Neocon is the most important contract sector event in America. How is Knoll presenting itself?
BP: Necon started as an American fair dedicated to the office environment, but in recent years it has transformed into an international event and is no longer only limited to the office environment. Chicago has always been the centre of contract furniture business in the USA: while New York is the by definition an international, glamorous city, Chicago is the most important commercial city. Knoll came to Neocon with all its collection of furniture and much more: companies in the group also presented their new fabrics and leathers and we thus dedicate space not only to finished furniture and office solutions, but also to finishes and details. Knoll was originally like this and it continues to be so: on 24 May, Florence Knoll turned 100 and her presence can still be strongly felt in the company – she was one of the people who invented the interior design profession. History, corporate elasticity, attention to detail and high quality. Knoll presents its DNA at Neocon.
So much history and content – when all this arrives in Europe what happens?
DA: There is a considerable difference between Europe and the USA. Here at Neocon, in the USA, it was and it is important for Knoll to present itself with a highly distinctive corporate image. In Europe, the market is different and we believed that the most important fair is the Salone del Mobile, a stage that favors residential products and produces much more energetic communication than at Orgatec and this helps the brand to grow, something that is unnecessary in the United States.
Knoll has always worked with major designers – it is well-known in the office world, but it also focuses on the competitive hospitality market. How do you balance these two sides of the business?
BP: It is always interesting to have difficult challenges and to keep the brain switched on. We must always and only discuss quality, learn to observe and especially to listen to different cultures that distinguish the countries where there are projects that we want to conquer. The excellence of our products is part of our history, but this does not suffice to conquer a contract project: you need to know how a client comes up with a budget and what values they consider most important. There are many situations to consider and deal with and it is always possible to influence the decision process.
DA: With regard to quality and important projects, I should mention the recent UNESCO headquarters in Paris, a historic building designed by Marcel Breuer and Pier Luigi Nervi, as well as Eero Saarinen, who worked on the original interior. Knoll supplied over 800 chairs for the main room: this proves that clients often opt for quality. When Knoll is chosen for hospitality, it partly happens because our products “mark” interiors – they leave a signature. Within a budget, we often set aside 20% for products that can characterize the furnished areas. If the architect chooses the products and transfers the concept to the contractor, then the contractor certainly focuses on quality or looks for the lowest price, choosing so-called copies. Our relationship with the investor is important to us – if we can be proactive in our dealings with clients, then orders always arrive.