Italian designer Fabio Novembre consistently introduces innovative, unusual and controversial designs. From his Happy Pill vases to chairs inspired by the human form, here is a designer who is not afraid to walk off the beaten track.
For a designer who admits not being able to sketch, Fabio Novembre’s fantastical designs seem almost magical. Internationally acclaimed for his imaginative turn of everyday objects and his indefatigable capacity to transform mundane ideas into fantastical, futuristic products, Fabio’s work stands out in the crowded world of contemporary design.
Fabio Novembre’s career has been characterised by his unusual designs, drawing inspiration from the human form, nature, to futuristic elements. The 1966-born Fabio received his degree in architecture in 1992 in Milan. Because he was so “bad in drawing,” he couldn’t get an architectural position and moved instead to New York, where he studied movie direction. A year later, he received his first commissioned project – designing the Anna Milinari Blumarine shop in Hong Kong. That year, he also opened his own studio in Milan.
That was just the beginning. In his two-decade old career as one of Italy’s leading designers and architects, Fabio’s portfolio is bursting with imaginative and diverse projects. From furniture, home décor products to museum installations, his name shows up on a range of surfaces.
Fabio says he designs for pleasure and beauty. His products have drama and utility – a rare combination in today’s mass-produced world. His early work has included ON Natural Wellness Center, Milan (1997), Tardini store, New York, (2000) and among the products he designed, the entertaining ORG table for Cappelini (2001). This ingenious table has 171 rope-like legs, suspended from the glass tabletop. To the average eye, it appears as if the glass is magically suspended over mere ropes. Some of the ‘ropes’, though, are actually steel masquerading as delicate rope-lines. This illusion is characteristic of Fabio Novembre and is visible in his other works as well.
His furniture design is as memorable as his architectural and interiors work. Beginning with the Honlywood chair (1988), Fabio has created several innovative furniture pieces including the 100 Piazze trays (silverplated brass trays modelled on famous Italian square piazzas), for Driade (2007) and the +13 plus one tree pot, for Casamania, 2007.
Of all his designs, his ideas for furniture have been the most controversial. Whether it is the Nemo chair (in the shape of a face which simultaneously conceals and reveals the occupant), the 56h and 36h collection – two outdoor chairs with an aluminium structure covered in sturdy plastic, or the limited edition Divina sofa for Driade – with the silhouette of a reclining woman as the backrest, crafted in tufted black leather; his work demands attention.
One of his most controversial products has been the Him and Her chair for Casamania (2008). Modelled on the iconic Panton chair, the Him and Her is shaped like a kneeling man and woman and it never fails to draw gasps and embarrassed looks everywhere. Many gave it the thumbs down and called it the worst design of the year. Criticism for the design of the chair (and for messing with the Panton chair design) has been flung at him from every corner.
Criticism, however, does not get Fabio down. His work continues to arouse emotions of extreme. Two recent creations for Venini are the Happy Pill and the Murana vase. The Happy Pill is a collection of five vases made of Murano glass and shaped like a pharmaceutical pill. Novembre calls this a “placebo that takes the place of medication, with the philosophy that playful design has the same effect as happy pills.” The Murana vase is handblown to resemble a face without sexual or racial connotations and just able to represent every kind of humanity.
Fabio’s repertoire extends beyond his products. His collaboration with the mosaic tile brand Bisazza led to a huge surge of interest in their work. More recently, he has worked with leading Italian brands like Driade, Cappellini and Casamania.
As Fabio Novembre celebrates twenty years of excellence in design, the awards and accolades continue to roll in. Twenty years is a long time, but rest is not on Fabio’s mind. In his own words, “I want to breathe till I choke. I want to love till I die.” And love manifests in his design. Maybe his best is yet to come…
‘Per Fare Un Albero’
‘per fare un albero’ (create a tree), is a cooperative between the city of Milan, Fiat, and Fabio Novembre. The installation sees 20 fiberglass Fiat 500 C replicas become planters for different types of trees, which run along via montenapoleone.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias