Alessi, one of the icons in product design, may remind you simply of extremely over-priced lemon squeezers. This year, however, they’ve decided to re-categorize their products into three branches – the Alessi main collection , ‘A di Alessi’ (Italian for from Alessi), which are designs that are priced at a lower price bracket , and ‘Officina Alessi’ which houses the more experimental, innovative and limited edition pieces.
Alessi’s decision to launch the ‘democratic, accessible products’ under the ‘A di Alessi’ marque spurred me into thinking – why? Alessi had enjoyed the status of being one of the most prominent “designer products” especially to the non-designers, and they have been able to capitalize on that for many years, leading to a perception where designer products are generally fun, whimsical, sometimes useless, etc.
That status, however, is being eroded. With introduction of players like Target and IKEA, mass-produced and very cheap products have shown their potential to be well-designed (or at least look good). In that way, Alessi was invaded on its home turf. The average person would likely not be able to distinguish plastic products from IKEA and Alessi – except that Alessi probably priced it 10 times higher. And that’s where Alessi’s relevance to the mass consumers may diminish and eventually erode its own brand base.
The pot above is by Jasper Morrison, heading off this year’s inaugural launch of A di Alessi. However, I have come to associate these design styles with brands like IKEA more than Alessi. While Alessi may gain some market share in the cheaper, mass-design products, I think it may eventually fare worse in terms of loss brand equity.
Really, what does Alessi still mean to you?