Alessi is an Italian domestic metal products factory. You would think that Alessi Italy’s foremost design factory would have its headquarters in an imposing palazzo in Milan. Instead, the company is nestled near a small northern Italian lake called Lago d’Orta, a mountain range from its more famous big brother, Lago Maggiore.
Alessi was founded in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi when Alberto Alessi’s grandfather Giovanni, began to make knobs in wood and metal for local people.
Its earliest products were coffee pots and trays. In 1935, Alessi’s son Carlo began working as a designer at the company; his most significant project was the 1945 Bombe coffee and tea set (discontinued in 1972 and put back into production in 1980). From the end of World War 2, Carlo became the general manager, and during this period he introduced consultant designers.
From 1929, Alessi specialised in the bar counter and domestic tableware items, including bread baskets, teapots, egg cups, condiment sets, and cheese dishes. In 1932 under Carlo, the firm began to focus on the appearance of its products.
In 1950 with large orders from the United States, it started mass production. The Model No. 870 cocktail shaker designed by Luigi Massoni in the 1950s had sold one and half million pieces by 1991.
Producing numbered and signed pieces by international architects and designers, including Ettore Sottsass, the firm gained popularity in the 1970s. Its first cult object was 1978 espresso-coffee pot designed by Richard Sapper. The 1983 Tea and Coffee Piazza project initiated by Carlo Alessi’s son Alberto, intended to create ‘architecture in miniature’ and in reality was a brilliant publicity ploy commissioning 11 architects: Robert Venturi, Michael Graves, Richard Meir, Stanley Tigerman, Aldo Rossi, Paolo Portoghesi, Alessandro Mendini, Hans Hollein, Charles Jencks, Oscar Blanca Tusquets and Kasumasa Yamashita. The tremendous success of the venture prompted a wave of architect-designed goods from Alessi and other manufacturers.
Alessi designed products are emotive object pieces. They are things that you want to pick up and admire and caress. They lend a sophisticated sheen to everyday life.