From award-winning Salone del Mobile stands to nonconforming showrooms: Flos has a way with space. The lighting brand’s CEO Piero Gandini talks us through their strategy.

What do you want your showrooms and trade fair booths to do?
PIERO GANDINI: In both, you have to create an emotional moment and immediately give the visitor something special – an indication that something is happening here. You also have to be pretty rational. But the differences between the two are big. At a fair, Flos presents only new things: a more limited number of products that are totally unknown. So you have to create a big impact, a big explanation, a big first moment. The needs of a showroom are more complex, but the point is the same: You have to clarify that your spirit is there, that you’re entering a Flos space. After that, there are many ways to show products. But it’s not a good idea to create too much around strong products: the product is supposed to speak for itself.

‘I don’t know if the future will be so physical,’ says Piero Gandini, CEO of Flos. Photo Bob Krieger

How has Flos created its most successful stands?
You can have two attitudes. One is to treat the product like you would in a museum, where the booth or showroom is just a good container to show the piece. Or, you can create a special happening. You can see the difference between the booth we did years ago with Fabio Calvi and Paolo Brambilla and the one they did this year. Years ago, we were very late in construction and unsure that we would be able to finish the booth in time, so Fabio had an idea: why don’t we show it as if it’s still under construction? And since the designers have ‘built’ up the company – they design the products – they were dressed like workers, as if painting and building the booth. It was a fantastic idea to create a happening around the family of Flos, the spirit of Flos, and to involve everybody in that game.

For this year’s booth, with just a small touch to the architecture, Fabio and Paolo gave a gentle, ironic design to the container. Visitors opened and closed doors to enter a different room with a different product every time. Everything was about the strength of the products themselves, so it was a very pure way to show them.

Both were totally different approaches, but once inside, you understood the Flos world. You felt the emotion and logic of the new collection and freedom in discovering the new products.

This year, architects Fabio Calvi and Paolo Brambilla of Calvi Brambilla won Best Display from the second annual Salone del Mobile.Milano Award for the company’s Euroluce booth.

The 2017 Euroluce booth was a pared-down, architecturally intriguing gallery that emphasized discovery amid light and shadow, solid and void, hue and material.

How does this compare with the design of a showroom?
The same has to be done in a showroom, but you’re dealing with many more products. You cannot do what you want because you have architecture that isn’t temporary; you have to interact with an existing place. You have fewer square metres per product, you have to take care of maintenance and cleaning and things that in a few days’ booth you don’t have. In that sense, the intervention has to be much more related to architecture and place. In Flos showrooms, the intervention has personality but is also as gentle, as discreet, as functional as possible – in harmony with the existing space. The principle is not so special. It has to be clear: here I am in Flos, and Flos means passion, energy, innovation, surprise, emotion – and these elements are presented in a consistent way.

But in the execution, you have to be pure in attitude. Once you’ve decided on the way, then you have to go all the way – you can’t hesitate. If you opt for a big presentation, like the allegory of the unfinished booth, then you have to go deep into the idea: with a backstage movie, giant posters [which became a successful marketing campaign], the designers who became practically actors. And the same with this year’s booth: we followed the idea of a ‘gallery’ to the end.

‘In Flos showrooms, the intervention has personality but is also as gentle, as discreet, as functional as possible,’ says Gandini. The Corso Monforte 15 Milan showroom is pictured here.

How will Flos be showcasing its products in the future that is different from today?
I don’t know if the future will be so physical. Our products are physical, material products, so we will always have a physical place to show them. But the support we will have from technology will be greater. You may see a product on a stage and then perhaps, beside it, you will have a way to see it in an environment, through augmented reality. It will be very interesting to see what can be explored in that way.

Unsure whether its 2011 Salone del Mobile stand would be ready in time for the event, Flos capitalized on the situation with its ‘under-construction’ theme.

Pictured in title image: Located in a former tractor repair workshop, OEO Studio’s design for the Flos Copenhagen showroom allows the products to take centre stage.