Rossana Orlandi: A Heroine Gallerist Making Plastic Guiltless

Rossana Orlandi Portrait by Giovanni Gastel

Women have been known to wear many hats, but few possess the poise of a luxurious goddess while creating innovative advances in the world of design and sustainable living. Rossana Orlandi is a living legend that has given new meaning to gallery design and curating and is now taking on making plastic guiltless with her GUILTLESSPLASTIC project.

Although her exhibitions are based solely in her home country of Italy, Rossana Orlandi’s unique Galleria style has influenced the likes of many designers around the world. Every year she showcases young and up-and-coming talent in her Milano and Porto Cervo based galleries. A three-dimensional creator, Rossana Orlandi selects pieces, formulates their display, and then shares her chosen creations with the design world.

The GUILTLESSPLASTIC Project

For the gallerist, curating provided a gift within a gift, that allowed her to introduce the world to unknown incredible talent, while also showcasing her own ingenuity. When talent meets purpose the manifestation of an iconic revolution reveals itself. In 2018, the conception of the GUILTLESSPLASTIC project was just that; a revolutionary idea that would use design to solve a global plastic pollution problem. Orchestrated by the design gallerist genius herself, Rossana Orlandi, this monumental innovation has not only captured the hearts of design artists everywhere but also environmentalists.

RoGarage exhibition featuring Ro Plastic Prize 2019 Finalists (Photo by Simone Furiosi) - rossana orlandi guiltlessplastic project
RoGarage exhibition featuring Ro Plastic Prize 2019 Finalists
(Photo by Simone Furiosi)

So, What Is It?

Rossana Orlandi, the renowned creative thinker, created a marriage between design and recycling plastic. Every year people dump approximately 8 million tons of plastic into our oceans, affecting marine life and so much more. Rossana Orlandi found a solution. Why not spread awareness through design? She encouraged designers to find a unique way to recycle old plastic into beautiful functional designs with her initiation of the Ro Plastic Prize competition. Not only would young designers have the opportunity to take home a prize, but potentially build economic development within their city by eliminating waste and becoming more resourceful. Rossana Orlandi has seemingly become more ingenious with age; a clever imagination that began in adolescence.

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Meet Rossana Orlandi, The Woman Behind the Brand

Born in 1943 in Cassano Magnago, a town in Lombardy, Italy about 25 miles northwest of Milan, Rossana Orlandi’s upbringing was simple and quiet. As the daughter of parents in the textile-production industry, and the youngest of four, she found herself heavily warped in her own imagination. She had dreams of Milan, which was known for its historical architecture and high-end fashion. She had exotic ideas that slowly started to infiltrate her adolescent mind.

rossana orlandi
Rossana Orlandi
(Photo by Gianni Basso)

It was in her teens that Rossana Orlandi encountered an icon in design that would ignite a new level of creative ingenuity. It was none other than Coco Chanel, the French fashion designer and founder of the popular brand Chanel. Rossana was amazed by this than older woman that exuded such class, prestige, and energy. Ultimately this led to her attending the Istituto Marangoni at age 17 to study textiles. She then went on to work for her family’s business for several years in the knitwear department, as she found it catered most to her ability to create from scratch. Eventually, she became a consultant working for big brand names such as Versace, Armani, and Westwood.

Galleria Ro

In 2002, she launched an exhibition known as Galleria Rossana Orlandi, which at first just showcased photography. It was created from what was originally a tie factory, but in time was transformed into a unique collage of designs. Rossana Orlandi was the first woman to bring together seemingly contrasting artists and designers—forming a beautiful mesh. She quickly gained notoriety for her sharp eye in showcasing beautiful intricate and simplistic designs. However, it was her formation of designs that captured the likes of Lidewij Edelkoort, esteemed trend forecaster, and Brooklyn based designer, Fernando Mastrangelo, as well as many others. Her Galleria style is often characterized as unusual and chaotic, yet transcendent and very eccentric. 

ro gallery milan
Gallery Ro in Milan

Rossana Orlandi created a platform for young fresh designers that seek to take their designs to the next level. Young women with dreams of being a part of the design world now have pioneers such as Rossana Orlandi to idolize. She is now someone’s Coco Chanel, an inspiration that will launch a dream. Rossana Orlandi continues to pay it forward, creating future design legends. She is a living icon that not only inspires young women but challenges all minds to think outside the box. 

