Harrods has a great gift in the form of a new take on a design classic


You know the Michael Graves 9093 kettle, even if you didn’t know that was its name or who designed it. It is the stainless-steel kettle with the little burgundy polyamide whistling bird in its spout, which contrasts with the colour of its handle, also in polyamide, which is in pale blue.


Like so many things that have come out of the studio of Italian design company Alessi, Graves’ kettle raises a smile, a pop-culture classic for your kitchen.


But now, 37 years after the launch of the original, Alessi is revisiting this piece, one of its best-sellers (more than 1.5 million sold to date), having placed it into the hands of Virgil Abloh, the late American designer whose pioneering multi-faceted approach to creativity saw him tackle not just fashion and wider design, but also music and art.


Alberto Alessi, president of the company that was founded in 1921 by his grandfather, says: ‘I found that Virgil had a completely different way to look at things and objects. So, when he looked at our world, the world of Alessi, it was through the eyes of one who loved the idea of a mechanical workshop, very far from the elegance of what we habitually think of a good design. I found this very interesting, as for us it was a new approach. Alas, we had very little time to make our collaborations with Virgil, but I am so glad we did.’


Michael Graves’ 9093 kettle was first produced in 1985. Graves was an American architect who wanted to partner with Alessi to bring American design to a wider audience. Abloh, too, trained as an architect, and like Graves had the desire to share his creative vision with what he called the “tourists” – the many – as well as the few (who he called the “purists”). Hence his partnership with Alessi, which specialises in collaborating with great designers on household goods that are affordable and created to bring daily pleasure and joy into the home. There will be future projects between Alessi and Virgil Abloh Securities, a creative corporation now headed by Shannon Abloh, his wife.


The new version of the 9093 – the 3909 kettle – is now available at Harrods. It is a numbered edition of 9,999 pieces. The colour has been changed from light blue and burgundy to bright purple. And, significantly, the bird is now a basketball player, flying, ball in hand, towards the net. Like the original, the kettle still whistles when the water is boiling, is still in stainless steel, and still has a magnetic steel bottom, making it suitable for placing directly on the hob.


It’s a fun gift for Christmas, certainly, and a clever update by Alessi, playing with an American cultural reference in a design piece created by one American and now tweaked by another.


The 3909 design Michael Graves (1985)/Virgil Abloh Securities 2022, £180; available at Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL