MILAN DESIGN WEEK 2018

 

I mean, where do I start?! Milan Design Week is such a wonderfully diverse experience and the sun was really shining for us this year. It’s a little bit like being a child on Christmas day and getting all the presents you want … all at once!! A tad overwhelming at first but somewhat satisfying and leaving you wanting more.

Before I attended I created a WhatsApp group to bang heads together with other designers to find out the key things to see. Everyone has different opinions and connections which really helps to build a solid line-up as there’s always so much going on! I must say it’s challenging to find a balance between running around the city in a mild panic and allowing yourself to become fully immersed in the ‘here and now’ rather than ‘what’s next?!’. 

For me Milan is undoubtedly the best design festival. The iconic design heritage of Italy juxtaposed with the future of design is really exciting to be a part of. As a designer it’s not that often you can visit such a wide variety of products in one day. I believe that it’s very important to be able to present the latest design information to clients and to instil confidence that you’re giving them the best design advice. 

BEST OF LIGHTING

Lighting installations this year seemed to collectively offer us refined, slim lines and elegant, curved shapes.

FLOS + MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES - ARRANGEMENTS

Flos showcased ‘Arrangements’ by Michael Anastassiades, which was delicate and could have comfortably been housed in an art gallery. With jewellery as the inspiration, it had a very elegant, contemporary and somewhat sculptural feel to it. The modular system allows the designer to be creative with over 100 different combinations meaning the final product can be truly individual.

Photo Credit: www.flos.com

ARTEMIDE + BIG - ALPHABET OF LIGHT

Artemide also seemed to explore the idea of expressing oneself, but instead through words. Their collaboration with Bjarke Ingels Group lead to the creation of the ‘Alphabet of Light’. An outstandingly simple proposal that allows the designer to get creative!

Photo Credit: www.artemide.com

ARTEMIDE - O

For me, Artemide was a real standout performer this year. When entering their showroom, you were treated with an installation showcasing their outdoor collection ‘O’. The design explores the concept of the importance of darkness in city spaces as they represent untouched natural places that are paramount to our existence. Darkness is often considered unsafe, therefore their solution ‘O’ was produced to offer simple lighting that can complement the natural surroundings.

Photo Credit: www.artemide.com

Moooi’s enormous ‘Life Extraordinary’ exhibition based in the Tortona district also considered the environment, but in their own playful way. Dark and moody, the mysterious atmosphere was set through lighting, music and a large projection of a stomping bison at the end of the walkway.

MOOOI - LIFE EXTRAORDINARY

I loved the ‘Meshmatics’ by Rick Tegelaar, a chandelier that uses thin elegant lines but surprisingly produces dramatic light and shade. Using metal wire and directional lighting the fitting creates a kind of theatre that set it apart from anything else I saw this year!

BEST IN FURNITURE

The focus on our responsibility as designers is gaining more momentum and there was a real sense of nostalgia this year within furniture. Perhaps with anti-plastic campaigns and sustainability at the forefront of debates, designers have started to look backwards in order to move forwards. Launches this year seemed to use natural materials, with thoughtful design and an emphasis on traditional crafts and production methods. Furniture installations such as Vitra’s ‘Typecasting’ touched on memories and design heritage by showcasing new, iconic and forgotten pieces in one space. 

TREND

I’ve noticed a real rise in the popularity of Japanese craft design of late. In 2017 Aram launched the DC09 and DC10 chairs by Miyazaki chair factory and discussed the crossover and similarities between Danish and Japanese design. Over the past 10 years the popularity for Scandinavian design has massively increased and doesn’t seem to be slowing down! Japanese design has a similar attention to detail, minimalism, quality, material usage and craftsmanship. Milan Design Week seemed to host a wide number of Japanese designs and craft influences this year.

MARUNI + JASPER MORRISON + NAOTO

This year marked Maruni’s 90th year and saw a new collaboration with Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa. My favourite piece is the Fugu chair by Jasper Morrison; I love the way the backrest and arm details seem to just appear out of the seat. The fixings are completely hidden giving the chair a crisp and clean look, whilst the delicate curved timber shape gives the chair a softness and warmth.

