Dedece’s Big Review @ Salone Milan 2013

Dedece’s Big Review @ Salone Milan 2013


Dominant, important, determinant, no frills, no stains, no tyre kickers, a time of action, a time for realism, pragmatic stands, open markets, different languages, evolved styles, decisive lines, attentive brands, poetry here and there, history everywhere, attention to the customer, attention to detail, lots of people, important signal, classic, yet shimmering, shifting “. ……….  Alpha Salone –  by Paolo Bocchi – Architect, Journalist , Author

Fiera Milano, in the Rho district of Milan, is the city’s Exhibition Center and Trade Fair complex. It is one of the world’s most important venues and it is one of Europe’s largest construction projects by area —rendering Fiera Milano the largest trade fair complex in the world.

Despite Italy’s current economic woes and those of other established furniture markets also taking their toll, yet the Rho fair and its fringe projects still bring more visitors to Milan than any other event and it continues to dominate the global design calendar.

The Fiera was a hive of activity as 324,000 design aficionados turned up for the annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile ( aka Milan Design Week, aka Milan Furniture Fair, aka Milan Salone.

salone milan 2013

RHO Fiera

Although the length of the design week is a mere six days, the amount of events around the city increases with every year that passes

From the sprawling RHO Fiera and its epic 24 halls of Salone Internazionale del Mobile through to the design events spread far and wide across the entire city in every direction, it continues to be virtually impossible to do and see it all.

The Salone  again emerged as a unique platform that not only showcases new products but also effectively presents break through ideas – it is a designers’ dream come true

The Salone’s sheer size and heritage remain unparalleled – by simply retracing the editions of the Salone from 1961 to the present, one could easily write the history of Italian, and indeed world design.

salone milan 2013 (1)

The Salone is rooted in the expansion of Italian manufacturing during the glorious era of the 1950s and 1960s, when visionary industrialists collaborated with talented designers to develop technically innovative products in an elegant, modern style.

The Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano was launched in 1961, with the original focus being Italian furniture. The original sponsors were Italian furniture manufacturers from the Federelegno-Arredo trade association.

The current Salone occupied an area of nearly 230,000 square metres and included 2,500 companies, along with 700 young designers at the Salone Satellite, a secondary exhibit.

salone milan 2013 (5)

For the designers it’s still the paramount get-together of the year and the place where the key product launches take place.  They love the city and desperately want it to thrive.

“Milan remains the only place where you can still see everybody in one go,” says Tom Dixon. “Whether it can maintain that top spot … is hard to tell. It becomes impossible to navigate the city, you can’t get a taxi, you can’t get a hotel room and you can’t afford space to show your goods.”

Influential designers including Tom Dixon, Marcel Wanders, Yves Behar, and Konstantin Grcic discuss the importance of Milan design week in the video below, and whether it can retain its title as the world’s leading event !

Team Dedece once again travelled across the globe to seek the best in contemporary design from around the world, and see what will be used in the ‘Interiors of Tomorrow’.

Dedece have been attending the Salone, in a professional capacity since the early 19080’s and we always find new ideas, new materials, new details, new currents, new personalities.

tim engelen

tim engelen working hard

Dedece’s focus is always on design that combines fresh modernity with long-lasting endurance, exceptional quality with timeless aesthetics. With the best designs from established favourites and rising new talent, there is always an abundance of impressive creativity to discover.

The Salone provides us with the opportunity to see, touch and test new products.  The Salone week gives us a crucial opportunity to see a manufacturer’s quality.

We hoped our energy levels this year, were strong enough to cover the Salone properly together with the hard foot slog needed to really get around Milan and get a sense of whats happening in design generally

Exploring both the massive Salone and the numerous off site events throughout the city, at both showrooms and design districts, we again re-united with our long time partners and collaborators, as well as acquainted ourselves with some rising new designers and manufacturers.

