365 Objects Of Design

When Fridge meets Fashion: Dolce e Gabbana does Smeg

25th April 2017

smeg and dolce e gabbana

Vittorio Bertazzoni is proud that his company Smeg is thought of as Danish by many people. It is, for him, a badge of honour that his products could be confused/associated with the Scandinavian obsession with form and function.

But Smeg is, in fact 100 per cent Italian. Its name an acronym for Smalterie Metallurgiche Emilliana Guastala (the last two names of the town and county where the company was founded by his grand father, also Vittorio).  Everything is designed and made in Italy – that other great behemoth of product design alongside the Danes.  Indeed, in the battle for design supremacy it is hard to say who wins – for the Danes form and function are a marriage of equals. For the Italians design is key, but a little bit of flamboyance never hurt anybody.

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And a touch of that flamboyance is why I was meeting Vittorio in Milan during the annual furniture fair. A rare granter of interviews, he had just released his second collaboration with Dolce e Gabbana at a party at their headquarters. Even D and G themselves were there although it’s a bit like Ant & Dec – I’m not sure anyone actually knows which is which. And I only saw one of them too. But I was with clever people from Hello! and Vogue so all I had to do was nod when they pointed.

It was a terribly glamorous do. There were assistants to hold your phone and film you making pasta using their Dolce e Gabbana pasta machines. I trucked up asking to have a go and was immediately whisked backstage for a going over by a professional make up artist. I still can’t decide if I’m flattered or insulted by that. No-one else in our party (most of them half my age)  received the same treatment. You can see the video below.

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The following day I went to meet Vittorio at the grand opening of the new Milan store. He took me to an office where the first thing I saw was a Union Jack fan fridge. This feels faintly shocking in the current febrile EU climate. Although it has just been announced that Smeg is about to open its largest flagship store in the world in London in September.

I had been intending to go in with the fluff. The fashion story of the fridge and the party. To warm up this reluctant interviewee. But there was the Union Jack glaring at me from the corner of the room.

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“So you’re coming to London then? But what about Brexit? And this flag?” I blurt out. It turns out – I learn later in a taxi to the airport – that the Union Jack fridge sells best in Germany. I’ll just leave that there. In the meantime, Vittorio is charming and polite. For him the Union Jack is more personal – it was the first flag fridge he designed. Even Italy came later. He studied in Oxford and loves the design. That is all.

He guides me gently away from my Brexit anguish and back to his new store at 14 Regent Street, which has the biggest single pane glass windows in Europe. The new store will be spread over three floors with a coffee bar –  a demonstration area and organic Parmesan from the family’s farm in Guastala. In a few months time you will be able to pop in for a new fridge and a slab of cheese at the same time. Or you can just go in for the cheese, they won’t assume you are there to buy appliances.

smeg fridges with dolce e gabbana

And that is the key to the Smeg brand. It doesn’t see itself as being in competition with other appliance manufacturers. It regards itself as competing with other luxury brands. Hence; you have some money to spend – will you buy a Smeg fridge, a pair of Jimmy Choos or a Burberry coat? For Smeg, these are all choices on the same par.

Mind you, Dolce e Gabbana aside – their toaster will cost you £399 – buying something from the main Smeg range is probably cheaper than a pair of Jimmy Choos.  Although in the U.K, Smeg is known mostly for the retro curves of the FAB fridges –  so ubiquitous in the middle class kitchen at one point that they were gently lampooned by Aardman films who gave Wallace and Gromit a SMUG fridge in one outing –  the company was all about cooking before it turned to refrigerating.

smeg fridge

Like so many of the Danish companies, Smeg regularly works with architects on its products so you can visit a Renzo Piano building (The Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London or the Whitney Museum of American art in NYC) or buy one of his Smeg ovens and hobs which are pretty sleek.

It’s the opposite of the collaboration with D & G, whose voluptuous Italian models are such a perfect match for the rounded curves of the fab series. This is loud and colourful and celebratory. It’s the second time the two have collaborated. Last year it was fridges, this time it’s small appliances – toasters, coffee makers and juicers. All have been handpainted with Sicilian motifs (one, I forget which – either Ant or is it Dec – sorry I mean – Dolce is from Sicily) including lemons and flowers and leaf patterns.

“We are all friends,” says Vittorio. ” I have known them a long and we are both traditional Italian companies. We both design and manufacture in Italy and it felt like a natural partnership. We have a lot in common and we share a pop soul.”

