Like never before, design is now appreciated in all aspects of our lives.
No longer perceived as a luxury of the rich and famous, average guys and gals now seek the artistic marriage of form and function every day. In our kitchens shine delicate hand blown stemware and sleek machines to brew our morning coffee at a touch. In our closets we curate truly wearable wardrobes inspired by international runways.
And behind the wheel, where we spend hours per week, fine design is also de rigueur.
Enter Anthony Prozzi.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Prozzi, Ford Motor Company’s Senior Interior Designer, last week at Uptown’s Ocean Prime. Hosted by Dallas blog star Cynthia Smoot, From Runway to Driveway: A Fusion of Influence comprised a cocktail party and panel discussion headed by the man of the hour. The subject at hand was the 2013 Ford Fusion, and the unexpected high fashion inspirations behind its design.
Cynthia Smoot and Anthony Prozzi
A native of New York, Prozzi’s path to his current position wasn’t a straight shot – but aren’t all great road trips filled with detours and diversions?
A premed start at New York University was re-routed for a role in retail. A position as a designer with Donna Karan and studies at Brooklyn’s Pratt School of Art & Design followed thereafter. Another slight turn peaked Prozzi’s interest in transportation design, a passion that continues to drive his work today.
Prior to his panel talk with local luminaries including Trudy Cresswell of Saks Fifth Avenue, designer Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh, and designer Isabel Varela of Izavel, we chatted with Prozzi about his inspirations, unexpected hobbies, and, of course, the 2013 Ford Fusion. In his own words, “It all starts with a story.”
The 2013 Ford Fusion
DFW Style Daily: How did your early experience at Donna Karan inform your perspective as a designer?
Anthony Prozzi: “A designer, and for that matter, anyone who is design sensitive, I feel is born with that innate ability to communicate a feeling, a message, an emotion, regardless of what they are creating. Growing up in New York City, and having the exposure to an extraordinary wealth of arts, culture, fashion, and design, I think helped to ignite the spark that was already there.
“Before joining Donna Karan, I owe an enormous gratitude to Gloria Jacobs, who was the owner of a specialty shop in Brooklyn called Jimmy’s. She took me under her wing, nurturing my design sense. Donna Karan taught me the sensuality and concept of movement and flow in clothing. This was during a time of transition, as fashion moved away from the excess of the ‘80s, and embraced an idea of balance and spirituality that the ‘90s were about.”
Describe the correlation, as you see it, between fashion design and automotive interior design.
“Regardless of what it is you are designing, be it a piece of furniture, clothing, an automobile, or any product, it all starts with a story. I think now more than ever people what to know the story, the message, behind the design.
“Once you understand what it is that you, as designer, need to communicate, you start your journey to discover how this product looks and feels. That will sort of push someone’s buttons so that they can immediately understand and connect with the product; it becomes an object of desire. It’s like watching a really great movie with a protagonist that you immediately fall in love with.
“With the creation of the new Ford Fusion, the message was very clear. We wanted to design a vehicle that is seductive, that transmits upscale values and a sense of luxury, but without the luxury price tag. Most importantly, it would break paradigms on what an environmentally responsible vehicle can look like. The Ford Fusion is a vehicle with a conscience, and there is no compromise in what I would refer to as the ‘sexiness’ of the car. That is a triumph with any well-designed product.”
2013 Ford Fusion Interior, Eddie Borgo Design
What are a few features of the new 2013 Ford Fusion that would appeal to a fashion enthusiast?
“Ah, well, I have been quite smitten with the aesthetic of Kate Lanphear, the Style Director of Elle. Her play on dichotomies is something that I have obsessed on, and I think a great many fashion enthusiasts have as well.
“The spark for the Fusion interior started from something the jewelry designer Eddie Borgo said (a favorite of Ms. Lanphear) referring to the fact that the beauty of a modern object is found in its dichotomy, its hardness and softness, its darkness and light, its feminine and masculine. Those ideas were abstracted in the Fusion’s interior by creating areas of touch that are soft and sensual, and areas of sight that are strong and alluring. There is ‘jewelry’ inlaid within the passenger’s viewpoint that I feel evokes the same seductive qualities.”
The ideal of form versus function is always top-of-mind in the world of technology. What is your favorite feature of the Ford Fusion that combines both?
“The role of technology has, in my opinion, been to make our lives simpler. The Fusion’s voice-activated SYNC system, and its wealth of features that you find in vehicles that cost six digits, is a triumph in terms of delivering the choice of technology that was previously unavailable at this price point. Personally, I am very simple, I want my vehicle to serve as a sort of ‘silent butler’. With the features of SYNC and MyFord Touch, I can have that.”
Name a classic car that you love.
“Not a fair question! Being a child of Italian immigrants, my point of reference to cars has always been classic Italian cars of the ‘60s – especially an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint. It has a very special place in my heart, as my Grandfather drove one.”
If you were limited only by your imagination, what is one feature you wish could be incorporated into a car’s interior design?
“Fantasy has become reality in Ford’s responsibility to the environment, through the use of sustainable materials in its vehicles’ interiors. For example, the use of soy-based foams for the seat cushions, and recycled denim and plastic bottles to produce sound-deadening, are all great features of which we are very proud.”
Finally, you are a man of many interests and passions, from yoga to ice skating to international travel. How do they influence your work?
“I believe the strength of a company like Ford is through the diversity of our people. I’m probably not what you would call a ‘typical’ car guy, and that’s okay. I think that, to be a great designer, you must experience the world, interact with different cultures, and discover how unique and not-so-different we all are.
“Yoga helps to center me, and reminds me that it really is all about balance. The beauty of figure skating, and the fact that it is possibly the only sport in which you are judged on both technical ability and aesthetics, is not unlike how a vehicle’s design is judged.
“Lastly, thanks to the internet, the world has truly become a smaller place. The same visuals inspire someone in Dallas and someone in Shanghai. For me, it is essential to travel to see firsthand how this sense of design convergence happens. The Fusion demonstrates this as a truly global vehicle that emotionally connects with people, regardless of their geography.”
(Anthony Prozzi headshot and 2013 Ford Fusion imagery via Ford Motor Company; event photography credit Sylvia Elzafon for DFW Style Daily.)