Just hours after arriving to Toronto, Alessandro Calligaris was busy talking to reporters about his company’s latest showroom in the east end of the city, known as Designer Mile. The newly spruced-up space fills 465-square metres of prime real estate, perfect for showing off the brand’s sizable home furnishing collections, from chairs (which they are best known for) to space-saving coffee tables, lighting fixtures and bed ensembles. The showroom beams with white leather sofas, black lacquered tabletops and a chair wall displaying some of Calligaris’ outdoor offerings. Azure sat down with Mr. Calligaris to discuss the growing market in Italian design and what his favourite piece of furniture is.
Azure: Your company has recently opened similar single-brand showrooms in Rome, Miami, Valencia and Lyon. Why Toronto?
Alessandro Calligaris: Our product is already in 39 stores across Canada, but we think it is important to have a single-brand showroom. Toronto is a city filled with people who really appreciate good design, and that’s our target customer.
AZ: You also sell lines through what you call “galleries,” which are like boutiques within department stores, such as Maison Lafayette in Paris. What added value is there in having an independent store?
AC: A single-brand store like the one in Toronto is a true representation of the Casa Calligaris concept. A gallery doesn’t carry the complete Calligaris range, but enough to transfer the brand’s identity. With a showroom, our brand is the only one present. We look for locations that are in busy areas of a large city so we can get maximum visibility. We can also constantly update and change things around in a showroom.
AZ: What’s your company design process?
AC: We have a team of designers, mostly under 30, who propose their ideas. If the concept responds to what we need or what we are looking for, then the design is put into production.
AZ: Do have a favourite piece?
AC: I do. It’s the Parisienne chair from this year’s collection. It’s a stackable outdoor seat with rounded shapes and no sharp edges. I like it because it has a soft design and is extremely practical.
AZ: You’ve been at the helm since 1986. How has the brand evolved over that time?
AC: Calligaris was originally known for making chairs. We extended the product range to include tables, and then we moved into designing sofas, beds, lights and accessories. Distribution has also increased, especially over the past 10 years. Two years ago, we completely revamped our brand image, introducing the creation of a new logo: the hard-working, wood-loving woodpecker. We also obtained FSC Certification, which recognizes that Calligaris uses sustainable practices in the harvesting and manufacturing of our wood.
AZ: Do you have plans to open more single-brand showrooms?
AC: This year alone our sales increased 20 per cent in the Canadian market, which is really exciting. So we’re planning to launch more showrooms here, and also in South Korea.
Toronto’s Calligaris showroom is located at 170 King Street East.