He won’t be drawn on other collaborations but said there was “more to come from this partnership”. And with that I must go for I, literally, have a plane to catch. I leave Vittorio wandering round his newly opened Milan store and make a note in my diary to shop for Parmesan in London in September.

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Smeg are keen to point out that they are the only company that makes everything for the kitchen from large to small appliances. You can see the full UK range at Smeg UK. I really, really want the D&G toaster. Definitely more than a pair of Jimmy Choos. Might be a tough call with a Prada handbag though.

Vittorio_Bertazzoni

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  • Joanna Biddolph 2nd May 2017 at 3:23 am

    The video doesn’t work for me, either. A message comes up saying. “This video is private”.

  • Lauren 26th April 2017 at 10:12 am

    Wow this is totally awesome! I love your piece and love the Smeg brand. Having owned a cooker and fridge for many years I have had no issues at all (my fridge is still going strong at 15 years- I want it to break so I can buy a different colour ) How insane that an electrical company work with such high end designers…… amazing, no one else could do that!

  • Denise 25th April 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I confess: I hate Dolce & Gabana clothing and this lot in my kitchen would send me screaming from the room! That food mixer you were using, Kate, looked like a seven year old’s art project…

    I do have to thank you for the Wallace & Gromit story: I have completely missed that, and the SMUG was very clever, and very funny. I think the FAB fridges are lovely to look at, but are so impractical: virtually no freezer space. And I am a bit sick of them due to their ubiquity.

    Finally – you looked great in the shot you’ve included. Digging the groovy nail colour. (Do people say “groovy” anymore? I do, and I’m not being ironic.)

    Denise

    • Denise 25th April 2017 at 7:44 pm

      And I can’t even spell “Gabbana” properly. No hope for me. I’m just off to Laura Ashley.

  • Sofia 25th April 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Well, i don’ have anything against smeg but I don’t like these lines at all. It’s a mess, my eyes can’t take it and it yells novelty. But as a marketing strategy to get people’s attention maybe it works.

  • hng23 25th April 2017 at 12:55 pm

    The video is unavailable. 🙁

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 25th April 2017 at 3:48 pm

      Oh dear – it works on my computer. You’re not missing much!

  • Gerry Rust 25th April 2017 at 11:07 am

    I have a Smeg range style cooker and have sworn never to buy another appliance from them. I am going to assume from the ubiquity of their fridges that they are fairly reliable (either that or a lot more people than I thought are prepared to put form over function) but my cooker has been anything but. The main oven managed to break down before the one year warranty ran out – the first time – the smaller oven waited until just after. They have both failed again since, in fact we gave up on the small oven altogether years ago, and now the grill has packed up! Then there was the clock/timer scenario, not only was it impossible to set but it would go off at any time of the day or night until we worked out how to disconnect it (that might have involved a hammer at 4 in the morning). Finally there is the matter of the disappearing markings – those minor details that tell you what temperature you have selected etc. I don’t think anyone could accuse me of being an over zealous cleaner, particularly of cookers, but they all rubbed off. It does make for more adventurous cooking I admit and goes some way to explaining why some Sunday roasts look like they have been blow torched and others are in danger of giving you botulism. Obviously it’s getting on a bit now, but it wasn’t cheap and I’m used to far less exalted brands that are still hanging in there 10 years later when you are desperate for them to die so you can get a shiny new one. So I’m afraid even Ant and Dec’s design input wouldn’t persuade me to risk replacing it with another Smeg.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 25th April 2017 at 3:50 pm

      That is not good at all and I’m sorry to hear that. I just went to write about this collection which is more work of art than appliance really. I can pass your comments onto the Smeg team if that’s any help. I mean, I don’t suppose it is but I’m not sure what else to say.

      • Gerry Rust 26th April 2017 at 9:18 am

        No worries, I was just venting a bit!
        I still enjoyed reading your piece and I can’t really see the new collection in my kitchen anyway 😀

        • Kate Watson-Smyth 26th April 2017 at 9:59 am

          well no nor me but I think it’s an interesting idea. It fits with their idea of being a luxury brand rather than an appliance brand. In that very few people actually wear the haute couture seen on the runway but it sparks ideas and conversation and, crucially, brand awareness. I would like the toaster but my kitchen is very monochrome and it would work well in there. I think the fridge, which has apparently sold well, is more of a work of art. Can’t really imagine keeping the milk and butter in there!

  • Gina 25th April 2017 at 10:36 am

    No words except…………… I ADORE THESE RIDICULOUSLY EXTRAVAGANT APPLIANCES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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