Updates from Città
Few brands have distilled the essence of New Zealand aesthetics like Città. One of the most beloved names in local design, Città has brought world-class style to Aotearoa, offering an edited collection of furniture, homewares and designed objects.
When Città opened its first bricks and mortar store in 2010, the Auckland-based retailer sold a staggering range of wares. Margot Acland, founder and CEO, remembers, “Seven years ago, you could buy a Panama hat, some baby clothes and a beach dress. We were a lifestyle brand with a quirkiness about us.”
Now, more than a decade later, Città has found widespread success, not through the breadth of its product categories, but in the depth of its sophisticated design and craftsmanship.
Earlier this year, the tastemaking brand announced its plans to eschew the seasonal expectation of product drops, and work on narrowing the range. New introductions will be released in small capsules throughout the year, and emphasis will be placed on mixing fresh releases with existing designs. The intention: thoughtfully designed products that can endure and spark joy for years to come, rather than a seasonally inspired churn of products.
Following Australasian fashion disruptors like Maggie Marilyn and Kowtow, the Città team is betting that this slower approach to production will find success in the furniture and design industry, driving brand loyalty up and consumer waste down. Recent supply chain disruptions, sustainability concerns and logistical challenges have underscored the need for change, but Margot Acland has always led with a proactive and adaptive approach.
For a company that’s thrived for over three decades, Città has experienced many lives and iterations. In the beginning, there was Italy.
In 1989, the romance of Italy swept Margot onto a creative path. Feeling misplaced in her career as a chartered accountant, she decided to import and wholesale Italian ceramics, eventually finding artistic collaborators to elevate the product with custom designs.
Thirty-three years later, Margot’s Italian epiphany has become an award-winning design brand with international recognition, 12 stores throughout New Zealand, and over 500 stockists worldwide.
Città’s point of view has always been travel-centric. In the early days, each collection was inspired by a destination like Denmark, Greece or Tahiti, and fortunate designers were sent to these far-flung locales to research each seasonal theme. The only downside of this jet-setting arrangement: 60% of the product changed each season, driving a constant and crushing demand for new products. “It was a bit like fashion,” Margot explains, “you had such a short time to release the range.”
Even for a brand rooted in the aesthetics of travel, this practice was not sustainable — for the planet, or the designers tasked with dreaming up new collections. Margot and her team began to ask themselves, “Why look abroad when so much beauty exists on our own shores?”
Local artistry and talent became their competitive edge. “Our designers live here, we design for the relaxed, casual lifestyle that we live, and it does make us look different.” With New Zealand as a constant muse, the brand’s design leaders — including textile designer Imogen Tunnicliffe and furniture and product designers David Moreland and Nikolai Sorensen — began to develop an aesthetic vocabulary inspired by Città’s place of origin. One could argue: the contemporary Kiwi aesthetic was born.
Borrowing functional forms and organic expression from Danish and Japanese design schools, Città finds a way to infuse each collection with a Kiwi point of view, drawing inspiration from local terrain, architecture, culture and nostalgia. Margot describes how organic this design progression felt, “Our designers simply looked outside the window to see the local beauty of the New Zealand landscape, using it as an anchor of inspiration.”
In the recent ‘Room with a View’ collection, textiles showcase a tapestry of colour drawn from the landscapes of Aotearoa. Ivy, an earthy green hue, mimics the dense forests of the North Island, perhaps recalling the untamed landscapes of Margot’s childhood in Murupara, a small forestry town on the edge of Te Urewera National Park.
Some designs tell a New Zealand story from start to finish. Conceptualised in their Auckland studio, the bestselling Cabin and Bach wool blankets are exclusively made in Aotearoa, woven and milled by a local manufacturer, using lambswool sourced from the East Cape. At a time when global materials shortages abound, local manufacturing is not only clever, it’s nearly essential to keep a brand moving forward.
Fortunately, the Città team has been considering a more intentional approach to production for many years, with sustainability, of course, being a top concern for the environmentally conscious brand. Città’s environmental accomplishments are many. Under Margot’s direction, the brand has eliminated polystyrene from its packaging, is in the process of receiving a sustainable timber certification, and has guided production toward ethically sourced materials like New Zealand lambswool; 100% organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and OEKO-TEX-certified flax linen sourced from Belgium and France— a huge achievement for a brand whose textile production accounts for 50% of its total range.
Good things take time in the Città design lab. For example, the Acre Chair, an ergonomic seat designed in collaboration with an English, Hong Kong-based industrial designer, Michael Young, took four years from conception to release. And while not all products have such a laborious lifecycle, Margot shares that most furniture pieces take at least two years in development: “It’s quite a performance.”
With international travel again on the menu, Città looks abroad. But this time, not for design inspiration — for new markets. In fact, California is on the horizon for 2022.
At San Francisco Design Week this June, Città will participate in the first New Zealand Design Pavilion with a coalition of six celebrated Kiwi design brands, including Resident, Nodi, David Trubridge, Noho and James Dunlop Textiles.
The international showcase, which is principally an invitation-only show for architects, designers and specifiers, will be held at Shack 15 inside the landmark Ferry Building, an iconic location overlooking San Francisco Bay.
What can the homegrown brand offer our stateside mates?
Margot notes, “We have a forward-thinking blend between home and life. We can lend a little bit of our relaxed New Zealand aesthetic to them.” While future New York showcases could be in the cards, Città’s focus remains on scaling deliberately and finding international partners aligned to a vision of conscious design.
There will be no aggressive global push — like its design ethos, Città’s business arm is unwaveringly committed to slow, steady development.
For a brand named after a geographic community — Città translates to ‘city’ in Italian — the company is certainly leading the way to a more neighbourly vision of global commerce, while inspiring many with timeless New Zealand style and integrity here at home.