The once creative director of Yves Saint Laurent has flexed his wings in furniture design, having just co-unveiled a collection with Fahad Hariri
Once a designer, always a designer. Stefano Pilati is known for his fashion designer feats from the early 2000s but today, he has ventured into a new design space: furniture design. Working with Pinto, the French interior design agency, Pilati has created one of a kind pieces that have allowed him to stretch as a designer- and something that he’s keen to do more of.
“It never occurred to me to connect the two industries as I was never presented with this challenge,” shares Pilati. “What I find interesting now is to admit that “design” in general, across fashion, haute-couture, hand-made, artisanal, and ultimately industrial, becomes a matter of recognizing the purpose of it. The chance to learn and master a practice, at every level in my experience helps my creative processes to be applied wherever I need to.”
Pilati was born in Milan, and because the city is Italy’s center of fashion he was in awe. He spent time at notorious fashion houses from Cerruti, Armani, Prada, Zenga, and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as at Vogue. At Yves Saint Laurent Pilati spent eight years and impacted the house of Mr. Saint Laurent. Upon his exit in 2004 Kering noted his impact. “He has been instrumental in the rebuilding and repositioning of an iconic French luxury brand. Under Stefano’s guiding vision and artistic direction, the house has become a contemporary reference in high fashion.”
As Haute Couture Week in Paris is in full throttle, it marks an impactful one. It’s the first time since Covid struck that all fashion houses participating are having live shows. As the world is moving at the pace it was before Covid hit, it’s a reminder of how brands and companies like Pinto need to thrive. “My connection to fashion is inevitable and the connection between fashion and furniture is intrinsically entwined. As for living in a post-covid world, I am afraid there is no reasonable answer to allow me to generalize. To me, it seems predictable in that the “living space” won’t ever stop maintaining its need and regard for the highest value, which is comfort,” states Pilati.
Fahad Hariri, Chairman and Co-Artistic Director of Pinto knew who Pilati was from his days at Yves Saint Laurent, when Hariri was a client. He was in awe of Pilati’s work of adapting and interpreting codes in fashion design that built on Mr. Saint Laurent’s heritage, but modernizing them through new codes that still kept the brand’s spirit. So, he reached out to Pilati through a mutual friend of theirs, after seeing his experimental approach to lush furniture, specifically his draping and thrown-over effect of straw and water hyacinth rugs on sofas and rattan armchairs. The latter are seen throughout Pilati’s summer home.
Speaking of their connection Pilati states, “I was connected through a friend who Fahad and I have in common. We jumped on a call and started to talk about a potential collaboration. We didn’t initially have a clear idea of how to develop it. However, we shared some deeper appreciations across style, fashion, and design. Fahad had informed me about his new role at Pinto, and all became more intriguing. We then scheduled a trip for me to meet with the team in Paris and voila!”
An inevitable collaboration has blossomed between the two. “For me, working together is to create a relationship and an exchange. It is not simply bringing Stefano’s ideas into the Pinto universe, but rather transforming the Pinto universe thanks to Stefano. This collaboration felt like the opportunity to mark a decisive turning point in the Pinto editions,” comments Hariri. This collaboration in the form of capsule collection, marries the modern and romantic spirit of Hariri, and Pilati’s maximalism and their “wow” effect in one furniture piece.
Pilati’s know-how expands design. His skills in merchandising and marketing has been a large part of his success in fashion houses, something he’s translating into sofa design. “My experience is formed through working for major fashion houses, and it is valuable because it is something I own and use, adapt, evolve, expand, etc. I have my own “methods” in creating my design parameters which translate through a language of style. The origin of the sofa was created out of an interest in considering it replicable from the way I drape furniture in my home. Anything that I can discover relatable to my primary profession came pertinently once we edited ideas in the first meeting,” says Pilati.
The oversized laissez-faire sofa is a work of art at 350 x 135 x 96 cm, with a beechwood structure and a solid oak base that’s topped with high resilience foam padding of various densities that are strapped on serpentine coil springs. In a light golden-brown color, the backing is slanted on the sides and the arms have a unique curve, created with simplicity and French upholstery standards. The sofa mirrors Pilati’s own furniture draping of origami-like folds that are buttoned into the couches like the sofa in this collection. Fabrics used include supple velour. There are only thirty sofas in the collection.
“The archive of fabrics that Pinto has is vast, beautiful, and inspiring. A fabric expert can’t be fooled by the look of the material. An expert is expected to know the precise characteristics of the textiles and the appropriate use of them. The direction of the fabric selected was informed by the initial mock-up of the sofa and the “gesture” of the drapery,” says Pilati of how he went about choosing textiles in the collection.
Incorporating Pilati’s use of draping, another piece in the collection is a chair created from a circular woven water hyacinth rug over a rattan armchair, have been created in a limited edition of eight. “As a play on dimensions, Pilati and Hariri envisaged for this one, an expansively sized rug to dress the armchair, resulting in a very stylized silhouette. Hariri further interpreted this stylistic expression through a livable piece of art turning the perishable perfect “gesture” of Pilati into an everlasting bronze sculpture. For this, a team of craftsmen were commissioned to create a lost wax bronze casting; each with a unique waxed patina,” shares the collaboration project.
Both Pilati and Hariri enjoyed this project but the time to work on future projects is an issue. “I’ll never stop enjoying it. The future of the collaboration isn’t a unilateral one. I am reassured that there is no lack of ideas between us that are constantly evaluated. The timing isn’t a concern that obstructs our creative exchange right now,” says Pilati.