We interviewed Fabio Contillo, the daring forniture designer for the new Mobivetta K-Yacht Tekno Design, one of the most prominent in the current European landscape.
Words Antonio Mazzucchelli
In the vast universe Trigano group consists of, brand Mobilvetta has increasingly become an icon of excellent “made in Italy” design. The modern and elegant style of Mobilvetta products has been acknowledgeg as one of the highest excellence peaks in the European design industry. The new K-Yacht Tekno Design motorhome is the top in this stylistic research: not only its interiors are fascinating, but it sets new parameters in motorhome furnishing. Behind this project we find an Italian designer, Fabio Contillo, who has been working in Trigano’s Tuscany-based SEA division for some years now. Architect specialized in industrial design, Contillo has perfected his studies at Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology. He has worked for many years in yachting and sailing industry as well as in mega-yachts contract (see Azimuth and Ferretti) and shipbuilding sector. Six years ago he landed in Elnagh, one of SEA-Trigano brands, and took care of King, Magnum and T-Loft project. Two years ago he started coordinating the group’s high-end brands, as a Brand Designer for Arca and Mobilvetta.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Today Mobilvetta products are an unquestionable style model at European level. After the excellent K-Yacht Tekno Line presented in 2015, now you take a further step forward with Tekno Design line, a name that says it all: how was the idea born?
Fabio Contillo: Tekno Design project stemmed from the desire to neatly break away, from classic style and traditional schemes. The cozy and relaxing atmosphere combined with proper use of cherry-tree essence, have made Tekno Line successful, which Tekno Design derives from. However, we did want to propose something different, a trendy product for customers who are a-changing and appreciate clean and minimal Italian design that finds its highest expression at Milan International Furniture Show.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Someone thinks that Tekno Design’s interior is too far-fetched, almost provocative, in a scenario where classic furnishings have essentially a prominent role. Is it so?
Fabio Contillo: We are pleased if someone considers Tekno Design’s furnishing as far-fetched… I believe that today motorhome is a mature product: models currently on the market, within the same price range, are quite leveled for characteristics, vehicle, price. Only design, style can make the difference. With this new vehicle we want to reach a customer who is looking for something different, who wants to identify with a decidedly innovative product. Of course, I do not mean that we are about to replace more traditional settings with modern ones: if you just take a look at Mobilvetta range you will understand that there is a variety of supply, a good design made also of traditional atmospheres.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Has Tekno Design project been developed within the company or an external support was provided too?
Fabio Contillo: As Style Center Mobilvetta is run by me along with some collaborators, we may say that the project is born within the company. For certain furnishing details we work in co-design with some external suppliers. I would like to point out that a good product, as I believe Tekno Design is, is not born out of the happy pencil of one designer only. Good design is born out of a good team: I am involved in design, but someone helps me with engineering-related issues while someone else supports me for purchases… I do not believe in super-designer’s signature, I do believe in good team work.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What are the elements a new vehicle design is based on?
Fabio Contillo: Actually, our project is innovative because it has “exaggerated” some technologies and studied some furnishings in detail. Let us think of the nice integration between kitchen and dinette, with kitchen worktop that is not a surface but a volume, a line that goes from kitchen to dinette and then descends to form the armrest. I wanted to rethink entrance-kitchen-dinette block in a totally different way. Functionality has been increased: very few vehicles features double armrest’s uber-comfort in the dinette, kitchen storage capacity is considerable, kitchen worktop is completely smooth, the wall-mounted tap is not bulky… I wanted to study the details and the whole at the same time, because I wanted them to become as one, a single line adding functionality. The kitchen floor is made of acrylic stone, a mold-casted product: we used an expensive process that requires a heavy initial investment just for mold creation. However, by this system we have obtained a perfectly worktop-fitting sink, and believe me, this is quite a thing. Besides, the material is inert, anti-corrosive and anti-mold, easily cleanable and has a soft-touch feeling, typical of high-end design, latest generation furnishing. And then there is the steel hob, specially created for our design. Even fabrics are design-made: we used them to create the V-bag, the wall container that you can detach and use as everyday bag. Although this is not certainly a plus turning motorhome-owners’ world upside down, it adds a touch of comfort with fashion style. Mobilvetta brand’s “V” inspired us to create the V-concept, a motif that unites the various passenger compartment’s elements. We have the “ V” of the line connecting kitchen worktop and dinette, but also the V creating continuity between wall cupboards and ceilings. All this is part of my professional background: the continuity between furniture and ceiling is typical of contemporary nautical design, as it is often found on modern yachts.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Does investing resources in excellent design pay off in terms of vehicles sales?
