Jessica Carnevale at Milan Design Week

Puffy furniture by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

Heartbreakingly, I missed the very talented Jessica Carnevale and her fabulous Puffy furniture in Milan, so we caught up afterwards. Here’s what we talked about…

Puffy furniture by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

Your work, especially the Puffy collection, is really unusual. What are your influences? Where do you get your inspiration?

Yes, the pieces seem to have their own personality, I’m glad to say. Puffy takes the much-loved puffy jacket, as its inspiration. Rather than just doing one piece, I wanted to extend my experimentation across a whole collection. Fashion designers get to create whole crazy collections every season and then these ideas from haute couture filter down into the ready to wear lines. I like that kind of thinking. It’s sort of how I work, but instead of haute couture, you have hand made prototypes. Because I make all my own work, I get to go on journeys with materials that I simply wouldn’t be able to do if I was working solely on 3D. The result is hopefully an exuberant celebration of furniture!

Puffy bench by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

Who are your design heroes?

So the official answer is Charles and Ray Eames of course! They were so innovative and ahead of their time with their creations. They were always designing and enhancing their surroundings; and I loved their personal style as well. The unofficial answer is actually [fashion designer] Christopher Kane. His work is extraordinary. I’d love to work with him.

Puffy Mint Lounger by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

How did the idea for this range come about?

Through lots and lots of experimenting with silk, satins, nylons… how do you make furniture look as if it’s been inflated??

Which is your favorite piece – and why?

The Pink dining chair, because I like how the dark walnut frame of the chair (made of hand-milled Walnut that I got from a great yard in Hammersmith), is in stark contrast to its hot pink upholstering. It almost looks like a pink balloon has descended onto the chair, enveloping it.

Puffy Dining Chair by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

How was Milan? Did you have fun? What was the highlight for you?

Milan, as always, was a whirlwind of an event. Although we had terrible weather this year, Ventura Lambrate seemed to bursting with energy. Martin Baas had a bar there, which is where I hung out a lot after a long day’s smiling and shaking hands.

When exhibiting, everyday has its highlights. One day, a little girl gave my chair a big hug & kiss and just rubbed her cheek on it. It was absolutely adorable.

Puffy Yellow Stool by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

Why did you choose to be in Ventura Lambrate? What’s special about that area?

I chose Ventura Lambrate because I’ve been watching them emerge for the past couple of years and I like the fact that they give a space to lots of designers who are at a similar stage to me. You make friends with your neighbors and it’s a genuinely special experience; if exhausting!

I love the area because it’s set away from everything else; it’s a hidden gem.

What’s the most important thing to know about you?

Gosh – well, I’m not sure… I guess what keeps me focused is my very loving family. I’m just very determined. I know where I want to be and I’m entirely focused on getting there.

What are you most proud of?

With Carnevale Studio, I’m so excited to have my last collection Stretch being sold at MoMA design store in New York! It looks great in the store and I was immensely proud when I received the catalog.

Puffy furniture by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

What advice would you give to an aspiring designer? What’s the secret to your success?

Have fun with design. If you’re not enjoying it, something’s wrong. If you admire someone, try to work for them, wherever they are!

What have you got planned for the future? What’s next?

This year I’m developing a lighting collection, which I’m just getting started on!

What’s your favorite color?

It changes all the time, lately… anything neon!

Puffy Scubastool by Jessica Carnevale in Milan

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.