Ivan Luini, president of Kartell US, Inc., tragically died on Friday, September 15, 2006, when the single-engine SR20 aircraft he was flying crashed in Colorado, near the Wyoming border. He was 46 years old.
Born in Varese, Italy, Luini was a much-admired and beloved figure who, through the course of his career, was instrumental in expanding the presence of Italian design in the United States. The loss of Luini is not only a loss for his family and Kartell, but for the design world at large.
On Friday, Luini was accompanied by his friend Sergio Savarese, who was also killed in the accident. Both men were returning to New York from separate business meetings in California when their plane went down sometime around 2:30 P.M. The cause of the crash is still under investigation; weather in the area was reported as stormy at the time.
It was in 1998 that Luini co-founded Kartell US, Inc., the North American subsidiary of Kartell S.p.A., the Milanese company known for its furniture, engineered in plastic, by designers including Joe Colombo, Anna Castelli-Ferrieri, Vico Magistretti, Antonio Citterio, Philippe Starck, Ron Arad, Ferruccio Laviani, Piero Lissoni, and Patricia Urquiola.
Under Luini, Kartell US experienced remarkable growth; it opened flagship retail stores first in New York, where Luini lived with his family, and later in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco. With Luini’s deft guidance and efforts, Kartell came to be represented by over 150 distributors and retailers throughout the United States.
“It is with immense sadness that I learned the news about Ivan Luini’s tragic and unexpected death. Ivan was a colleague and more importantly, a friend. Together, for the past 15 years, we have worked to develop and reach today’s success in the US market, first as an agent, then as a distributor and in the last years, as a partner in Kartell US with the role of president. It is also thanks to his dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm that the company has achieved today’s results, both in terms of consolidation of the company’s distribution as well as the strengthening of the brand as leader in the North American market,” said Claudio Luti, president of Kartell S.p.A.
Widely respected in the international design community, Luini began his career in his native Italy. From 1986 until 1990, he served as the vice president responsible for overseas sales at the Italian furniture maker B&B Italia. In 1990, he moved from Milan to New York and established I.L. Euro, Inc., through which he introduced such now-familiar European design companies as Cappellini, Flexform, Ingo Maurer, and Fontana Arte to the North American market. In 1994, Luini co-founded Luceplan USA in order to do the same for the Italian lighting manufacturer Luceplan. He served as its executive vice president until 1999.
Luini studied engineering and was known for his passion for design, his business acumen, his warm spirit, and an understated manner that downplayed his great generosity and stature. More than an accomplished businessman, he was highly regarded and dearly held as both a friend and a design authority; among other things, he served on numerous design juries throughout the world and on the Executive Board of the prestigious International Design Conference in Aspen.
Luini also had a passion for aviation that began when he started flying at the age of 17; he received his pilot’s license by the time he was 18. Having clocked over 800 hours in the air, he often piloted himself on business trips, including visits to Kartell outlets throughout North America. His love of flying also expressed his love of design. Among his two small planes was an experimental aircraft designed by Burt Rutan. He was the co-owner, with Savarese, of the SR20 in which the two men sadly perished.
In addition to his sister, Laura, and father, Cesare, Luini is survived by his wife, Micaela Martegani, and their 14-year-old son, Mattia. The family has requested that those wishing to make a donation in Luini’s name send their gifts to Save the Children: www.savethechildren.org or 1-800-278-3843.