Italian designer and manufacturer of premium housewares
Alessi (established in 1921) has been a leading creator of home accessories since the early years of the 20th century. Now nearing its centennial, Alessi is globally recognized for its ability to bring aesthetic, quality, and functional designs into mass production.
This legacy began in 1921, when Giovanni Alessi opened his workshop in the small town of Crusinallo, in the northern Italian comune of Omegna in Piedmont. He started by making a small sampling of handcrafted housewares, mostly made out of copper and nickel, and infused his creations with Art Nouveau designs. Giovanni’s concept further blossomed in 1932, when his eldest son, Carlo, joined the company. Carlo had much grander design visions for the family company, so he both expanded greatly the range of products that Alessi produced and developed numerous designs for the company. During this period, the company marketed its products under the brand FAO, which stood for Fratelli Alessi Omegna (Alessi brothers Omegna).
By the 1950s, Carlo had become the manager of the company and, with the aid of his brother Ettore, worked to further broaden the company’s reach. During this time, the company marketed its products under the brand “ALFRA,” which stood for ALessi FRATelli or Alessi brothers. In addition to working as a supplier to larger commercial clients in the hotel and restaurant markets, and shifting to stainless steel (in place of the softer metals like nickel that they used before), the Alessi brothers also entered into an increasing number of collaborations with leading designers. Many of these partnerships yielded early successes. One such example is Luigi Massoni and Carlo Mazzeri’s Cocktail Shaker (1957), which was originally created for promotion at the XI Triennale di Milano in 1957. Despite the connotations of luxury that such modern forms relayed to the postwar Italian consumer, Alessi’s styling proved very popular and continued to be so during the following decades.
The brilliance of these designs was in their simplicity and functionality. The clean lines allowed these otherwise mundane objects of daily use to be transformed into mass production possibilities and a consumer’s dream as they also embraced the clean aesthetic of midcentury modern tastes. This credo carried Alessi into 1970, the year in which Alberto Alessi, a member of the third generation of the Alessi family, assumed control of the company, and changed the company’s branding from ALFRA to Alessi.
Alberto appreciated modern design, and he interpreted it as the need for Alessi’s products to be a source of imagination and a point of engagement for the user. To this end, Alberto pursued design partnerships with the top architects and designers of the time.
Under Alberto Alessi’s leadership, Ettore Sottsass’s Espresso Maker (1979) became a highlight of the period, but many other design collaborations were forged with the likes of Alessandro Mendini–with whom he collaborated creating the highly visible Tea and Coffee Piazza set project, Enzo Mari, the Campana Brothers, the Bouroullec Brothers, Ron Arad, Richard Sapper, Zaha Hadid, and Piero Lissoni, among others. Another important design endeavor propelled by Alberto was the 1983 Tea and Coffee Piazza series, for which he invited leading architects, such as Stanley Tigerman, Aldo Rossi, and Hans Hollein, to create limited edition architectural miniature tea and coffee sets.
Today, Alessi continues to be a successful design and manufacturing company for home accessories, and many of its contributions to design are included in prominent international museum collections.
- Fay Sweet. Alessi: Art and Poetry (The Cutting Edge). Thames and Hudson Ltd. London, U.K. (1998)
- Alberto Alessi. The Dream Factory: Alessi since 1921. Konemann. Cologne, Germany (1998)
- Michael Collins. Alessi (Design Monograph). Carlton Books Ltd. London, U.K. 1999
For additional information on Alessi, please visit the History and Designers page at Alessi’s website.
Last updated: May 18, 2020
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