Photo Credit: www.dezeen.co.uk

FRITZ HANSEN + NENDO

Danish brand Fritz Hansen also launched their own Japanese partnership this year! Their collaboration with Nendo resulted in their first entirely wooden chair in 61 years. I really love their use of modern techniques to produce the elegant and slightly ‘winged’ seat pad vs the more traditional looking solid frame structure.

Photo Credit: www.dezeen.co.uk

FAVOURITES

MUUTO - ENFOLD

Muuto launched their Enfold sideboard, a very elegant and simplistic product made from steel and solid oak. The available colours are earthy and natural, reflecting the current environmental topics and trends. The muted natural greens and burnt orange/brown shades seem to have followed on from the ones that dominated in Stockholm earlier on this year.

Photo Credit: www.muuto.com

HAY - BERNARD

Hay offered a prototype preview of their new ‘Bernard’ chair by Shane Schneck. I love the warm timber, armrest detail and the natural soft pink leather. It’s a definite favourite of mine and I can’t wait for it to be officially launched later this year!

CARL HANSEN - INDOOR-OUTDOOR

Carl Hansen’s new ‘Indoor-Outdoor’ collection is a lovely extension to their product range. Designer Bodil Kjaer, who at 86 years old seems sharper than most has designed a collection that I believe will stand the test of time. We had great fun testing out these products too!

DISCOVERY

Finally, manufacturer ‘Made in Ratio’ was a new discovery for me this year. I spoke with the Creative Director Brodie Neill and discussed his design intentions along with the unique, well-considered designs within their collection. A husband and wife team that were clearly passionate about design, this small unassuming showroom in Brera was a true gem!

I was really drawn to the Alpha chair as the intricate detailing was nothing other than beautiful. For someone who hates fussiness I could really appreciate the care that had gone into the design and production.

BEST IN MATERIALS

There was a real sense of community, craft and ‘making’ in Milan this year. Individuals are really thinking about what it means to be a ‘designer’ and our responsibility to the next era of design. 

This year, I visited the ‘Mutant Matter’ exhibition located in Spazio O' in Milan's Isola district. Ten Dutch designers had come together and showcased concepts for repurposing and recycling man-made materials in order to reinvent design for the future.  

RADICAL MATTERS

In the same space, Caroline Till, Co-Founder of ‘Radical Matters’, hosted an interesting panel talk called ‘Waste: A Design Issue?’. She introduced by discussing the power of design and queried several thought-provoking points about what it is to be sustainable. Daniela Bohlinger, Head of Group Design Sustainability Strategy at BMW Group discussed the idea of luxury and the struggle to put across the idea of reuse to clients who want quality, longevity and high-end products. She touched on the power of advertising and the importance of changing perceptions on the word ‘recycle’.

We don’t like the word sustainability and recycling – it’s what we have to do. You have to find the right interpretation for the right customer in a large company like BMW”
— Daniela Bohlinger

Sometimes sustainable materials don’t have the same longevity, so perhaps we also need to design things to last. The shift away from our ‘throw away’ culture was also present within the furniture launches this year too.

Kvadrat and sustainability start-up ‘Really’ explored the reuse of fabric wastage and showcased the solid textile board in an exhibition based in the Brera district. In 2013 ‘Really’ was established in Copenhagen and it has been an official partner of Kvadrat since 2017. 

The material was displayed in many forms by a handful of designers such as Benjamin Hubert, Claesson Koivisto Rune and Front. They highlighted the varied ways in which the material could be used such as chairs, modular shelving system and room dividers. I liked the stripped back approach to the exhibition; the products were not elevated from the floor, the walls were white and the products didn’t shout. This allowed the material to evoke a sense of accessibility and affordability which is key as sustainable materials are often viewed as costly alternatives. 