Rossana Orlandi Today

Currently, Rossana Orlandi operates two galleries within the Milan region. Her aura is the warmth of a tender grandmother, with the child-like energy of someone decades younger. Designer Mastrangelo has described her as the Energizer bunny, while British designer Lee Broom says she has childlike curiosity. While a real-life mother and a grandmother to 4 grandkids, she hopes to impart to her offspring the environmental consciousness that she possesses. Hence, the GUILTLESSPLASTIC project. An idea birthed out of the desire to provide future generations with an environment that they can be proud of—an uncontaminated world.

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The Ro Plastic Prize Competition

In 2019, the first edition of the Ro Plastic Prize competition, a byproduct of the GUILTLESSPLASTIC project, launched with great success during Milan Design Week. The competition was open to all ages and backgrounds attracting hundreds of entries from across the world. Winners, who each received 10,000€, were chosen by a group of the “who’s who” of international design such as Philip Battin, Giulio Capellini, Cristina Gabetti, and many others. The competition was divided into the following categories—design, home textiles, packaging solutions, and conscious innovation projects.

The Ro Plastic Prize 2019 Winners

Alexander Schul, Design Award

German designer, Alexander Schul won the design category for creating a chair, lamp and side table all from recycled plastic. He focused on efficient production methods making it easy for it to be manufactured on a large scale.

Recycled plastic Chair by Alexander Schul, Winner of the Design Prize Ro Plastic Prize Competition - guiltlessplastic project
Chair by Alexander Schul, Winner of the Design Prize

Reform Studio, Home Textiles Award

Contestants from Reform Studio, Henry Riad and Mariam Hazem won the home textiles category. They reused plastic bags to create a colorful line of textiles.

Reform Studio, Henry Riad and Mariam Hazem, Winners of the Home Textiles Award Ro Plastic Prize Competition
Reform Studio, Henry Riad and Mariam Hazem, Winners of the Home Textiles Award

Dave Hakkens, Conscious Innovation Award

Dutch designer, Dave Hakkens won the innovation projects category with his initiative to create Precious Plastic. The Precious Plastic initiative is a series of practical recycling machines that can be built by anyone. They also produced tutorials that would guide the viewers on how to construct the machines, as well as how to utilize them.

Precious Plastic project by Dave Hakkens, Winner of the Conscious Innovation Award Ro Plastic Prize Competition - guiltlessplastic project
Precious Plastic project by Dave Hakkens, Winner of the Conscious Innovation Award

No Winner, Packaging Solution

Unfortunately, no prize was awarded for the packaging solutions category, however, the category will re-launch for GUILTLESSPLASTIC 2020.

Rossana Orlandi raved at the success and innovation of the 2019 winners. We await the 2020 Ro Plastic Prize competition, which will return to Milan Design Week in April 2020.

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Rossana Orlandi’s Mark

Rossana Orlandi’s impact on the design world, and now the environment, creates a new standard for newcomers abroad. She has revolutionized what we know as Design. Rossana Orlandi has taught us to use our gift to impact change in our world. Full of life in her older age, she reigns as the queen of gallerists, inspiring young designers everywhere to fulfill their dreams and open doors for others. Going green has never looked so beautiful and we have Rossana Orlandi to thank for that! Let’s keep our beautiful earth as pure as possible by recycling and conserving waste!


Words by Jada Ledbetter
All Images Courtesy of Rossana Orlandi / Feature Image by Giovanni Gastel
Article Originally Appeared in Love Happens Volume 4


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