Carlo Borromeo and Fabio de Silva are childhood friends who went their separate ways after school, but whose paths crossed again resulting in the opening of the BorromeodeSilva studio in 2010. “It was a bit like a start-up,” smiles creative director Carlo Borromeo, adding that they quickly brought product designer Filippo Sgalbazzi aboard.
“We had a small office and all three of us worked around what is now my desk! We were lucky to secure some great clients right off: we started working with Garage Italia and we ended up helping out with creating Ferrari’s Tailor Made system. We gradually expanded and took on Marco Biancullo, a very imaginative designer. Our studio is unusual as it is family run with a very low staff turnover. The current team of 14 has barely changed over the years”.
Straddling both car and product sectors with a dash of communications mixed in for good measure, BorromeodeSilva specialises in Restomod, a recent trend for not just restoring classic cars but also modifying them using new technology. In fact, its biggest success story so far is the Lancia Delta Futurista, built by Automobili Amos. “It was a cultural exercise,” explain Marco Biancullo and Filippo Sgalbazzi. “We tried to work out what it sparked in people’s minds, how the nostalgia thing worked: we then took those values and expressed them to the best of our ability”.
The studio’s meeting with the yachting sector was serendipitous: “We started out with big companies and that was huge but because we had to sign so many confidentiality agreements, we were virtually invisible for years,” adds Borromeo. “Then, finally, in 2016, we had the space to drive forward our own personal projects and focus on something that really represents us. We designed, developed and built a carbon-fibre canoe that remains our beauty manifesto to this day: a mix of stylistic quality, tradition and extreme technology both in terms of the materials and design techniques we used.
The Monocoque Paddle Canoe won us a Land Rover Born Award in 2017 as well as getting us on the ADI Design Index for the Compasso d’Oro. Most of all though, it gave us our first contacts in the nautical world. Starting with Vita Yachts, a UK-based international electric boat group with a yard on Lake Maggiore. We designed them a 9m runabout, a 10m with a little cabin and we’re now working on a more mass market product, an inflatable that’s also electric obviously,” chips in general manager Fabio de Silva.
“Everything we do for the nautical sector is electric or person-powered and so totally sustainable. Initially, it just happened that way but later on we realised it had to be like that. Specialising in a niche that was new more than anything else was natural for us. You might say we found our niche but really the niche sort of found us too”.
BorromeodeSilva is now working on a modern carbon-fibre take on the traditional gozzo for some Tuscan clients and won’t rule out designing a larger sailing yacht someday. However, this is an ambition they want to work towards gradually preferring to focus on what they do best for now: smaller craft of between seven and 10 metres that are closer concept-wise to cars. The car and boat sectors may be different but also share certain common factors.
“They are two parallel universes that can learn from each other,” continues Carlo Borromeo. “The nautical sector can learn about design and construction quality from the car sector while the car sector can learn to make special products from the nautical sector because one truly exceptional side to the yachting world is its unbeatable ability to do tailor-made craft”.
Even niche cars are quite standardised products which are then personalised to suit their owner. Yachts, on the other hand, really are built around their owner. And that is real luxury!” So what does the future hold for BorromeodeSilva? “We want to continue working with brands that focus on doing something different and also going out on a limb on new, innovative projects,” they conclude. “We believe very strongly in storytelling too: brands have to become content creators and generate opportunities to build their story and communicate it. Lastly, we really do hope for a world in which the nautical sector is bit more accessible with small boats that are better built. We are hoping for a boating revival that will see people really begin to live the sea and electric is the best way to get there!”