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Molteni&C – Made in Italy

Molteni&C and the Origins of Design

Molteni&C, a name that has been designing furniture that has made the history of Italian design for almost a century.

reading time5 minutes

The word ‘design’ has become common, but do we know what it really means? Actually, beyond the literal translation from English – project – design is something challenging to define. Part scientific-technical and part humanistic discipline, it combines engineering and art, invention and style. But there is a practically infallible method to tell whether an object is ‘designer’ or not. If, in addition to being beautiful, it is also comfortable and functional, then we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that we are indeed dealing with a designer object. This is undoubtedly the case with the furnishings signed by Molteni&C / Dada, an outstanding Made in Italy company with almost a century of history spanning three generations.

The roots of design

It all began with Angelo Molteni, from Milan, born in 1912, who at only 22 opened ‘Arredamenti Angelo Molteni’ in Giussano (MI), in the burgeoning Brianza furniture district, to make home furnishings: tables, wardrobes, chests of drawers and more. Initially, Angelo Molteni’s was a purely artisan company with the aim of producing for third parties. However, the core of today’s factory was created at a very early stage. In 1936, Angelo bought a piece of land where the embryo of the current production site was to be built, and the number of employees immediately began to grow.

Molteni Factory,1947
Molteni Factory,1947

The post-war period and mass production

The war years saw the company forced to convert production: no more furniture but wheelbarrows for the army! However, the conflict passed without too much damage, and Angelo Molteni came out of it ready for the challenges of the economic boom just around the corner.

The meeting with Alberto Zevi (one of the founders of Adelphi) will be decisive from this point of view. Alberto Zevi, a graduate in mathematics and economics and a great lover of furniture, persuades Angelo Molteni to buy the first industrial machinery, the flat-bed presses and the dryer, so that he can control the entire production chain and start mass production.

Another decisive encounter was the one with Swiss designer Werner Blaser, who created the prototype of a modular chest of drawers with visible joints, which enabled Molteni&C to win the prize at the first Mostra Selettiva – International Furniture Competition in Cantù in 1955.

MCH1 Chest of Drawers

Modular furniture and collaboration with designers

From this moment on, the path is marked. Molteni started to produce modern furnishings with modular design, innovative materials, and black iron structures. In 1961, together with 14 other manufacturers, Angelo Molteni was one of the founders of the Salone del Mobile di Milano, which officially sanctioned the birth of ‘modern furniture’.

The first designer Molteni&C collaborated with was Carlo de Carli, in 1963, but the real breakthrough came with the modular systems by Tito Agnoli, Angelo Mangiarotti and Luca Meda. Starting in 1969, the company converted entirely to design through three fundamental strategic acquisitions: UniFor, Citterio and, ten years later, Dada, thus becoming an international Group.

Each collection is designed to enhance the objects’ functionality and form. Over time, great designers have signed them, including Aldo Rossi, Tobia Meda, Luca Scarpa, Gio Ponti, Patricia Urquiola, and Ron Gilad…

Success was soon recognised by trade magazines halfway around the world. Angelo Molteni received the honour of “Cavaliere del Lavoro” (Knight of Labour) from the Federazione Nazionale dei Cavalieri del Lavoro (National Federation of the Knights of Labour). At the same time, business continued to grow thanks to the commitment of his two sons, Piero and Carlo (Compasso d’Oro alla carriera 2020).

In 1994, Molteni &C was awarded the prestigious Compasso d’Oro, the oldest and most important award in the world of industrial design at a global level.

Molteni Museum

In 2015, to celebrate the company’s 80th anniversary, Ron Gilad designed a building next to the company headquarters: the Molteni Museum, an exhibition of dozens of pieces that have made the history of design and the Group.

Molteni Museum
Molteni Museum

Today, Molteni&C continues to be a leader in furniture design under the leadership of Managing Director Marco Piscitelli and the chairmanship of Carlo Molteni. The company still has its headquarters in Giussano, employs over 1000 people, and has a presence in 90 countries – a flagship store is located in the heart of Manhattan! – and boasts a turnover of millions of euros.

Congratulations to those who bring Italian design and style to the world!

Read the stories of other Made in Italy outstanding companies from Lombardy.