Giovanna Castiglioni runs the foundation dedicated to her father Achille Castiglioni, launched on 14 December 2014, with constant energy and passion. This year marks an important milestone, the design master’s 100th birthday, which was celebrated with an exhibition titled ‘100x100 Achille’. For the occasion, the Achille Castiglioni Foundation created an extraordinary show: some of the most notable design creatives were invited to think about a present for Achille, resulting in a series of anonymous objects, chosen for their function rather than their label. It’s 100 everyday pieces, the type of mundane objects which Castiglioni loved.

Valextra met Giovanna Castiglioni while shooting its latest Small Leather Goods at the Castiglioni Foundation.




Giovanna Castiglioni, portrait by Hugh Findletar 

ExtraValextra: what is the Castiglioni Foundation’s mission today?

Giovanna Castiglioni: the Foundation has the objective of organizing, archiving, and digitizing projects, sketches, photographs, models, films, conferences, objects, books, magazines and all other elements of the world in which Achille has worked for over 60 years, initially with his brother Pier Giacomo, and then on his own from 1968. This work started thanks to the help of the studio’s long-term collaborators, and today it is led by Antonella Gornati, who worked closely with Achille Castiglioni for over 20 years. The Foundation’s mission is to preserve this incredible heritage for the modern times, meaning organizing it, telling the public about it, and sharing it with a vast audience. In parallel, the Foundation at the Studio Museum on Milan’s Piazza Castello 27, organizes guided tours for both individuals and groups.

EV: how would you describe the role of Achille Castiglioni within the Italian and international design history?

GC: to answer this I quote Nicoletta Ossanna Cavadini; for the exhibition “Achille Castiglioni visionary” at the ma.x museum in Chiasso, she wrote: ‘Achille Castiglioni’s lesson is still a reference for international design. His expressive simplicity is present in his aphorisms, concise expressions of simple concepts which can stimulate depth of thought.’ A lot is said about the Castiglioni method, which I personally hope to keep sharing with today’s designers while also giving them space to explore, without getting stuck within the word ‘method’ and into predefined, static tracks. We also talk a lot about ‘form and function’, so I hope design professionals can continue to operate across several disciplines so that form follows function and not vice versa.




Image from Valextra's Small Leather Goods Catalogue


EV: how would you describe Castiglioni’s design heritage in three words?

GC: curiosity for the objects around us, functionality as the essence of the project, and ethic because every object is designed, followed and analyzed step by step up to industrial production. 


EV: how do you think Italian design has changed, and what are its main characteristics today?

GC: today’s speed often results in not enough time to be positive about projects and satisfied with their results, while technology allows many creatives to perfect something that once was limited to few materials. 


EV: you just celebrated 100 years of Achille Castiglioni, with an exhibition of anonymous objects donated by different designers alongside a birthday card: can you tell us more about Castiglioni’s passion for everyday objects and their role within his design process?

GC: to take inspiration from anonymous objects has always been a great creative ‘strategy’ for Castiglioni: with the curiosity of a child, he used to fall in love with simple, intelligent, cheap objects, and let them mature in his mind because you never know, he said, ‘leave them in there, they might ripen!’ A fitting example: the pantograph found in a sewing box, or a tool or fishing box would become a bedside table, ironically named ‘Comodo’ (Italian word for ‘convenient’, ‘comfortable’). He called it that because it’s easy to open and can be used as a breakfast tray as well as a container to ‘hide’ chocolates and candy. Today, this multi-functional object is back into production thanks to Karakter, a Danish company, and I am very happy that it became alive again. 


Image from Valextra's Small Leather Goods Catalogue


EV: ‘Experience does not bring certainty or security, but rather increases the possibility of error. I would say it is better to start from scratch each time, with humility, because experience is not likely to turn into silliness’. Can you give us a personal comment on this statement?

GC: Humility, curiosity and irony have accompanied my father in every step of the way, every project, every speaking engagement. In particular, considering the concept of ‘humility’, I like to remember how he always taught me to approach everyone and to aim at collaboration, drawing from different disciplines and respecting other people’s work. 


EV: what are the plans for the future?

GC: one of our goals is to keep the Museum/Foundation open to the public, so that we can continue to share the stories behind his projects, as well as those of his whole family, from his sculptor father to his brothers, Pier Giacomo and Livio. Another objective is to maintain the focus on his projects, offering new editions, reproducing these designs so that the memory doesn't fade, and leave a great example of designing with passion for future generations. 



Fondazione Castiglioni

Only guided visits with obligatory booking: from Tuesday to Friday, at 10.00 – 11.00 – 12.00.

On Saturday you can visit the Studio Museo only with a minimum group of 15 people.