LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Sawaya & Moroni: Two of a Kind


Leading the way in limited editions and high end design, Sawaya & Moroni's collaborative collections set the standard for contemporary masterworks.

Sawaya & Moroni have carved a niche as early champions of the flourishing design art market. As Paolo Moroni explains, the best things come in small quantities.

In the late 1970s architect William Sawaya and philologist Paolo Moroni founded Sawaya & Moroni, a studio dedicated to architecture and interior design. In 1984, driven by a desire for quality, the duo began producing furniture that was not only unique, but executed to the highest standards. Since then Sawaya & Moroni has been instrumental in elevating industrial design to fine art status.

Today the multi-disciplinary design company has achieved success in many areas, from property development, to contract design. However, Sawaya & Moroni is best known for its creative collaborations with world leading design talent, producing some of the most iconic examples of industrial and collectible design of the 20th and 21st century. Paolo Moroni is the company's Chairman and CEO

Paolo Moroni's definition of luxury:
A complex simplicity, a status of mind.

If luxury were...

An object
A non utilitarian object.

A person
A father.

A place

A moment
At sunset.

You began as an architecture and design practice, which still exists today. What made you move into furniture design?
When we began our architectural and Interior Design practice in 1978 my partner William Sawaya occasionally found it difficult to find outstanding furniture pieces for the project we were working on at that time. The furniture manufacturers thought we were too demanding and it was not easy to get what we wanted. One day he quite resolutely said "I think it will be easier if we make it ourselves" so we started like that, although the idea of our own collection came a few years later.

You were early exponents of contemporary limited edition design, what convinced you, back in 1984, that there was a market?
It was not question of identifying a new market or a new sector. When you target a design which is at the same time conceptual and oriented towards an area where the creators are mainly the world's leading architects this automatically places you in a restricted and limited market .If your aim is a quality almost close to perfection and you employ the highest caraftmanship available then you furtherly limit the capacity of production and consequently the clienetele too.

How have you seen the market change over almost quarter of a century?
The market for limited editions has definitely changed over the course of the last twenty years.
Changes have almost always concided with an expansion of economy and in our case, with the profound changes which architecture has undergone over the last twenty years.
In the beguinning we were one of quite a few in Europe: Pierre Staundenmeyer in Paris with Neotu; Rainer Krause in Germany with Antologie Quartett; Alessandro Guerriero in Milano with Alchimia – these were just the main ones. We all knew each other personally and had friendly relations and a deep respect, especially with Pierre and Rainer.

Then in a matter of a few years, consequently due to a large expansion of the economy in Europe and the US, the limited edition business became a trend. Several furniture manufacturers launched limited editions collections, attracted by what they thought was a rich market. It was a very productive season, which has provided a lot of material for future generations of design dealers and gallerists. Although most of those productions were not linked to a real design development or to the need to experiment with new forms or express a new jargoon - if not a new languange of design - they were interesting experiments and brought a new spirit which did help
considerably the consequent evolution of design over the following years.

We have been looking at this new scene from a prudent distance knowing that some of the new entries would not last. This is, in fact, a very specific field where time is a key factor. The negative side is represented by the mis-use of the terms 'limited edition' and 'luxury' which have indeed become abused. The economical factor which helped this sector to emerge has now become the target of the same.

Who would you say are your strongest designers?
We mostly work with strong designers therefore is difficult to answer. How could you choose among Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault, Zaha Hadid, O.M.Ungers, Michael Graves , Kazuo Shinohara and Charles Jencks - just to mention a few! But personally, I feel particularly indebted to Oswald Mathias Ungers the great German architect ,who passed away recently and whom I have known and worked with for over twenty years. He contributed considerably to my sense of ethics, I owe him a lot. He was indeed good example.

How involved are you and William in the conceptual period with a designer?
There is almost no briefing to designers except total freedom and daring new concepts. Only at a later stage do we take part in the making of the piece and to integrate it into the collection.

Apart from the quantities and materials, what are the biggest differences between the limited edition collections and your production pieces? Do pieces ever begin as a production piece and become limited edition, or vice versa?
A limited edition piece is in an absolute sense the sublimation of the aestetics - no limits, no conditions – while production is the total respect of precise rules, such as industrialization, costs,marketing etc.

William is the brand's Creative & Design director, and an acclaimed designer in his own right. What made you decide to collaborate with others, rather than relying on William's talent? Was it difficult at the outset to work with other designers?
It is not at all difficult to work with other designers. Although the various languages may be so strong to even suggest they may conflict sometime, we have always believed on plurality of languages

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