‘Italian style’: a national stereotype?
What does Italian style mean in the world of superyacht design?
What springs to mind when you think of Italy? Perhaps it’s the winding roads of the Amalfi coast, or the hundreds of sharp suits milling around Milan – but in terms of superyacht design, how is it that we can get away with describing an Italian built semi-custom superyacht to be oozing with Italian style? Italy is many things - sublime art, architecture, and gorgeous food, and yes, style is an enormous part of its culture (think fashion or cars) – but I’d like to explore what ‘Italian style’ really means in the world of superyacht design.
The roots of Italian style date back to the 14th century, when cities such as Florence and Milan were considered to be the pinnacle of style and sophistication. Today, brands such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino and Loro Piana continue to rule the fashion world, upholding the nostalgic glamour that is still associated with Italy. Then came the cars – the likes of Maserati and Ferrari were a cut above the rest when they entered the market in the early 1900s. Here, style and luxury were essential elements of their success as well, of course, as taking the market into new realms of engineering excellence. The emergence of these ultra-luxury brands was again an affirmation of the global obsession with a culture of inimitable style.
According to The Superyacht Intelligence Agency, the Italian superyacht market first emerged in the 1930s, when the likes of Picchiotti and Benetti established themselves in the market. But it wasn’t really until the mid 1950s that motoryachts were consistently being built in Italy, despite the fact that at this point, the motoryacht market stood at 153 units from other countries. Ever since, Italy has been home to the most prolific semi-custom shipyards in the world, and today singlehandedly accounts for more than 30 per cent of the global fleet, according to data taken from The Superyacht Intelligence Annual Report 2018: New Build.
Over the years, the term ‘Italian style’ has become a victim of its own success. Global reverence has been taken advantage of by PR gurus, who have inadvertently overused the term, and thus diluted its meaning. “Its perceived meaning may lose its lustre due to PR, or it may be considered a stereotype, but it is really beyond style,” says founder and CEO of FM Architettura d’interni, Francesca Muzio. “If it is used purely for PR, it is very easy to see through. Italians will often talk about the birth of an idea, its development, the passion… they tend not to merely push the final product.
“The most clearly I understood Italian style was when we started working internationally and in the multiple realms of hotels & spas, private residences, as well as superyachts,” explains Muzio. “Working with international teams, it was obvious ‘Italian style’ brought a lot of the heart and soul to the table, and that made us proud. But what is perhaps more interesting is when these cultural strong points mix on international projects and seeing how they complement and benefit one another. With our past international experiences, we have developed excellent organisation, structure, and project management, combining it with the Italian passion and creativity - it is where we have found ‘Italian style’ to really shine.”
“The word style is misleading, perhaps associated with superficiality,” says Muzio. “Italy is a humanist culture, made up of an intermingling and influence of many cultures over the centuries. We deeply believe in dreams and beauty, whatever shape they may take. The style comes in with really being able to listen, and understand the client - how they live, how they want to spend their time, what is important to them, and then manifesting their ideas and dreams with a certain elegance. Style may be subjective, but the resonance a space has with the person it was designed for is undeniable.”
When it comes to the interiors of yachts, Muzio explains that this is the most technically challenging and spatially complex task an interior designer can undertake. However, it’s the process of fully understanding the desired outcome and how to get there that sets an established Italian design studio apart from other countries.
Italian style is a term that is often sold to the world as the apogee of design, yet it appears that the fundamental values of what makes Italian design different from other cultures are often misunderstood, especially in the media world. As Muzio quite rightly states, “It is the passion and the time that is put into style that gives it an extra spirit. To us, this is a humanistic approach – the ability to understand people and shape the world in ways that resonate with them. It is an attitude that became our tradition and pride, and eventually our DNA. It is an extra effort that is given to certain aspects – a labour of love – and that shows.”
Images: FM Architettura d’interni
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