Some kitchen gadgets are so stylish and well-designed it seems more appropriate to display them on a shelf than use them. In the case of the Alessi Tea and Coffee Piazzas it's definitely the former. Designed by architects and handmade in solid silver, these limited editions are mostly to be found in museums and have never been near a coffee grain or tea leaf.
The very fact that household items are considered suitable material for an exhibition is tribute to the Alessi company. Formed by Giovanni Alessi in 1921 at a small village on Lake Orta, Italy, his workshop specialised initially in copper. brass and silver tableware. But it was in the 19305, when his eldest son Carlo, an industrial designer, became involved that the company's reputation for design was established. Utilising freelance designers such as Carlo Mazzeri and Anselmo Vitale, Alessi began to produce groundbreaking items that can still be found in its catalogue today.
In recent years a sense of fun has joined its sense of style, most notably in the design duo of Stefano Giovannoni and Guido Venturini (known collectively as ‘King Kong') whose childlike 'Iittle men' designs proved to be bestsellers. The colourful 'F.F.F' collection, with its cheerful little plastic people inside jars sits side by side with Philippe Starck’s striking lemon squeezer, proving Alessi is still ahead of the game. (Louisa Pearson)
I Alessi Tea & Coffee Piazza exhibition is at Inhouse, 24—26 Wilson Street, Glasgow, 0747 552 5902, Thu 2—Sat 77 Nov. Alessi products are also available from their Edinburgh branch, 28 Howe Street, 0737 220 6632.
RETAlL Schuh: A Beginner's Guide
For reasons as yet unfathomable to mankind no other sensation comes close to the indecent flush of satisfaction evoked by purchasing a new pair of shoes. Sandy Alexander must have been aware of this, the mysterious allure of unworn footwear, when he founded Schuh in 1981. After various jobs, including a spell in a tax office and a stint as a retail marketing trainee for Clarks, he came up with the idea of a store selling cutting-edge shoes. He realised that there wasn't anywhere on the High Street offering fashionable, affordable
Eager to eprOit this gap in the market, he scraped together all the money he could lay his hands on and presented his plan to the bank. They gave it the green light and he opened a tiny shop in Edinburgh's North Street Arcade. Its stock comprised unusual, high fashion designs, remnants that Alexander had b0ught from factories and retailers in London. Luckily customers liked his taste in outré footwear and his diminutive retail outlet steadily mushroomed into an empire that currently stands at 23 shops throughout Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, 600 employees, 30 concession outlets and a turnover of over £30m. Last year Schuh was named Menswear/FHM Fashion Footwear Retailer of the Year.
Schuh is now pretty much a Scottish institution, selling a mix of own brand and national brand footwear to all those desirous of well- dressed feet. It continues to offer alternatives to unimaginatively styled shoes and has become the place to go for everything from classics and strappy, vertigo-inducing stilettos to the latest all-singing, all-dancing, hi-tech trainers. Unsurprisingly, considering the trend for sportswear as a fashion statement, its best sellers at the moment include New Balance and Acupuncture as well as enduring favourites like Doc Martens.
The not-too-distant future holds the prospect of more shops in Ireland, and in years to come, the company aims to expand into London and pOSSlbly Europe. So even more people will get the opportunity to savour that ’new shoe' feeling. (Dawn Kofie)
Alessi turns gadgets into art
2—16 Nov 2000 THE lIST 123