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Pushing Forward the Limits of Design with Alfonso de la Fuente

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Coming from Valladolid –a little town in Spain– Spanish designer Alfonso de la Fuente arrived in Barcelona when he was 23 years old, set up his Pichiglas Studio and founded the shoe brand Maians. He’s always been fascinated by different materials and loves collecting things and mixing them to create new pieces.

MiND had the pleasure to meet Alfonso at Rilke –a new restaurant and cocktail bar located in Barcelona– where all the technical lighting and lamps were made by him.

Alfonso de la Fuente at Rilke restaurant and cocktail bar in Barcelona. Photo by Sofia Fernandez Stenström.

Everything started when he was a child and he used to play and modify his toys with decorations. He’s always being a good designer and little by little he realized that he was seeing things that other people couldn’t –a creative gift. Coming from a farming family, Alfonso is a self-educated man who studied carpentry and then followed a completely different path.

Rilke restaurant in Barcelona by Pichiglas Studio. Photo by Sofia Fernandez Stenström.

One day, in Barcelona, Alfonso fell in love with plastic recycling, which led him to create his first lamp out of plastic bottles in 1997. In the same year, he founded Pichiglas – his design studio and, from that moment, he started collecting materials from the street and giving them a new life. “When I was young, I was working for Carrefour for the decoration department, but the repetition of colors, the sequence and the plastic material have always caught my attention. Back in Barcelona, I thought about putting together the plastic with the lighting and colors”, said the Spanish designer.

At that time in Barcelona, the use of plastic as a design material was not very common yet and his work was very complex and artisanal, so he decided to buy the objects from Chinese shops, modify them, organize exhibitions and even sell his creations.

Migas Terrace in Beijing, China, by Pichiglas Studio.

Alfonso used to have a little studio in his old house -which was full of plastic bottles where he used to make his objects. Later on, not only he was creating lamps, but he also started producing his own jewelry and selling the accessories to stores like Bershka from the Inditex group.

“I created lamps with spaghetti strainers, juicers, funnels…It was a very colorful light, so I started creating lamps for nightclubs, bar and discos all around Spain.”

With Barcelona becoming a fashionable city and attracting a lot of people from all around the world, Alfonso, after his success with decorative objects and accessories, dedicated himself to interior design and started developing global projects in Spain such as the famous bar Fonfone or the nightclub La Terrrazza. He worked on interior projects developing the concept for the Happy Pills candy shops and, more recently, he developed the Migas Terrace, the restaurant Migas Mercado in China and the restaurant Rilke in Barcelona, where he created a huge installation on the ceiling with hundreds of glass bottles. “All Rilke’s technical lighting and lamps are from Pichiglas Studio. There are several rooms for dining, an interior garden and a spectacular bar”, he explained while showing us the location.

Migas Mercado in Beijing, China, by Pichiglas Studio.

“From 2000 till 2008 it was all about retail stores and I worked for Tous, Nespresso, TCN, Levi’s, Sergio Tacchini, NÜ and more.” However, according to Alfonso, people are more interested in restaurants and social spaces more than retail. Retail is down because people prefer to spend money on things like going out for dinner and travelling instead of buying clothes.

NÜ store by Pichiglas Studio. Photo by Leandro Crespi.

"When I do a project, I like to do everything including the furniture, the lighting and even the chairs.”

Among his creations, Alfonso said he has always wanted to design something connected to his Spanish roots and see people enjoying an authentic product in other parts of the world. “I’ve always been a fan of Italian design and I wanted to do the same but with a ‘100% handmade in Spain’ sign on my products.” After a period of research in the footwear industry, he decided with his other 2 partners to found Maians, a shoe brand which revives the old techniques of Spanish shoemaking heritage.

Camino store with Maians brand by Pichiglas Studio.

Now they sell their shoes online, on their e-shop, as well as at many multi-brand stores around the world. In Barcelona, the trio have also developed a concept store, named Camino, completely designed by Alfonso. Promoting traditional values such as artisanal handcraft, local production, independent brands, design and sustainable production, you can find Maians among other brands they believe in. “The Camino store represents my Pichiglas style. Everything was made with 100% recovered materials – wood from the street, reused iron structures and my lamps among others.”

Rilke restaurant in Barcelona by Pichiglas Studio. Photo by Sofia Fernandez Stenström.

On the one hand, Alfonso keeps using recycling and reusing processes for his creations; on the other hand, the designer is replacing the plastic material with wood, glass and metals. “I look for abandoned warehouses, I buy glass from old ladies who don’t use it anymore, I’m also doing some research with colors. The idea is then to put everything together with lighting to create the perfect atmosphere”.

With a chameleonic style, however always elegant and sophisticated, the Spanish designer is constantly changing his way of creating according to the projects he undertakes. “I like to mix all the styles, recovering old molds and re-updating them”. For example, he uses something cheap and common -like an industrial metal shelf for warehouses- to create a bottle holder but because of the way he completely transforms the objects, you can’t tell what it was originally.

Happy Pills candy shop in Barcelona by Pichiglas Studio.

Moreover, Alfonso is working on renovating a bar in Madrid, giving it a new name –Ciriaco Brown– and telling the whole story behind an invented character, as if he was the owner of the bar in the past. “There will be old photographs of his imaginary life on the walls of the bar.”

“You have to dare to do things that nobody else dares to do.”

Preview of Ciriaco Brown bar in Madrid by Pichiglas Studio.

We heard about incredible lamps, furniture, interior designs and installations. Alfonso’s creations will never cease to amaze. MiND would like to thank him and wish him good luck with his upcoming projects in Italy, China and Cambodia.

By: Lisa Zanon