Renato Preti is big on his food analogies. “It’s Scandinavian style, with some tomato sauce,” he says of Discipline, the furniture company that he founded a little over two years ago. “It is difficult to create something simple,” he adds a while later. “Like Italian food. It is not complicated, like French food, but it is still difficult to get it just right.”
Under the mantra “beautifully designed, consciously made”, Discipline creates contemporary yet timeless products for the home. And like a finely tuned pomodoro sauce, the company’s collection of chairs, tables and accessories is simple, balanced and unashamedly authentic.
The Italian-born Preti was the son of a furniture manufacturer, so he “grew up breathing design”. But a degree in business management led to a career in finance, and he ended up running large investment banks such as Euromobiliare Limited, Sviluppo Finanziaria and Fincomit. In 2000, Preti became a founding partner of Opera, a private equity fund that focused on Italian lifestyle brands. The fund invested in a number of successful furniture companies, including Unopiu, B&B Italia and MOOOI, but this was not enough to sate Preti’s growing desire to return to his design roots. So he decided to launch his own furniture brand, a design house that would take a new, fun and fresh approach. “I wanted to go back to my passion,” he says. “I was convinced that I had an angle and a vision.”
It started with a trip around the world. Preti travelled through Brazil, China, Japan, Europe and the US, developing his ideas and identifying common needs that transcended geography and culture. His belief that the design industry, particularly in Italy, had lost its innovative edge and tended to veer towards conservatism, was compounded. “There has been a lot of minimalism but, in the long term, that is a bit boring,” he says.
His proposition: a return to positive values and a rejection of “weirdness for the sake of weirdness”. Discipline was created to produce design that is functional, sustainable, durable, beautiful and simple. “Design is not art. It has to be functional, it has to be well done and it has to be user friendly. It has to be something that really offers you quality and beauty but at the same time is not boring,” Preti maintains.
At its core, Discipline combines the simple, clean, ordered lines of New Nordic design with a touch of Italian flair, or “tomato sauce” – the more colourful and emotional elements of the traditional Italian aesthetic. There’s also a sense of fun and flexibility – take the Cup, a simple blown-glass table in the shape of an enormous cup that comes in eye-popping shades of amber, red or lilac, and can be flipped over to form an oversized vase.
The company has teamed up with young and exciting designers from around the world, including Japan’s Nendo and Ichiro Iwasaki, the UK’s Max Lamb, Germany’s Ding 3000 and Norway’s Lars Beller Fjetland. A collaboration with the French designer Pauline Deltour, who has also worked with Alessi and Muji and is one of France’s hottest new talents, resulted in the Galbe collection of wooden glasses and the Roule line of copper trays, as well as the recently launched D.Bag.
Discipline products are crafted out of glass, oak, ash and leather (because of its tactility) and textiles made from natural fibres such as cotton, wool and linen, as well as bamboo (because it grows quickly and is both light and flexible).
Cork is another of Preti’s favourites. “Cork is something that you will see more and more of. It is the most sustainable material in nature — it is there to protect the tree. It is anti-allergic, fire-proof, water-resistant and it lasts forever,” he says.
“We also only use local woods. Everything is produced in Italy and all of the materials come from close by. And we use, as much as we can, natural techniques.”
However, while sustainability is a fundamental consideration – “What we collectively choose to buy or not to buy can change the course of this planet,” says the company’s brochure – Preti recognises that sustainability for the sake of sustainability is not the answer. “People won’t make a sacrifice for sustainability,” he says.
The company does not create sustainable products simply because they are environmentally friendly; it creates sustainable products because they are beautiful, last longer and are a pleasure to touch. “The most sustainable thing we can do is make something that lasts forever,” is one of Preti’s favourite mantras.
In fact, many of the materials used by the company improve as they age, Preti maintains. Whether it’s the soft, rich and textural Cuoietto leather of the all-enveloping Pocket chair, the gently gleaming copper of the Roule tray, or the natural cork seat of the Drifted stool, as the materials age and evolve they only add to the character of the piece.
Discipline products are already available at 280 points of sale in 27 countries around the world, from Australia to the US. Preti is clearly not a man who believes in starting small. “We have our feet on the ground but our head in the clouds,” he laughs. “We can’t afford to be small and artisanal. It doesn’t make any sense.”
While the brand is not yet represented in the UAE, 33 per cent of the company is owned by Kureal SA, a UAE-based company that specialises in fashion and lifestyle investments, and Preti is well aware of the potential of the market — so you can expect to see Discipline’s tasty products at a store near you soon.
Find Discipline products online at www.discipline.eu.
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