Amara Living, April 2015
Amara Living commissioned me to write a trend report from Milan Design Week 2015, which appeared on their blog alongside insights from 2 Lovely Gays, Kate Wales and Gerard McGuickin. (All copy as supplied.)
Eat, play… love Milan.
400,000 people and 2,000 brands flocked to Milan for the 54th edition of Salone del Mobile and the design festival that has grown up around it. “The resourceful design entrepreneur in the modern age is now committed not just to the creation of an artefact, but also to the communication, contextualisation and commercialisation of their ideas,” said Tom Dixon in the run up to the fair.
For many, that “communication, contextualisation and commercialisation” meant entertaining the crowds, who are increasingly in Milan to be inspired by new trends and enjoy some time away from the office, rather than on serious buying missions. Dixon took over an abandoned theatre in Milan and put on a gig with newly formed rock band Rough, starring on bass, accompanied Fab co-founder Bradford Shellhammer on vocals.
Nearby in the opulent setting of the grand hall of Palazzo Serbelloni, London-based designer Philippe Malouin had designed an 8-piece swing-set using Caesarstone’s 2015 surface designs. A lot of visitors had a lot of fun and it was possibly the most instagrammed event of the year.
The theme for the 2015 Milan Expo, starting on 01 May 2015, is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” so inevitably food was on everybody’s mind. The city’s design museum, Triennale di Milano kicked things off which an exhibition entitled Arts & Foods – Rituals since 1851. And another exhibition in the San Gregorio district entitled On An Empty Stomach examined hunger and lack in every sense – Fasted by Studio Dessuant Bone was a highlight.
Amongst all the glitz and glamour, there were designers trying to use design to solve some of the world’s bigger problems. A key theme amongst these was the use of waste as a resource. Studio Joa Herrenknecht and Studio Nienke Hogvliet both presented products made from salmon skin leather – a by-product of the food industry. ReTree by Philipp Kaefer is a project moulding furniture from waste wood chippings, while the Marble Ways table by Eleonora Dal Farra & Andrea Forti for Alcarol is made from the discarded wooden blocks used to cut marble on in quarries – an interesting twist on last year’s marble trend.
And finally, there is a really interesting move towards embracing imperfection. The Japanese call it Wabi-sabi and have celebrated it for centuries. It seems that the West is just catching on. RIVA 1920 were showing a table that made a feature of the usually discarded ‘sapwood’, while EY captured the imperfections of Ebony bark in resin. “Ebony is a popular wood used for high-end furniture, however its bark is disposed of – its irregular shape making it hard to use,” said the designers. “We use resin to fill the irregularities of the wooden pieces, transforming them into objects that are both unpredictably beautiful and functional for everyday life.”
For the 400,000 visitors to Milan Design Week, there was work to make them smile, to entertain them and to provide instagram-fodder aplenty. But in amongst all of that, there was also work to make them think, to make them question their assumptions and hopefully to inspire them for another year.