An intense, adrenaline-charged week has ended and now the harder part is to now gradually process what we learnt and to try to sort out the likely product winners and design trends from the many showrooms, presentations, cultural and fringe events visited ( and parties attended )

As ultimately each Salone is defined by the quality — and impact — of its new products.

michael knoll

michael whatson working hard

Every single thing has to strive to grab the attention of as many people as possible.

Yet even things fundamentally quiet and unassuming do indeed have a chance up against its gimmicky, in-your-face counterparts.

Salone 2013 again represented a natural, fundamental point of encounter and confrontation.

There’s room for everyone – East meets west, innovation meets tradition and newcomers meet the most established names in the design scene.

For one week, every year, your voice can be heard, clear and loud, no matter who you are.

salone milan 2013 (2)

More than 400 events take place outside the official fairgrounds, around the city, and it’d take an army of fair-goers to do it justice.

What lies ahead is a long year of work where everyone, in function of their various skills, will develop what they saw in preparation for the 2014 edition of iSaloni: designers, interior architects, buyers, manufacturers, retailers, agents, prototypers, graphic artists, installation designers, journalists, press officers.

The Salone is now organized and operated by Cosmit S.p.A., a trade show corporation and a member of the ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) and ADI (Association for Industrial Design)

opening cosmit

images from Cosmit’s 2013 opening welcome party.



324,093 visitors overall, 285,698 of them from within the design sector, with 160 different countries accounting for 68% of total presences (compared with 63% at the 2011 edition, when the biannual Euroluce and Salone Ufficio were last held), making the Salone not just international but global.

However visitor numbers are slowly falling – about 338,000 people attended the fair in 2012, more than in 2011, but less than 2008’s record of 383,793 visitors.


The cold and rainy weather—combined with the effects of a struggling European economy—made for a more subdued mood than in years past.

Unlike recent years – grey skies over grey buildings made for a somewhat grey mood around the Salone. The Salone didn’t seem to have quite the energy or electricity of some past years.

This unseasonal chill that descended on Milan during the Salone, can be viewed as a metaphor for the fortunes of the world’s biggest design gathering.

salone milan 2013 (4)

2013, was a year which showed a mixture of prudence, consolidation and solid design work. A little less hype and fewer prototypes, too.

Much like the weather, our experience finding new design was at times difficult; with austerity seemingly on the minds of many manufacturers and bold, new products and concepts were seldom found and instead many products were safe updates / enhancements to designs already in production.

It was all about doing more with less – as characterised by updated classics and fewer new product releases ( but they were more resolved and production ready )


Weak European Economy

milan recession

It’s no surprise: the general mood was more cautious and subdued, thanks to Europe’s less-than-rosy economic picture, and many companies favored variations on existing products over new ones.

Global sales of luxury furnishings in 2012 rose 3 percent to 18.5 billion euros ($24 billion).

That’s behind the 10 percent growth of the luxury industry as a whole, largely because emerging markets like China still haven’t gotten around to redecorating their interiors, which gives great growth potential to the sector.

A considerable number of delegations of  Chinese constructors and American architects were seen this year at the Salone. The big European and North American manufacturers that exhibit there are benefiting from sales growth in expanding economies of Asia and Latin America, but are also threatened by low-cost competitors in those regions.

Even the most prestigious companies have suffered as a result of the tough economic conditions, including Richard Ginori, the Florentine porcelain maker, which has a rich design heritage dating to the 1700s – went bankrupt in January.

Many of the survivors have considerable strengths, not least in their technical expertise, design prowess and imposing archives.

Yet the large groups are also struggling to adjust to an increasingly fragmented marketplace, and to pressure from consumers to operate more responsibly, ethically and environmentally.

Some of the most dynamic participants in the fair in recent years have been smaller enterprises, which specialize in particular materials or technologies, and are often more progressive on the environmental front. Several of the most interesting new products to be introduced in Milan 2013,  came from such businesses.