WALTER KNOLL

I’ve always loved the Walter Knoll ‘Legends of Carpets’, so I was very pleased to see a development within this series. The Badawi Pillows by Helmut Scheufele are casual pillow-beds with a roller back. An interesting lounge piece that is both simple and distinctive.
I love their concept of photographing nature and turning the images into designs that are deeply rooted to an experience of a place. In this case the photographs were taken of African landscapes. The rugs are hand-knotted and produced in Nepal where I have been lucky enough to see the production of rugs in the past. One day I will own one of these!

BEST IN INSTALLATIONS

I was absolutely blown away by both Gubi and Hay this year. Both manufacturers utilised Milan’s ornate architecture to showcase their new products.

GUBI

Gubi was located in the stunningly decorative Palazzo Serbelloni, a Neoclassical Palace in Milan which has previously hosted names such as Napoleon. Gubi’s ‘Bat Lounge Chair’, the first bed from the ‘Stay’ collection with Space Copenhagen and more iconic pieces such as the ‘Beetle’ chair were all exhibited in the space. The product colours worked perfectly with the surroundings and the large floral arrangements dotted around were an art piece in their own right! The launch night had a real buzz of enthusiasm and excitement from everyone who attended.

HAY + WEWORK + SONOS

Hay collaborated with WeWork and Sonos to showcase new products. They challenged perceptions around ‘ways of working’ within the incredible Palazzo Clerici. As you walked around you were treated to an arcade of spaces that displayed different products and settings. The ‘gold room’ in the centre of the building was most definitely the most impressive. You’d have thought the delicate pastel colours within Hay’s contemporary furniture would have been lost within the exuberant high ceilings, gilded walls, intricate decorations and large chandeliers, but this just created interest and drama! The queue to get into the room just proved how incredibly Instagramable the space was.

COS + PHILIP K. SMITH III

Although it wasn’t as interactive this year, I really liked the Cos installation. I loved the way it sympathetically reflected the architectural context whilst striking a contrast between new and old through lines and symmetry.

Whilst I love all the serious stuff, it’s also great to just have a bit of fun and Missoni achieved just that with their installation! You entered through an open walkway covered with vibrantly coloured fabrics and into a vaulted room filled with large floor to ceiling decorated cylinder cages. ‘Blowing in the Wind’ was an environmental art project by Rachel Hayes and curated by Mariuccia Casadio. I loved the colour and the immersive nature of the installation. The combination of lighting, colours and wind created an experience where reflections were everywhere from the walls to the floors. The art installation was inspired by nature using light, wind and colour to enhance the user’s experience of place.  

This year a few installations that I visited were based on the idea of lifestyle and investigating how people live in the modern age. The first was ‘Hemma, Stories of Home’, located in the Brera district of Milan. The exhibition was by Svensk Form in collaboration with ‘Visit Sweden’ and hosted an assortment of well-known Swedish brands. They exhibited their ideas on design and you were invited to experience an ‘everyday’ life in Sweden. I mean, it was just so darn cool. The ‘hanging’ chair, the coolest gym equipment I’ve ever seen and the clothing rail that made me want to go shopping for a new Scandi-inspired wardrobe are just a few examples.

ELLE DECOR - MILLENIALS AT HOME

On the same theme, I was invited by La Palma to take a tour of the ‘On Life Millennials at Home’ exhibition by Elle Décor Italia in the stunning Palazzo Bovara. A fun and inspiring exhibition that took you on a tour of what it is to be a ‘Millennial’ by considering lifestyle. It hinted at the way spaces develop as you move through the key decades of your life. I really loved the entrance which consisted of millennial pinks and the striking new modular sofa by La Palma called Plus by Francesco Rota.

For me Milan is a holiday, I mean, who needs a beach holiday when you can pretty much swim in a sea of orange!? It’s a place to gain inspiration, network and eat lots of carbs. The city for me is where the design festival comes alive; that and Bar Basso where 100s of designers gather until the very early hours of the morning. 

There were some clear trends this year, however I guess that’s just my opinion and someone else may have taken something completely different away from the experience. With that in mind, I believe it’s key for all designers to attend at some point, not just to see the new products but to strengthen a confidence in your own opinions. 

Milan is full of surprises and it’s often when you least expect it that you discover something new that will inspire you! Here’s to next year and LOTS more Aperol.