Every year in April thousands of designers, suppliers, manufacturers and enthusiasts from across the world flock to Milan for the Design Fair (and the aperols!). The design is as hot as the weather. The drinks are as cool as the street style. The energy is as electric as the technology (!). To keep on top of the world’s recent design innovations – it really is the place to be. All you need is a lot of coffee and some comfy shoes. Here we share a photo blog of some of our favourite spots, items making a reappearance and ones to watch. See you at Club Arizona again next year…
Originally focused on furniture, the fair increasingly features showcases from fashion houses like COS and Hermes, tech brands like Miele and Google and specialists like Formlabs and Baars & Bloemhoff. Some of these brands aim to counteract the ‘gram side of #SaloneDelMobile2018 with experiences; aiming to invite people in to another sensorial world. This year there was a clear theme of celebrating the excellence of craft on the one side, and how to use or integrate technology within or alongside it. There was also a burgeoning theme of “design-by-community” (as noticed in DAE’s Not For Sale, Mini Living, Lexus Design Awards, Norwegian Presence and so many more). We see this as a trend in which designers want to empower others to be involved in the design and problem-solving process or have a greater interaction with the design itself. While Salone feels more and more progressive unfortunately the fact remains…every year it is expensive for young designers to showcase alongside the big brands buying up the hot spots. Being commissioned by companies or taking part in group shows is the only way to get on the scene.
Design Academy Eindhoven showcased a community integration and design project ‘Not For Sale‘. Designers worked with local shops and businesses to showcase current or new pieces relevant to the space. From the launderette to the nightclub, the market rooftop to the corner store, the local newsstand to the lamppost. Each designer took a critical lens on how design impacts the wider world. One of the designers; Donghwan Kam, was picked by Dezeen as an emerging talent to watch! His project set-up in Anaesthesia nightclub used virtual reality to reflect on iconic moments of mass media.
ECAL ‘Digital Market’ with Formlabs: innovative everyday life objects exhibited, manufactured and sold on-site in their print farm. Designers included Chris Kabel, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Christian Spiess and many more.
Lexus Design Awards surprised us! Having walked through the ok experiential lighting installation (with our specially crafted Lexus popping candy lollipop in hand) to the back room we were excited to see some very cool innovations. The judges inc, Sir David Adjaye, Alice Rawsthorn and Shigeru Ban had done well in picking out some talents for the mentors (inc. Forma Fantasma) to nurture. 1,300 applicants, 12 shortlisted, four given £18k to further prototype and one overall winner. The winner was ‘Testing Hypotheticals’ by NYC studio Extrapolation Factory. They didn’t present an object but instead a future-focused idea – a ‘test site’ where members of the public in different communities can come together to form solutions for problems. They endeavour to encourage people to co-solve housing, waste, pollution and many other issues. This project shares a mission with Assemble&Join – a project from our founder Tom Tobia which actually was the starting point for Makerversity!
Kvadrat’s Really: a response to the global issue of waste. It was the second year of this effort between forward-thinking fabric brand Kvadrat and their co-owned sustainability start-up Really. They invited seven architects and designers to see what they could do with Solid Textile Board – their new building material made from recycled cotton and wool textiles.
‘Transitions III’ by Baars en Bloemhoff was a vibrant show of six leading Dutch designers who were invited to develop products using the company’s extensive materials collections. Bart Joachim van Uden wanted to elevate the mass-produced staple that is veneer by making a marble effect using zoomed in images from Google Earth.
COS x Philip K Smith III was, as one of our members described it; “f**king cool”. A very simple use of materials and space that juggled contemporary features with the renaissance architecture surrounding it. But more than anything it was (unintentionally?) playing with society’s narcissisms; it’s mirrored fan reflecting multiple faces at once. Every year COS are quietly impressive on the Salone scene.
U-Joints in collaboration with Juventus: a group exhibition showcasing joints. This was pure engineering and design porn. There was a taxonomic journey through knots, fasteners, elastics, the mastery of Japanese joinery, construction joints. This show had it all; classic industrial, prototypes, odd joints, underrated joints, end products, wood joinery, joint obsessions etc. It also featured one of our favourite Dutch designers Dirk Van Der Kooij who was included in Dezeen’s list of Top 10 designers to watch.
Mutant Matter by Dutch Invertuals x Franklin & Till: ten Dutch designers showcased projects that explored the future of materials and commented on the issue of waste. Key themes were repurposing, reusing, upcycling and experimentation. They had a fantastic talk series exploring our ‘current and future relationship with materials and the role of materiality in design’ which we recommend continues next year.
