Whether you’re talking fashion houses, supercar manufacturers or classical painting, Italians have long been the reigning kings of design the world over, a heritage that begins but doesn’t end with their pursuit of perfection. “They’re in the Mediterranean, central to everybody,” says William Chan, managing director of Versace Home in Vancouver. “The great Roman Empire conquered all the way to the western fringe of Asia, so they’ve got a really great heritage of bringing a lot of things back from other parts of the world and assimilating that into their vocabulary of design.”
With so many cultural influences, the Italians have mastered multiple trades over the generations, developing trade secrets that other craftsmen and even computers can’t match.
“It’s really different, because they have master craftsmen working on these chairs,” says Chan. “They feel and touch the wood, and they know exactly how to work the wood. Whereas when you put it into a computer, it’s automated and it doesn’t take into account those nuances of the wood.” Sometimes the master furniture-makers will pass up 10 to 20 different pieces of wood for any slight variations or flaws they see, which would likely go undetected by a machine.
Italians are known not only for superior skill but for their dedication to use only the finest materials. “Only the best leathers, only the best silks, the best textiles are being used. It’s that relentless pursuit of doing things well,” says Chan. Versace’s Argo Coffee Table, for example, is hand-carved by one artisan using powdered pigmented stone that he pours a layer at a time, taking months to complete.