From inspiring some of Bowie’s greatest collections, to changing the way we switch on our lamps, Italian designers have been making quiet waves in British art and design for years. Fifty years after they first championed Italian interior design, iconic British brand Heal’s has launched a retrospective of the past century of Italian influence on British style. This includes a new furniture range, several instore events, and an original illustrated timeline.
Alongside the launch of their ‘Italian Country’ range, which sets re-created pieces from the early 20th century against contemporary designs, Heal’s has gone one step further to deduce what makes Italian design so quietly influential. From instore live painting with leading Italian artists to a thorough inspection of their own archives, Heal’s has examined the history of Italian artistry from all sides and isolated the most ground-breaking events in Italian interiors over the last 100 years.
‘Heal’s has been bringing Italian style to the UK since the 1920s,’ Customer and eCommerce Director David Kohn reflects. ‘Our first exhibition of Italian art and design pre-dated the MoMA show by over a decade! However, Italy itself has always been far ahead of the rest of Europe when it comes to pushing the boundaries – they were already championing industrial design and versatility of design in the 1930s. Many ubiquitous features of furniture today, such as the flick switch on the power lead of most modern lamps, were first produced by Italian designers.’
To continue the Italian tradition of blending interior design with visual art, Heal’s commissioned illustrator Lucie Sheridan to produce a timeline featuring the past century’s most important events in Italian interior design. Lucie, an up-and-coming illustrator who Heal’s discovered on Instagram, styled the timeline after a gallery.
‘I wanted it to look as much like a retrospective as possible, so those who weren’t lucky enough to go to the Heal’s launch could still see how influential Italy had been on good design,’ says Lucie. ‘My favourite fact I discovered was how Castiglioni used to teach his pupils about the versatility of design: he was climbing up on tables pretending to milk invisible cows and the like, which was very risqué for the 1940s! I also love how later designers, like the Memphis Group, were influenced by music and illustration as well as interiors. I wanted to capture that spirit of fun and experimentation in my work.’
”I love how this job came about through Instagram,’ says Lucie. ‘I had screen-printed and illustrated the Heal’s flagship store as part of a personal project, and tagged them in my image on a whim. They came back almost immediately to tell me how much they liked my work, and this project grew from those discussions. I’ve always wanted to work for a company as prestigious as Heal’s, so I was more than happy to work with them. My favourite fact was Castiglioni’s ‘invisible cow’ lessons, where he used to demonstrate the versatility of design by climbing onto a table and pretending to milk a cow! I wanted to reflect that spirit of fun and experimentation in my work, while also faithfully representing the furniture.’
Heal’s continues to partner with brands at the forefront of Italian interiors design including Riva 1920 https://www.heals.com/brand/riva-1920.html, Porada https://www.heals.com/brand/porada.html and Moroso https://www.heals.com/brand/moroso.html