World leading Italian architect and furniture designer, Rodolfo Dordoni has curated more than 120 Dolce & Gabbana retail boutiques worldwide and is known as the creative director of Minotti furniture.
But it almost didn't happen.
Despite falling in love with architecture at the age of 13, Dordoni gave his parents, who wanted him to pursue science, an ultimatum: "I told my parents it is art or there is no further studying," he recalls.
And the demand paid off.
A sea change
Now 64 he's taking on his biggest role yet, to design the interiors of two cruise liners for Costa Cruises, each weighing 180,000 tonnes and due to make their debut in 2019 and 2021.
During his first visit to Australia as a guest of top end design mecca and stockist of Minotti Dedece, Dordoni describes his vision for the project as "timeless, and stand out in a way that is reflective of our brand."
"The key for us is to put our personal taste in a space that will have mass appeal," says Dordoni.
DNA of design
Over the decades he has collaborated with companies such as Artemide, Cappellini and Roda, helping them develop everything from design typologies, lamps, storage systems and bathroom accessories – even electrical switches and carpeting has been curated under his watchful eye.
He says a designer's DNA needs to be ever present and consistent in their work.
"You have to be able to taste space, feel space and always possess a modern fashion attitude with your design," says Dordoni.
"I look at furniture like a designer might come up with a fashion collection each season," Dordoni who has also worked on residential projects in Milan, Lago di Como and even Moscow.
"I think about the atmosphere of a new home and how the space will be filled with products. For me it's about balance, if you get the proportions right then you are winning."
A marriage of elements
His role at Minotti is about making furniture that's contemporary and functional.
"Function, form and design – there needs to be a marriage of all elements and the end product cannot date too quickly," he says.
"There's something very specific about our furniture philosophy. It's about versatility and elegance and not interrupted with too many concepts. Italians do beauty spontaneously. When I create furniture, I think of what's practical and how practical then lights an eternal flame for style."
Designing a new era
For someone who started in furniture design in an era when brands focused on one object rather than an entire home collection, he admits he keeps an eye on competitors.
"Brands don't just cover one object now," says Dordoni who sounds a little skeptical of the free for all approach.
"It's much more competitive than ever in the history of furniture design. Brands want to be all things now, and they are branching into all aspects of design. I think if the message is to remain authentic, it needs to be a concept you believe in."
A man's castle
He recently worked on the redevelopment of department store La Rinascente in Piazza del Duomo. The menswear on level two is defined by a modernist vision where a mecca of luxury brands show their collection like an art gallery might line its walls. It's clean slick shelving, neutral hues and a cool attitude throughout. There's a castle to be made into a five-star hotel in the works including the restoration of the Baronial Castle in Collalto Sabino where Dordoni will get to weave his magic.
"Dolce & Gabbana gave us the opportunity to be free and stronger with our vision. There is no doubt that has been pivotal is pushing our own identity and story forward as a company," he adds.
"As a result of this freedom, we could push ourselves harder. The Dolce & Gabbana project, which has been ongoing for 15 years, is about creating something unique and with a strong sense of identity," he says.
His inspiration stems from an innate curiosity about life and design.
"I always fight with myself first and my clients later," he laughs of his work method.
"Italian people thrive on panic – it gives us energy. It's reflective in our political system and the way we function as a society. We always have to be intense and I haven't really known any other way to work."
"But there is something that draws people to the Italian way of life and furniture is the best example we have of those meeting of minds," he adds.
"You can have elegance, edgy and contemporary yet it always looks effortless."