1921 Giovanni Alessi Anghini founded Alessi as metalware company in northern Italy, producing everyday domestic and catering products. From 1932 it developed an independent design policy under the direction of Giovanni's son Carlo Alessi.
After the Second World War the company increasingly turned to stainless steel instead of the nickel silver and brass that had characterized its earlier products. Though still respecting the craft traditions that were such a key aspect of design innovation and practice in post-war Italian consumer goods, the company also expanded its scale of production to what may be seen as medium-sized. Alessi designs were produced on an in-house basis (often by Carlo Alessi himself) until 1954 when designers such as Anselmo Vitale and Luigi Massoni began to be employed on a consultancy basis.
In 1970 Alberto Alessi Anghini became general manager of the company and has been responsible for the company's increasing commercial and stylistic prominence for more than 30 years.
From the 1980s the company has become widely recognized internationally for its technical and stylistic innovations and often slightly idiosyncratic, yet highly fashionable, Postmodern products by leading designers such as Ron Arad, Michael Graves, Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass, Matteo Thun, and Philippe Starck.
An important landmark in the company's profile was the Tea and Coffee Piazza limited edition project initiated by Alessandro Mendini as part of a strategy to promote the company's profile internationally and to situate Italian design within an international context. A number of designers from different countries were commissioned including Mendini himself, Paolo Portoghesi, the Americans Robert Venturi, Michael Graves, Charles Jencks, and Stanley Tigerman, the Austrian Hans Hollein, and the Japanese Kazuma Yamashita. These and subsequent experimental designs were produced under the trademark of the company's experimental division, Officina Alessi.
Over the years Alessandro Mendini has contributed many more successful designs like the corkscrew Anna G., the corkscrew for sommeliers Parrot Proust and recently the Moka Alessi coffee maker as an homage to Alfonso Bialetti, the grandfather of Alberto Alessi.
Ironically, perhaps, amongst the best-known designs produced by the company are those by non-Italians such as Michael Graves's Kettle with Bird Shaped Whistle, Richard Sapper's kettle with a two-tone whistle or Philippe Starck's Juicy Salif lemon squeezer.
In Italy itself Alessi products generally cater for everyday purposes, whereas in the valuable export markets its more design-conscious products are seen to represent the stylishness and fashionability of Italian design.
The company has also produced a number of designs that seek to underline its sophistication and awareness of design heritage, reflecting a cultural promotion strategy similar to that of the furniture company Cassina and office equipment manufacturer Olivetti. These include designs by the 19th-century industrial designer Christopher Dresser, the Bauhaus metalware designer Marianne Brandt, and the Finnish designer Eliel Saarinen.
Born 1951 in Tel Aviv, Ron Arad is Industrial Designer and Architect. He studied at the Bezalel Acadamy of Design (Jerusalem) and the Architectural Association (London). His first modest commercial success was the design of the Rover Chair in 1981, a recycled leather seat from a Rover 2000 mounted on a structure made from rolled steel tubes. At the same time he started his workshop and studio gallery One Off with his business partner Caroline Thorman. Here he created unique one offs, product hard to find somewhere else, furniture mainly made from his at the time favourite material steel. In the mid and late 80's he rose to international fame with scuptural steel chairs for Vitra like the 'Well Tempered Chair' and the 'Big Easy'.
Other famous designs include the mass produced 'Bookworm', the 'Tom Vac' chair and products for Alessi.