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ALPI: Italian roots for international excellence. A Q&A with Vittorio Alpi.

ALPI: Italian roots for international excellence. A Q&A with Vittorio Alpi.

ALPI, one of our 2016 Conversation Series sponsors, participated in WantedDesign for the third year in a row. Constant technological innovation, fine craftsmanship, a wide range of products, maximum customization, environmental and social responsibility and transparency are the company’s strong points. Together with outstanding quality of raw materials: the wood selected by ALPI is rigorously sourced of certified origin, and always processed in-house.
We interviewed Vittorio Alpi to discuss the company’s big changes since the announcement at the FuoriSalone 2016 of new art director Piero Lissoni. The main developments of the company’s next phase include a new coordinated image, along with original collections designed by the Campana brothers, Front and Lissoni himself, all within a new showroom in Milano.

WantedDesign: Can you give us a little background on the major steps that mark the evolution of the company since its debut ? 

VA: ALPI was the first company in the world to industrialize the manufacturing process for reconstituted wood. Our history comes from a great tradition that has made excellence its main asset: on the one hand, ALPI is pure innovation, ahead of the demands of the market; on the other, painstaking craftsmanship.
Nowadays a multinational with a leading position in the production of decorative surfaces in reconstituted wood veneer, ALPI was founded by my grand-father Pietro Alpi in 1919 at Modigliana, in the province of Forlì. From a small workshop of fine cabinetmaking, it soon evolved into an avant-garde enterprise, immediately making an important contribution to the growth of the local territory.
The change from furniture manufacturing to industrial production specializing in prefabricated panels and reconstituted wood veneer for the nascent furniture industry was already beginning back in the 1950s, when my father Valerio entered the company, leading to the organization of widespread distribution across the entire nation. In 1961 we introduced “ALPIlignum”, the first reconstituted wood veneer sliced veneer, and still the most representative product of our company. At the time this was a true revolution, made possible by intense technological efforts and an illustrious background in fine woodworking, leading to rapid success on international markets, from Europe to the USA, and then Asia at the start of the 1970s. This incessant growth feeds and is fed by ongoing R&D activities. In fact, innovation has always been the driving force behind our business.

What sets us apart on the worldwide scene is its direct control of the entire process, from the log to the finished product, through the forest management using chain-of-custody certification to guarantee the legal and sustainable sourcing of the wood and total product traceability. As early as 1975, in fact, we opened our first plant in Cameroon in order to have a constant supply of raw materials. The success of this initiative was the result of the intuition of my father, leading to the construction of a barge that was towed to Africa in 1975 from the port of Ravenna. Over time, the direct forest management activities have grown: today we hold licenses for the management of 500,000 hectares of forest, also contributing to the growth of local communities in economic and infrastructural terms, and thus rounding out the core business with activities of social and environmental sustainability.

Today ALPI has industrial facilities of 180,000 sq. meters (52,000 indoors) in Italy, and 346,500 sq. Meters (over 67,000 indoors) in Africa, for a production capacity of over 30 million square meters per year, with capillary distribution networks in over 60 countries.

We stand out for reliability and solidity, based on a constant sales growth. We have two plants in Italy: Wood for the production of the “ALPIlignum” raw veneer and Linteco for “ALPIKord” prefinished wood – while in Africa we are present with ALPIcam Industries, for the initial working of logs; ALPIcam and Grumcam, the forestry divisions; the extraordinary floating ALPI C.I. plant (Cộte d’Ivoire); and the commercial companies ALPI Timber and L.E.S., all operating in perfect synergy with the Italian mother company.

WD: What is the main focus for Alpi today?

VA: Beside the focus on new products designed by prominent worldwide designers, we’re working on international growth. In April we also opened our new Milan show-room in the heart of Via Solferino, in the Brera design district. A new important stage to present our company and all its distinctiveness.

WD: Can you tell us more about the collaboration with Piero Lissoni as Art director for the company? 

VA: The choice of forceful interaction with the world of design is a return to our roots. I firmly believe in the strong connection with design. As a matter of fact, since the 80s I’ve started prestigious collaborations involving outstanding names in Italian design like, among others, Aldo Cibic, Dino Gavina, Pierluigi Ghianda, Angelo Mangiarotti, Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass.
Working side by side with Piero is really challenging, we share a passion for wood and common is also the vision on innovation.

ALPI Tarsie 2 Black _by Piero Lissoni_cod 18.14_main
Collection by Piero Lissoni: Designer Collection by Piero Lissoni – Tarsie 2 Black

WD: When envisioning new collections, are you influenced by a certain type of requests from the architects or Interior designers or is it more conducted by your own vision and the new technologies you are using and what they offer?  

VA: Pay attention to the requests from the market is indeed important but our force is represented by our ability to move up always with a state of the art production.
Our range includes over 90 woods available in stock, constantly updated to meet any design requirements. It’s a range of varieties unique in the world, perfectly reproducing the colors and grain of natural woods or creating patterns that cannot be found in nature, with original chromatic effects, to respond to all the creative needs of designers. In addition to our catalogue, thanks to an intensive knowledge of the material and our manufacturing culture, we stand out on the worldwide market as an attentive, punctual supplier capable of developing original custom design solutions, as one-offs or repeated in time, as well as offering expert consulting services in every phase of the process. The genesis of each new ALPI wood leads to an addition to a true library of woods, a fascinating and constantly evolving archive that can serve as inspiration for new interpretations by designers.

WD: How did you decide to collaborate with designers like Campana brothers and Front , in addition to Piero Lissoni himself, for your new collection? What is very unique with those new collections?

VA: The Campana Brothers, Front and Piero Lissoni are prominent names on the worldwide scenes. Each one has a personal way of being and design. Working with them and developing very different type of woods helped us to show our deep knowledge of this incredible material and the opportunity offered by the ALPI woods, introducing several new items to fit every need of our customers worldwide.

Collection by The Campana Brothers
Collection by The Campana Brothers: Designer Collection by The Campana Brothers – Pirarucu

WD: Any project in the US that you are really excited about?

VA: Actually yes, we’re working on a very challenging project for a new HQ. It’s still confidential but it’s a worldwide brand or better I would say the most renowned one!

More information: alpi.it

Collection by Front
Collection by Front: Designer Collection by Front – Grid Wood