He's a fourth generation family member of the Milan-based homewares company Alessi who calls Hong Kong home, and when Luca Alessi's not fine-tuning the business's cutting edge position between art and design, he's commuting between Asia and Milan with regular stints to Paris and New York to visit his girlfriend.
Currently in Melbourne to speak at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Business Seminar, Alessi is here to discuss the family business and the secret to its success – with a focus on how to remain relevant in the rapid-changing design sphere.
Known for its collaboration with designers such as Philippe Starck and artist Salvadore Dali, the groundbreaking brand is now sold in more than 5000 stores worldwide.
In a moment of openness, Alessi shares his five favourite iconic design moments throughout history:
The invention of the Moka Pot in 1933
"This was an invention by Alfonso Bialetti – a company that was located just 200 metres from the Alessi offices. Our families are related. His son Renato Bialetti was my [paternal] grandmother's brother. He died last year at the age of 93 and to show you just how crazy the family is, they put his ashes inside a big Moka machine and placed it inside the family tomb in a cemetery in Omegna. That is a sign of how much they loved the stovetop invention.
"The Moka Pot is iconic and became one of the most important products for Italian people – there is a moka machine in every single house in Italy. It is also part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Alessi created its first moka machine in 1978, it was a huge success. But I feel very proud of my mother's family and what they achieved."
Multiplied Art at Alessi 1970s
"This project is not famous or that well known, but it signifies the beginning of change for Alessi and was pivotal in how the brand is seen today. Before this time, Alessi was a company producing metals and household objects, but thanks to my uncle Alberto Alessi, he wanted to bring art pieces via an industrial way to the everyday consumer.
"Alberto wanted to create design pieces in mass production for everyone to enjoy. He came up with this idea of multiplied art where he did a series of pieces of art with Italian sculptors like Giò Pomodoro, Carmelo Cappello, Pietro Consagra, and Andrea Cascella, and the Yugoslav sculptor Dušan Džamonja. This sort of artistic madness meant the workshop was tied up for three years and it was a commercial flop. But it's a sign of how that design philosophy became part of our future."
Juicy Salif by Philippe Starck in 1990
"This is the perfect example of how Alessi is an artistic mediator. We work between the artist and the manufacturing side and bring both elements together. The Juicy Salif by Starck is an example of producing something that people weren't dreaming of. It is a design that changed history. Alberto asked Starck to design a stainless steel tray. He wasn't able to bring a design to us for over two years, until he found himself eating octopus in a pizzeria in Italy. That's when he started sketching on the placemat an image of a little octopus. And of course when you look at the Juicy Salif you can see it's very inspired by the octopus dish he was eating."
"I really admire the Californian technology and design company who are revolutionising the transport industry. They specialise in electric cars and produce battery-charging equipment. This is something I really admire because consumers are becoming more conscious of sustainability and want sustainable models for the future. They are on the edge of innovation despite the competitors in the automotive industry."
"When Apple came out with the iPhone in June 2007 it was a moment in design history I remember well. I was personally very excited. It was revolutionary – the way they combined an iPod with a telephone and a computer. They had the technology of touch screen in a friendly consumer design. I thought it was amazing because it was something the public wasn't really expecting."
See Alessi talk at the VAMFF business seminar at Melbourne Museum on March 17.
What are your favourite design moments? Tell us in the comments section below.