Fabio Contillo: I would say definitely yes. Now Mobilvetta is doing far better than last year. We must bear in mind that our project’s success is not only measured in terms of sales. Although Tekno Design is not the most commonly sold Mobilvetta product, unquestionably it will have a termendous return in terms of image: an innovative and trendy vehicle arouses curiosity and increases brand appreciation by the public. We are then always repaid, either in a direct or indirect manner.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Is it possible to create excellent design having a reduced price limit for the vehicle?
Fabio Contillo: Of course, it’s not easy, but we must do it. It is a quite difficult task, but the market requires it: we need to sell. In the past I have done it for mid-range products (Elnagh) now I do it for high-end products. We must always keep in mind the relationship between product’s design and price, but sistematically working we can achieve excellent results.
Aboutcamp BtoB: “Form follows function” said founding fathers of modern architecture and related industrial design. Do you think it still makes sense that form derives from function or does the “beautiful form ” always dominate the scene?
Fabio Contillo: With this project I think I’ve reached a good compromise between form and function. These elegant and innovative lines, that rise and then descend from kitchen to dinette, come with several functions that ensure a dramatic improvement compared to a standard motorhome. Even in the bathroom, shape is not an end in itself because it integrates wall mixer and storage compartments, as well as the connection between wall cupboard and ceiling. It is elegant and functional at the same time because it allows us to develop the best lighting and ventilation systems.
Aboutcamp BtoB: What is the relationship between form and materials? Are materials and semi-finished products that have changed or will change soon, the way of conceiving a motorhome furnishing?
Fabio Contillo: The furnishing project for a motorhome is complex, especially when we want to propose something new. It is a restless research, which often involves technologies transfer from one sector to another. In Tekno Design project, for example, we have widely exploited the acrylic stone, an extraordinary material that has allowed us to create new and innovative surfaces and volumes. If we had used other materials we should have carved, thermoformed, worked in a complicated manner with not always certain and satisfactory outcomes, or with too high costs and weights. We also used aluminum wings with plexiglass inserts to ensure lightness, shape stability, resistance, color duration. Material research is crucial, although certainly difficult – I do not deny that. It means that we have to find skilled and reliable suppliers, which are able to fulfill our requests and work even in limited quantities. It is a hard team work: surely I could not bring this project forward alone, with these materials. I am lucky as an excellent sales office supports and helps me with new suppliers. And it is quite difficult to introduce a new supplier in a structured company like SEA-Trigano.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Artificial lighting has become increasingly important in the motorhome cockpit: is it really useful? What Mobilvetta intends to do in this context?
Fabio Contillo: Mobilvetta has been full-LED for some years now, which means avoiding incandescent lamps: interior lighting options are doubled or even tripled with no battery stressing. And we can create many more lightening variants. On Tekno Desing we have not only punctual lights, but also in line and continuous row lights – all dimmable. We also have a well visible control panel, exactly in the middle of the cockpit, between kitchen and dinette, which allows us to choose the area to be lit by some pre-set configurations: for example, see the night or TV-watching solution.
Aboutcamp BtoB: In the future, what will be the most important changes in European motorhomes design?
Fabio Contillo: Well, as I do believe that motorhome is a mature product, then the challenge is to satisfy the customer’s second level needs, higher than the basic. Within a certain price range, any manufacturers can provide satisfactory responses regarding the vehicle or electrical systems, then we must strive to meet other types of customer needs. We must make sure that customers can identify with the product, have a feeling with the vehicle – motorhome must be representative of its owner. It happens also with cars: there are not only power, performance and consumptions, but also style that distinguishes one brand from another.
Aboutcamp BtoB: Is there still a true “made in Italy” design perceived by the end customer? Or with the advent of large industrial groups and common platforms for various vehicles, we risk design globalization?
Fabio Contillo: I think that Italian Design is still able to dare, to propose something different with sharp impact. Lately I have seen a widespread tendency to light, neutral colors… beige and light gray, for example: this is not Italian Design. In the building industry, manufacturers suggest beige or light gray tiles as the default choice and the same often happens with motorhome furnishing: beige and light gray are cheaper, and, most important, are not risky shades as they satisfy almost anyone. But this choice is neither propositional nor characterizing. It may work for some products but for others it is possible to go further.