The Alessi company was founded by Giovanni Alessi in 1921 at Omegna, a village on Lake Orta in the foothills of the Alps near Novara. Giovanni was a skilled lathe turner, the last of a long line of craftsmen from the nearby Valle Strona valley.
During the 1920s and 30s, copper, brass and nickel silver tableware and household objects were made in his workshop with exquisite crafts skill. Many of the different objects produced in this first period (such as the nickel silver tea and coffee service from 1921, the nickel-coated brass flask holder from 1926 or the cheese tray in fine nickel silver and milk glass from 1929) have become part of the collective memory for generations of Italians.
Design (in the modern sense of the word) first appeared at the end of the 1930s when Giovanni’s eldest son, Carlo joined the company. Carlo had trained as an industrial designer in Novara. He was the author of most of the objects that appeared in the catalogue between the mid-thirties and 1945, the year when his last design project was presented: the ‘Bombé’ tea and coffee services. This was one of the archetypes of the first .
In the 50s, Carlo became Chief Executive of the company. Together with his brother Ettore, he began to call in freelance designers, such as Carlo Mazzeri, Luigi Massoni and Anselmo Vitale, the authors of numerous highly successful projects that are still in the catalogue (such as the ’870′ cocktail shaker, 1957).
In 1970, Carlo placed his eldest son, Alberto, in the company and gradually handed responsibility for design management over to him. Other younger members of the family were also brought into the company: the two other sons, Michele and Alessio and nephew, Stefano. Thanks to their new creativity and fresh approach, Alessi has been able to develop a policy of design excellence which has made it one of the leading internationally renowned Italian Design Factories.
In 1998 the Alessi Museum was set up within the Alessi company in Crusinallo. Its purpose is to reinforce the metaproject outlook and production policy as well as provide a more direct and comprehensive channel for communicating with other museums around the world. Designed by Alessandro Mendini and curated by Francesca Appiani, the Alessi Museum is a founder member of the Museimpresa Association, established in 2001, which embraces Italian company museums, architecture and archives.
In the 2000s Michele’s son, Matteo, became the first fourth generation Alessi family member to enter the company.
Today, one of Alessi’s special features is the ability to reconcile its typically industrial needs (in terms of operations and products) with its tendency (at intellectual and spiritual level) to consider itself more as a ‘research laboratory in the field of the applied arts’ than an industry in the conventional sense. This is what inspires Alessi’s tireless research and experimentation, which has led it over the last few years to use new materials and new technologies: wood, porcelain and ceramics, plastic, glass and crystal, electricity and electronics.