San Patrignano Design Lab, originally Casa d’Arte, identifies the different artisanal workshops founded in the eponymous and very well-known rehabilitation community by Vincenzo Muccioli, who was a firm believer in the power of manual work to rekindle passion and re-educate youngsters on their path to rebirth. For about ten years now, special attention has been developed here to link artisanal activities with design and to develop relations with important fashion and furniture companies. We asked Luca Giunta, to present us this activity.

Why was this project see created? Why was it teaching craftsmanship in this rehabilitation community?

The mission of San Patrignano is to re-educate people to life, but the organization’s day-to-day functioning must be based on a sustainable model of management: therefore the activities encouraged by Design Lab must guarantee training and also be market-oriented. The organizational model is inspired by strategic design for the social sector and focuses on developing the creative potential of the youngsters. They often do not have any specific vocational background and only an elementary knowledge of production techniques.

To teach craftsmanship, as well as using personnel who have been trained over the years at San Patrignano, we continuously organize workshops, lectures and training.

Today the sectors are Artistic Decorations, Weaving by Hand, Leather Goods, Woodworking and Wrought iron.

To teach craftsmanship, as well as using personnel who have been trained over the years at San Patrignano, we continuously organize workshops, lectures and training. We try to instil the basic principles on how to interact with materials, colours, finishes and create new products in a conscious way. When people and their growth are placed at the centre of the creative process, all the rules change and the results are surprising, because each person feels they are playing a leading role and not just carrying out instructions. Our work is not only oriented to finding clients, but also sensitive partners in the world of design and artistic craftsmanship who give their preferences to collaborations in a context of social responsibility, and who want to experience an exchange with the youngsters of our Community and lead vocational workshops free of charge, or even finance the initiatives.

Which trades are taught?

Today the sectors are Artistic Decorations, Weaving by Hand, Leather Goods, Woodworking and Wrought iron.

Who is the ideal client?

The products are mainly intended for the world of furnishing and fashion. The production is oriented to customized projects or temporary collaborations or, to use a term very much in fashion, capsule collections, with brands that then take care of the distribution. We can say with pride that we do not have a catalogue, precisely because we are not interested in having a corporate set-up. We present many of our creations on the social networks.

The youngsters of DesignLab have had many collaborations with the world of fashion but not only that. In 2019 they took part in the Doppia Firma project during the Salone del Mobile in Milan. How did enjoy this experience?

For our workshops, the contact with the universe of craftsmen is fundamental, because it allows us to say metaphorically that our finest “product” is our youngsters, who at the end of their rehab can be considered as trained craftspeople who can approach the world of work; craftsmen are often short of young people who want to pursue this kind of carrier, and our young artisans come out of our laboratories already with some meaningfulexpertise. So it is easy to understand that we find the activity of Fondazione Cologni an incredible resource to protect craftsmanship and train the young generations. Inside the macrocosm of events of the Milan Design Week, we felt that Doppia Firma was the closest to our principles and our mission. Our young artisans experienced the challenge with great passion and participation, understanding that their work would have had been seen by a huge public of professionals. The greatest emotion was when we took them to the inauguration, where they received a surprise visit from Letizia Moratti, co-founder of the community and from Anna Zegna, who with Fondazione Zegna has supported the craftsmanship of San Patrignano for many years.

What did it mean working alongside a designer like Vito Nesta?

The encounter with Vito Nesta is a story of seduction in the time of social networks: by constantly expressing appreciation for our work, the day came when we said that perhaps it would have been nice to do something together. Doppia Firma was a wager: when the General Director of Fondazione Cologni, Alberto Cavalli, informed us that we had the chance of working together it was fantastic. The result was a very special project, which was highly appreciated and of which we are very proud.

What is the Sustainable Thinking project?

The Ferragamo family supports the training of the youngsters in the craft sectors through Fondazione Ferragamo, and guarantees Work Grants to those who at the end of the journey remain longer, precisely to guarantee that the craft skills are handed down to the newcomers. Sustainable Thinking by Ferragamo, more than a project, is a new way of thinking the whole process of managing activities: the opening of the museum and the printing of a beautiful book on this subject presented this philosophy to the public. One of the works on display was made by our weavers: fabrics obtained from materials salvaged at the end of the production cycles. Beautiful contemporary tapestries were created with which the Florentine maison decorated the windows of its showroom in Via dei Tornabuoni. They liked them so much that the stylized warp and weft have become an integral part of the communication logo.

What are the projects for the immediate future?

We believe that in the light of recent global events, the logic of social inclusion and the central position of ethical production processes can bring new opportunities to the area of social responsibility and the circular economy. We would like to work with the FAI (an Italian Foundation similar to the National Trust) on one of their marvellous projects. Within the sphere of relations with training schools and the academic world, we have talks under way with Fondazione Lisio, la Scuola di Alta Pelletteria (the School of Fine Leather Goods) and Isia Faenza: it would be a dream come true to be able to give a certificate that can be used in looking for work and enrich the youngsters’ résumés. We would also be very happy to take part in the important event of Homo Faber with our workshops and our creations: for the time being it is our cherished dream!