Matteo Cibic is driving on a highway between Bilbao and Santander in Spain, on the way to his friends’ wedding. He spent a couple of days taking in the sights of Bilbao, his first visit to the design gem in the heart of the Basque country. In September, he’ll be making his first visit to Canada for the Interior Design Show Vancouver. “I’m really looking forward to it. I heard it’s one of the best places in the world.” He will be presenting Il Paradiso Dei Sogni, a ceramic series of fictional anthropomorphic animals. “It’s a collection of dreamlike scenarios of eight animals that live in this kind of paradise where they constantly make love,” he explains. There is nothing explicit about them; they are rather quirky in nature. It’s a trait embedded in all of Cibic’s work.
If his last name rings a bell, it’s because he shares it with his famous uncle, Aldo Cibic, architect and co-founder of the iconic Memphis Group. Cibic frequented his uncle’s studio during his childhood, but pursuing a career in design wasn’t always on the agenda.
“I was a very ambitious kid, I always loved to do crafts with my hands,” he says. “But in a
period of my childhood, I wanted to be the Pope.” A surreal image comes to mind: Cibic
as Jude Law in HBO’s Young Pope. “You can see me as the Young Pope?” he laughs. Despite its unrealistic portrayal of the Vatican, Cibic loves the show. Around his teen years, he traded formal church functions for the basketball court in hopes of reaching a Michael Jordan-level of success. Despite Cibic’s tall and lanky frame and professional training, love of design prevailed. He enrolled at Milan’s Polytechnic University where he
studied art, design, and architecture, and later spent time at Benetton’s renowned
research centre, Fabrica in Treviso.
A decade later, his star is on the rise. During Milan Design Week this past April, his name was on everyone’s lips. Just a couple of weeks prior, he won the highly regarded Elle Deco International Design Award in the young talent category. Although highly prolific, Cibic is a one-man show, having recently disbanded his small studio of five employees in favour of freelance collaborators. “I have so many different types of projects,” he explains. “For each, I work with the best person that can help me with that project, be it video or interior design.” Some he tackles purely on his own. Shown in Milan, VasoNaso took 366 days to complete. Every day, the designer made a different ceramic vase with its own distinct nose protrusion—hence the name which means vase-nose in Italian. “I’m a hyperactive person, and I was very interested in individuals who can do just one thing for a long time.” He was inspired by the late Italian painter, Giorgio Morandi, who spent most of his life painting still life of pottery. In a remarkably disciplined manner, the designer published a new vase on Instagram daily and shipped it to the first customer. “It was a kind of a sociological study on objects,” he says.
Cibic’s inquisitive nature is what drives him. “I’m curious about things, and that curiosity
allows me to discover and try new production techniques, or a new aesthetic,” says the
designer. It’s what attracted him to collaborate with Scarlet Splendour, a young luxury
furniture brand from India. The brand launched three years ago with Cibic’s VanillaNoir, a collection inspired by 14th-century to 1930 Italian masterpieces and traditional
Indian handicraft of bone and horn inlays, resulting in sculptural wood forms with resin in place of ivory. “They are very iconic shapes. You can see a little bit of Italy and a little bit of India.”
The designer’s ability to fuse different styles and techniques, coupled with his penchant for bright colour and eccentric manner helped him sail through the sea of mid-century modern, pared-down aesthetic that has so far dominated the decade. His Spanish vacation will be a short one. In a few days, he will be heading to Russia for a new project, one of many collaborations already in the works. But Cibic has a vision of an ultimate venture, something he aims to undertake at some point in the future. “I would love to work on some social and distribution process more than a project. To end the mass consumption of very cheap things with low quality designed to be thrown away super fast,” he explains. “It would be great to make an object that could change easily, or something you can reprogram so that you don’t have to buy a new one. We have to make slower objects cooler, so they don’t run out of fashion in five days.” Is he glad he didn’t become the Pope? “I think design was a much better idea.