Paola Navone is one of the few famous women in the industrial design world. Her creative manner denies existing styles and trends in design. While her colleagues create furniture, Paola creates whole worlds where the past is intertwined with the future, tradition with technology, the East with the West.
Paola was born in Turin, graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the Polytechnic University there and went to conquer Milan, where she began working with the then famous Alexandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass Jr. and Andrea Branzi in the most progressive collaboration of Italian designers Alchimia. Paola's parents were categorically opposed to her daughter associating her life with architecture and design. When she entered the university (for a company with a friend!), Her father was simply furious, because architecture is not a woman's business, and there is nothing for a girl to do in a "male profession"! However, Paola has always been very stubborn and curious - that's how she came to the world of design.
In the mid-80s, Paola's romance with Asia happened, which determined her style for years to come. She worked as a design consultant for the Southeast Asian market and what she saw there turned her mind around the possibilities of design.
Paola's first furniture collection was called "Deja Vu" and included randomly reworked ethnic motifs.
Rattan, forging, wire, patchwork - non-trivial combinations and use of materials literally shocked the Italians, who by the 80s had turned into those conservatives. In addition, Paola announced that she is ready to release new furniture collections with original solutions every year!
However, while critics were indignant, offers from large companies literally rained down on Paola. First Capellini, then Orizzonti, Gervasoni - companies with a long history, ready to take risks. In Gervasoni, whose owners rely on exotic materials like liana, algae and ebony, Paola stayed for a long time and remains to this day the chief designer of the company.
She was attracted by the fact that the factory has not changed technology for over a hundred years - there is nothing more beautiful than old technology! In some of the works for Gervasoni, Paola was inspired by the pleated robes of designer Issei Miyake.
Paola is engaged in the development of architectural solutions, design of furniture, tableware, textiles, exhibition pavilions and finishing materials, as well as consulting and teaching in the field of design.
She creates not only interiors and product lines for apartments and country villas. One of the McDonald’s cafes was designed by Paola Navonne, she often offers options for offices and hotels. The workplace should be cozy, comfortable and beautiful, because modern people spend most of their lives at work.
Like her colleagues, Paola defends the value of traditional crafts. She believes that only the meeting of tradition and modernity allows something truly extraordinary to be born.
At the same time, she never copies literally ethnic things, but only borrows a principle that is often applied with other forms and materials. Paola loves to work with unusual and new (even if they are just "well forgotten") technologies, light and color.
She also loves water and the color blue, which she considers most important for well-being, and has a fish on her logo. Paola often uses images of fish and other marine inhabitants in design.
Striving to create fabulously beautiful things, Paola considers it wrong to design the thing as a museum piece. In addition, she does not like it when people talk about design as a means of self-expression for the designer.
“Recognizing me in my things is problematic,” she says. The desire to go a little beyond the boundaries of possibilities each time allows Paola to find new images, shapes and textures over and over again.
Ceramics, weaving, weaving … Ancient technologies, newest materials, minimalism and ethno - not caring about stylistic unity, Paola strives to create a holistic concept of what he does. The concept for her is akin to a story, a fairy tale, and if the shape of an object can be corrected while working with a factory, then its concept, then “what” this thing is about, is impossible.
Paola was one of the first to create huge and cozy upholstered furniture with volumetric seams for the living room, using aged textures.
Also, together with Gervasoni, Paola became pioneers in the creation of garden or terrace furniture, the so-called outdoor.
Customers often call her "a big specialist in garbage", because Paola loves to delve into things, it would seem, no one needs to bring them back to life. “My head is like a big can, where I get everything from,” Paola laughs when asked about her creative methods.
Paola finds inspiration in the world around her. She travels a lot since her youth, calls herself a nomad, and it is as natural for her to be inspired by the world as to breathe.
For over twenty years she lived in two countries - Hong Kong and Italy, and now her life revolves around Paris, Milan and several cities in Greece. The houses where Paola lives are filled with things created by her and by like-minded designers - wicker lampshades, collections of ceramic and glass items, aged or vintage furniture.
There is always a place for randomness in her projects, things are created as if "by mistake", intuitively. Paola Navone's creative intuition is legendary. Paola also has periods of creative stagnation - when there are no customers. She cannot create something without knowing for whom it is being created - this is how the customer becomes a co-author of the designer.
Paola doesn't mind that people living with the things she created can change these things as they see fit. Rearrange furniture, repaint colors, modify something - why not, if it is more convenient for a person this way? Paola has her own definition of beauty. “It's very simple! She says. "Beauty is something that only you like."
Text: Sofia Egorova.
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