Giulio Castelli, Cofounder of Kartell, Dies at 86

The former president of the Italian company brought plastic to the forefront of design.

Giulio Castelli, the chemical engineer who cofounded the famed Italian design firm Kartell, died on October 6 at his home in Milan. He was 86 years old. Castelli had been ailing for years, according to John Ryan, Kartell’s senior sales manager. His death comes less than four months after the passing of his wife, Kartell cofounder Anna Castelli Ferrieri, and within weeks of the deaths of Vico Magistretti, one of the company’s most prominent designers, and Ivan Luini, the 46-year-old president of Kartell US. These losses have cast a pall over the company. “Sad days at Kartell,” Ryan says.

Born in Milan in 1920, Giulio Castelli trained as a chemical engineer under the Nobel Prize–winning chemist Giulio Natta. In 1949, soon after Castelli received his degree, he and his wife founded Kartell. They started out making car accessories, but it was Kartell’s experiments with plastic that yielded the high-design household goods that became the company’s signature. In the following decades, Kartell developed relationships with leaders of the design world, including Joe Colombo, Philippe Starck, Ron Arad, Ettore Sottsass, and Patricia Urquoila. Some of the company’s iconic products are in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, in New York.

Even as Claudio Luti took over as owner and chairman of Kartell in 1988, the Castellis remained a presence at the company, and Giulio was its honorary president until his death. According to Kartell, he had been at work on a book of interviews with Italian design entrepreneurs. “[The Castellis] were both really life forces,” Ryan says. “They were extremely vital figures.”

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