An Interview with Ugo Cacciatori, designer of U-Go
Ugo Cacciatori is the man behind U-Go, our latest product for U-Mask. A popular designer across Italy and the US, we caught up with him to talk about his latest release and the importance of sustainability in design.
U-Mask: Hi Ugo, how are you?
Ugo: I am good! The sun is out.
U-Mask: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into jewellery designing?
Ugo: Ah well, do you have a couple of days? [laughs] I started in jewellery design because I started in fashion and the whole thing was a mess in terms of organisation. The easiest thing to do at the time was jewellery and there was no jewellery so actually I had no competitors when I started. And making jewellery was completely sustainable; I could buy jewellery and do whatever I needed to do. If I had some metal left over, I could melt it over. So that’s how it started.
And for me, to design jewellery or a car or U-Go… It is all design. I started in jewellery by working with other consultants and designers. There were some rejected pieces and other people stopped me because they loved them, so I began to propose them to some boutiques and that’s how I started. It was more than 20 years ago. And over and over, I found it more and more interesting. So many techniques, so many-- I mean, it’s like cooking with just a few ingredients. Gold, silver, sometimes other metals just to experiment in between the main ones... And also I chose my own gems. In the beginning it was more like hyper-coloured gems such as citrine peridot, and then I went more and more towards diamonds - brown diamonds, black diamonds - while still learning much more about gems and fine jewellery.
U-Mask: What most appealed to you about a collaboration with U-Mask?
Ugo: First of all, Betta [Maggio, Founder of U-Earth and U-Mask] was a friend so I was really collaborating with a friend. I was always in awe of her development of the process of the mask. That wasn’t a recent thing either but a long journey. I have always been fascinated by her view, knowing that we would need a filter to defend ourselves from the outside world in the future, and that other human beings would fail to adjust to the situation that was in progress. So I was already in love with her project and when it came - the time that the mask unfortunately had to save - it became more important in our life for other reasons, so we thought that since they are becoming an every day matter, it was also good to find a way to carry them while carrying other things, in a sustainable way. So I began to develop these little objects for personal belongings. And I think it came out well, using all of my experience in materials and working with my artisans.
U-Mask: What does the Ugo Cacciatori x U-Mask collaboration symbolise to you?
Ugo: The collaboration is a message because the bag is the shape of an envelope. Let’s say that we take this bag, we put what we have inside it today, including U-Mask, and we ship it to space. And then in the future somebody will find it in space and will say, “Oh, what is this envelope?” And they will find a picture of the time because you will find the mask, possibly an iPhone or any other smartphone, and whatever else… And so it really becomes a message to the future and also a message of sustainability altogether. I think we are at a point in our history as human beings in which we can really change things in a very simple way. We already have the material, we already have the knowledge, we know what we should do and the bag somehow… As a little, simple sign of design, it is a representation of where we are and what we should do.
U-Mask: Where did you find inspiration for U-Go?
Ugo: It was a dialogue. I like the conversational process. And also the fact that there was a U. It’s the symbol of U-Mask but also the letter of my name so that made it pretty simple! [laughs] It’s a letter that I know very well. And I wanted to start it three-dimensionally - that U, that’s what I did in the brass version - and then with brass and silver, I really wanted to put myself more on the detail, on the button, having the silver leaves encrusting the U. And that really is becoming my symbol. So it’s a little jewel, the same meaning and process of any fine jewellery I can do - because the process is exactly the same - but it’s such a simple sign. I avoid everything that is industrialised. We still have everyone using traditional methods. We used people and their hands to make U-Go.
U-Mask: When designing a product, do you first think of its functional need or its aesthetic? What was the process like in designing U-Go?
Ugo: I’m a designer so I always think of its functional needs. Functionality is the first ingredient, even before the materials. If I were an artist I would think differently but as a designer, functionality is the main subject: the bag, the use of the bag, the size of a bag… And then for the materials, it has to be soft outside, and we decided to have these folding compartments made of a sustainable type of paper on the inside. That’s all.
It’s really a sign of the balance of a three-dimensional object. It’s a very simple design. I like very simple designs with few ingredients. For me it is like cooking. I always cook the same way and use the list of materials to create whatever I’m designing.
U-Mask: Why did you decide on these colours and materials for U-Go? Do you have a favourite colour in the collection?
Ugo: My colours are always shades of grey and shades of grey can be in any colour. As a palette, my collection is very limited. It’s always black, brown, mud and sand. That’s what I use all the time. So the choice was simple. For the U-Go with the leaves, we decided to do it in black and in this kind of brown colour, and then we will release other colours that are related to the gems. So the colours are the colours of the gems, transformed into colours. So that’s my reference.
U-Mask: And do you have a favourite?
Ugo: A favourite? Always black. [laughs]
U-Mask: If you could describe U-Go in 3 words, what would they be?
Ugo: Wow. Let me think. I want to be exact… Useful Generic Organizer.
U-Mask: You have been a designer for over 20 years. Do you feel designers are beginning to look more at the sustainability of their work? How has the landscape changed since you started?
Ugo: I would say it’s not the beginning. In fact, it’s kind of beginning to be overrated. But with that word, let me explain myself. There is a lot of greenwashing as so much is just marketing. And the real sustainable design starts from using the materials the right way. If you design something that lasts forever, it’s already sustainable. It’s not really a matter of using sustainable ingredients but using them correctly to create something. That’s the first part. So if you do something that is durable, useful... Let’s call it an instant classic, it’s timeless. So you can use it today, you can pass it to your nephews… That’s sustainability. I am currently at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. This is sustainable. The fact that you have a building that’s lasted for 500 years is sustainable. [laughs]
Then of course, in general, design is really looking to sustainability and we can really do it now. There is a lot of pushing to use, I don’t know, aeolic energy when we can maybe use some other kind of energy. In Italy for example, we are full of water, we are full of the sea, so we can use specific energies for specific countries. And it seems like nowadays they are just using two methods all over the place. One is solar and one is wind. In time, they won’t respect the landscape. So in the research of a sustainable future, I think we still have a lot to do. But the fact that everybody is beginning to pay more attention and be more attentive to the subject in their everyday life is so important. I think the process will be very fast. I’m always very positive. If we all do what we have to do, it’s an easy job.
U-Mask: What's next for Ugo Cacciatori? Can we see more collaborations with U-Mask in the future?
Ugo: Yes, you will! We are already working on secret collaborations…
For more information and to purchase U-Go, please click here.