MINDCRAFT18 by Danish Arts Foundation: the images will surely do the talking for this one. Everyone was bowled over by it. The space, the exhibition design, the colours – the Danes did very well. The diverse group of makers represented furniture design, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass etc. and they all showcased new site-specific work. The group were uncompromising on the quality of craft, experimental approaches and trying to push their boundaries.
Bar Anne designed by Space Encounters: a meeting place, an expo, a dinner hangout, a nightclub all in one. Bar Basso had competition for all the late night crowds. Dutch creativity shone highly here with the likes of Mae Engelgeer, Sabine Marcelis and one of our favourites – Children of the Light.
Norwegian Presence ‘Everything is Connected’: all the pieces were reflective of the idea of ‘fellesskap’; a Norwegian word that celebrates community, shared goals and a propensity to collaborate. The designers were perfectly keen to discuss their work and we’re glad they did. One of our favourites was by Pearla Pigao whose installation Sample & Hold features two 1.5×2.5m textiles and is the result of a collaboration with the electronics developer Henrik Waarum. By incorporating copper wires as warp and weft fibres into loom-woven cotton fabric, Pigao has transformed a woven surface into a musical instrument inspired by the theremin. The textile surfaces generate sound in response to touch, creating higher tones the more people interact with the material, and turning the viewer into both audience and composer.
Dimore Gallery and Studio: We are still raving about the amazing sensorial installations that Dimore brought to Milan this year; “Transfer” and “Perfectly Imperfect”. Very different to one another the first invites you to peer through an eclectic curation of cultural atmospheres and aesthetic dimensions. Each room featured a different gorgeous tent structure which housed objects dedicated to a point in time. The second was entirely the opposite with just one modernist item per room in a futuristic space. Music drifting out the speakers these expos were a break from the Milanese streets.
WASTE NO MORE: Eileen Fisher and Edelkoort Exhibitions explore the theme of the circular economy (similarly to Kvadrat x Really) within the fashion system. They created a response to the huge environmental impact of the textile and apparel industry. Walking through an arch of off-cut material we then got to see new materials made from old; and they were beautiful.
Built By All: London based Studiomama built a micro-neighbourhood as part of the Mini Living challenge. Their response endeavours to empower occupants to become designers and encourage greater conversation between architect and resident. To help visitors understand this better they were invited to build their own mini expo and display it within the space.
Expo we tried to find but couldn’t…
Although we couldn’t find Dean Brown’s ‘Tactile Pavilion’ we did get to ask him more about it while on the dancefloor. It is dedicated to all things that deserve to be touched, tried and tested. We are big fans of his approach to design and what projects that has led him to in the past including Mobile Museum.
Other expos we enjoyed for you to check out…
Loewe Blankets: here the fashion house celebrated the artisanal craft of different textile techniques from around the world. We love that all the profits from this project are donated to charities promoting women’s education and crafts around the globe.
Wallpaper* Handmade: Asides from the giant blue teddy opposite the ToiletPaper Magazine ‘Oh My Pop’ cafe…we were very taken by the playground installed by Dutch designer Maarten Baas – ‘Forever Young’.
Google ‘Softwear’: For the tech company’s first foray in to Salone Del Mobile they employed Dutch trend forecaster Li Edelkoort. Their hardware range of products were given a soft edge through the curation of life scenes including alongside bespoke tapestries by Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk.
‘Giants With Dwarf’: Stephan Hürlemann for Horgenglarus: Originally showcased in 2016 this is a totally joyous way to celebrate the oldest Swiss chair – the Horgenglarus – by creating kinetic animals out of the chairs with virtually no additional material nor fixings.
Vitra ‘Typecasting’: Instagram went wild for this one. A film-set like display of all the iconic Vitra furniture. We say no more!
Doppia Firma: A dialogue between design and artisanal excellence featuring the likes of De Allegri and Fogale, Erik Spiekermann, Studio Swine and Kiki van Eijk.
HAY x Sonos x WeWork: given that they had taken over one of the most beautiful palaces in Milan and filled it with more beauty – their products – it was a given we would saunter around this wishing it was home. A well curated space.
Cyanometer by Marjan Van Aubel for Swarovski: a design blending scientific precision with sensory responsiveness. She is Swarovski’s youngest partner and was named ‘Designer of the Future’ by Swarovski. We were also taken by Nendo’s ‘Softpond’ collection in the expo alongside Patricia Uruquolat and also John Pawson’s range.
Hermès: Nothing hugely innovative although the space design was theatrically beautiful and the pieces were of course very covetable. We were a little unsure about how they will re-use all the beautiful tile material that went in to building the expo…
David Rockwell’s & 2X4’s ‘The Diner’ for Surface Magazine was hands down the most welcome break in Ventura Centrale. Although not a second of your meal or drink would go without a camera going off around you it really was a great rendition of the American Diner.