Sushi lighter - Rodrigo Torres for Alessi

Colombian designer reinvents the Zippo lighter

Rodrigo Torres attempts 'sacrilegious' update with new Sushi lighter for Alessi - stand well back

Alessi may still be living down Philippe Starck’s ubiquitous, impractical but undeniably beautiful Juicy Salif lemon squeezer, but this latest product suggests that the Italian kitchenware manufacturer is not afraid to innovate and move on.

It’s a lighter, created by Bogota-born and educated industrial designer Rodrigo Torres. Actually, he did his Masters at the Domus Academy of Milan, where he’s still based, which accounts for a plethora of Italian projects on his CV including ones for the likes of Poliform, Domodinamica and of course Alessi.

One of his first Alessi manifestations was a magnetic paperclip holder called Chip. The chrome-plated object was in the shape of a small bird, and was the companion piece to Kastor, a pencil sharpener in the same vein.

Now he’s attempted something that many designers are always keen to take on, despite the many pitfalls: he’s reinvented an icon. He’s taken the classic 1930s Zippo pocket lighter and sprinkled some Alessi aesthetic over it. The result is a super svelte product, with a rounded end and slim metallic ‘chimney’.



“Sleek, simple and fluid shapes characterise an object full of collective-memory, comfort and beauty,” says Torres. “Its body, colours and material combinations emphasise its domestic nature, reminding us of the warmth and emotiveness present in home-appliances since the 50's.” In fact its styling and colour palette are reminiscent of the best of mid-century kitchen or automobile design.

Despite these retro leanings, he’s given it a name that would have been incomprehensible to most people outside of Fifties Japan. It’s called Sushi, because, he says, “It came from the idea of ‘wrapping fire,’ one of the directions that I was exploring during the brainstorming stage of the project.” And when he looked at an early sketch, it reminded him of a “beautiful sushi wrap”. 

It's exactly the kind of thinking that you'll find in the wonderful Phaidon Design Classics - the only compendium of design you'll really ever need (and yes, it does include that Starck lemon squeezer).