I was always playing with pieces of fabric," she recalls. "But it was never imposed on me to join the family business. I'm doing this because it is a passion for me, it is part of my DNA."

Thanks to her ability to spot talent, Ms Moroso can be credited for helping to transform her family legacy from an upholstering furniture company to a brand that is synonymous with contemporary style and artistic flavour.

Her collaborations with designers began in 1988 when she started working with Mr Arad, who designed his first collection of upholstered furniture for her.

She counts Mr Lovegrove as an old friend, and rattles off a list of names of who she has worked with, such as Konstantin Grcic, Alfredo Haberli, and Toshiyuki Kita.

Each year, she tries to work with a new designer, regardless of whether they are starting out or an established name. Not every designer creates a collection for Moroso annually, with the exception of Ms Urquiola.

"You could say Patricia is the brand's main designer," says Ms Moroso, who speaks fondly of the Spanish designer. "As women, we understand each other better."

The two women began working together in 1999, and Ms Urquiola has also designed Ms Moroso's home in Udine, in north-east Italy.

She describes her home as a warehouse, but looking at pictures of the home from the Internet, it looks far from it.

It looks stylish, and no surprise, as Ms Moroso says her home is used as the location for photographing the Moroso catalogue.

"I have a lot of prototypes and 'mistakes' in my home. These are pieces that have been broken, or are of the wrong specification.

Rather than throw them away, I take them home," she explains. Some pieces that she has include the Rift sofa by Ms Urquiola, covered in African fabric.

Some pieces are sample rejects, such as Arad's plastic Ripple chairs on the terrace. Their colours were muddled in the moulding process which really appealed to Ms Moroso.

Moroso was started in 1952, by her parents, Agostino and Diana Moroso. Today, the couple, who are in their 80s, have left their children, Roberto and Patrizia to run the company.

"But my parents still turn up at work everyday, on the dot at 8am, and they are there till 5pm. Why? I don't know," says Ms Moroso, chuckling.

Her brother, Roberto, is the CEO, "I'm hopeless with money, so it is better that he runs the company," says Ms Moroso.

As art director, you would think she would be able to predict trends. But the truth is, trends do not interest her.

"I don't believe in trends, but since each country is different, the taste, lifestyle of the people and the sizes of homes differ," she says.

What she sees more as a trend isn't related to shape and looks, but "I see more and more people making objects in a sustainable way."

By this she means manufacturers using natural fabrics, designing objects that can be recycled, and making things with good quality material so that they can last longer.

She adds that unlike fashion, which "lasts three months", in furniture design, "the pieces are longer lasting". She cites the example of Ms Urquiola's Fjord chair and Lowland sofa, which were launched 15 years ago, but are still selling very well now.

Despite her talent for picking designers -"I bet on them and win most of the time," she quips - not all of Moroso's pieces become instant best-sellers.

"Sometimes, the product doesn't sell well immediately, but may only catch on years after. Some don't even make it out of the factory," she says. "Some don't even get made."

But she is not discouraged. "You have to believe in what you do. You can't be a design company if you don't take a risk in design."

She sees these setbacks as a form of research. "A company that doesn't do research is not a design company. Design is a lot about research."

This article was first published on Oct 18, 2014.
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