When an American manufacturer introduces a new toaster or blender, it's likely to show up on store shelves without fanfare. But in Italy, small appliances get a debut worthy of a new fashion line.
For one afternoon during Milan Design Week, the renowned Bar Martini nestled inside Dolce & Gabbana's flagship men's store was transformed into a showcase for a new line of design-oriented kitchen appliances.
Smeg, the Italian home appliance company with the distinctly non-Italian name (it's actually an acronym for Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla, or "Guastalla Iron Works") introduced a host of retro-themed countertop appliances—accompanied by cocktails and aperitivos.
Though the event may have been unusual, it's not out of character for a company with a long-standing focus on design. After all, this is a company known for its stylish retro fridges and rangetops designed by famed architect Renzo Piano.
2014 signifies a new direction for Smeg, whose Dolce & Gabbana event served as a platform for branching out from large appliances to small ones.
At the Martini bar, the company showed off a two-slice toaster, four-slice toaster, blender, stand mixer, and electric kettle under the same lights that would've otherwise shone on shoes or wristwatches.
The new appliances are all reminiscent of what a 1950s-era homemaker would've used in the kitchen, with one-piece metal exteriors, chrome trim, and a heavy build. They're all available in a wide array of colors, including pastels.
Best of all, the whole line of small appliances is coming to America. Representatives from Smeg let us know they should be arriving in the U.S. at high-end kitchen retailers like Williams-Sonoma within a year.
Prices will range from a little over $100 for the small toaster to over $500 for the stand mixer. That might sound like a lot for a small toaster, but Smeg hopes that high design will be worth the price premium.
This serves as an important move for Smeg, a company that's trying to expand its U.S. presence. The expansion is, of course, a strategic one: The U.S. economy is rebounding, while much of Europe remains stagnant. Plenty of other European companies are trying to grab a slice of the American appliance pie, too, from Spain's Fagor to Turkey's Arçelik.
Business motives aside, Smeg's growth means that Americans get yet another attractive design once reserved for Europeans. Even though styles will remain the same (only the plugs and voltage will change), it's likely U.S. consumers will get their first taste of the new lineup on Amazon—not at an exclusive boutique.