As fate would have it, the flagship locale, located on 39th Street, opened its doors just after September 11, but thanks to the enduring legacy of the brand, it not only survived but thrived. It also served as the catalyst for change in the District, as other well recognized names followed suit and opened up nearby, ultimately creating one of the country’s most celebrated enclaves of design.
And Poltrona Frau still stands as a beacon amidst the bevy of luxury brands. This stance was further elevated with the opening of its sister store Cappellini in October 2009. Giulio Cappellini is one of the world’s leaders in the art of furniture design; his funky and eclectic works are part of the permanent collections of top-tier museums in cosmopolitan cities around the globe, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art; Centre Pompidou and Musee Des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, France; the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Köln, Germany; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England; and the Galleria D’Arte Moderna in Rome. The Cappellini family first started their furniture business back in 1946, and Guilio joined the family venture in 1979. Today, Cappellini is part of the publically traded Poltrona Frau Group S.p.A., which was formed in 2004. It has since amassed a group of companies that makes it the world leader in the luxury furniture market, with prestigious brands Poltrona Frau, Cassina, Cappellini, Alias, Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, Gufram, and Nemo under its umbrella.
Poltrona Frau and Cappellini are alike in quality but could not be more different aesthetically. While Poltrona Frau furniture is classic and timeless, Cappellini is bold and almost whimsical. But it works because “Cappellini is avant-garde,” as Giulio Cappellini explains. “Poltrona Frau is the modern concept of craftsmanship, and the two styles fit perfectly together.” Similar to how pieces by Poltrona Frau are designed by legends like Sir Norman Foster and Jean Marie Massaud, Cappellini pieces are the works of creative geniuses like Jasper Morison, Tom Dixon, Marc Newson, and Marcel Wanders. Giulio also embraces the work of up-and-coming designers for his line. “Normally, I try to find new unknown talents from all over the world,” he says. “I travel a lot, I am a visiting professor in many universities worldwide, so I have the opportunity to meet a lot of people. The first impression for me is very important, and I have to have the right feeling about a designer. The sensibility to design and innovate is very important.”
In the Design District, the two brands share a showroom; Cappellini’s new 2,200-square-foot flagship boutique is adjacent to the now 6,000-square-foot Poltrona Frau location, which serves as a large showroom representing both brands. The two styles manage to both complement and contrast one another; whereas Poltrona Frau’s half features subdued tones of gray, beige, and muted gold, Cappellini is bursting with vibrant fuchsias, blues, and reds. Poltrona Frau pieces are made by commission only (customers select a style and then choose from the 120 different colors of leather or fabric and stitching, and each piece is then made to order in the Italian factory), and many Cappellini items follow suit. However, Cappellini also features limited edition styles available immediately, but always in quantities less than 100. This limited-edition line is exemplified by a unique, one-of-a kind red-marked peacock chair by designer Dror Benshetrit, as well as the Big Shadow Lamp by Marcel Wanders, which Di Persia chose to situate next to the New Deal chair by Poltrona Frau for the Haute Living photo shoot.
The entire store is a haven for anyone seeking high-end design, no matter the style, which excites Di Persia to no end. He is borderline ecstatic when he talks about the strides that Poltrona Frau has made in the U.S., yet this is not his only current venture. He also runs Claudio Alaneta Productions, which deals with audio-visual products, and is behind the successful Italian Film Festival in Miami, Georgia, and Mexico. People throughout North America are reaping the benefits of his unwavering dedication to share the very best of his home country with the world.