We will keep our fingers crossed for the return of an Italy with a balanced economy, with renewed self confidence, with new ideas, and a bright look at the future –  an Italy hopefully able to avoid a total blackout.


Smoke & Mirrors

city 0

Ever since the credit crunch, the furniture industry has put on a brave face during the Milan fair, but its bravado has worn thin after years of Euro-Zone economic crises and political turmoil in Italy.

It’s not surprising, since Europe – and Italy in particular – is mired in a seemingly endless economic crisis and the Milanese design brands that form the fair’s backbone are suffering.

None will admit it openly but there was lots of talk heard of possible four-day weeks, extended summer shut-downs and mothballed R & D projects.

The Milanese are masters of surface confidence – whenever I’ve asked senior figures asked about their company’s fortunes, the answer has always been a variation of the conspiratorial stock reply: “We’re doing well, but our competitors are finding things very difficult.”

As Stylepark cleverly stated … ” it’s like putting ham and cheese, between two slices of bread and calling it a design sandwich”


Move back to the Rho Fairgrounds

knoll at the fair

knoll salone milan

The one glimmer of light in Milan this year seems to be the Salone itself, which has been packed with visitors after several years in which it felt like an increasingly optional sideshow to the events in the city.

This was helped by the common-sense decision to at last present a high-profile and relevant design-related exhibition – Jean Nouvel’s Project: Office for Living show – at the fair itself, rather than in a remote Palazzo

The other crowd puller for 2013 at the Rho Fairgrounds was the cold weather – with the Fiera being under cover and offering one of the few warm and dry experiences in town.

Many spaces around the city were lifeless, devoid of ideas, and without verve this year.

There were so many different approaches and directions to be taken, yet no binding aesthetic doctrine = confusion  and design overload !!!!!

The “design rubber band” has stretched out too far and too wide around town now, so that the energy and time needed to get around to the key presentations is no longer worth the hard slog.

We think this trend back to the Fiera will snowball even further in 2014 as this newly recognised commercial principles of the Fiera’s reasons for existence will pull back some big design brands away from the city’s design districts – back to the Hub of the Salone in 2014.

It is where the large numbers of visitors can be guaranteed to attend – and commercial business realities again are spearheading the furniture trade in 2014 / 15


Four F’s

minotti  entry

This pride in the nation’s historical excellence in “furniture, fashion, food, and Ferrari” resounded throughout the week – as the solution to the ongoing national crisis.  

However there was a big drop from the creative point of view, proposals and innovations, obviously correlated to the design sector general crisis

Italy’s political instability has affected the design scene – as illustrated by the controversy over the dismissal last month of architect Stefano Boeri as Milan’s councillor for design, fashion and culture.

The Salone in 2013 was buoyed more by food, fashion and cars – than by furniture – adding further to the confusion of what design aesthetics are trending amidst the glorious chaos of the Salone



japan hand made most 2013 (1)

“Design” and “craftsmanship” are converging much more than we’ve seen in recent years.

The approach of “design locally but manufacture around the world” is evolving to ways of designing and building products that use materials expertise and the “craftsmanship” found in experienced hands or through sophisticated machinery or robotics.

After a time of growing distance between the designer and the manufacturer, there are more and more opportunities for a reemergence of traditional craftsmanship thanks in part to new digital tools and services based on our ever-more-connected world.


Digital Technologies

school of form (2)

Flexibility will become even more important to the furniture industry in the future as the development of digital production technologies transforms the relationship between designers, manufacturers and consumers by enabling the latter to influence the design of original objects.


In principle, those experiments could provide a useful resource for manufacturers, but it remains to be seen whether they will be capable of realizing their potential and if the current crop of socially conscientious young designers will want to work on the same commercial basis as their predecessors, or choose to operate independently as designer-entrepreneurs-activists.




donzella chair by michele de lucchi for depadova

Muted in style – Donzella, an armchair designed in a traditional rustic style with a solid ash frame and hand-woven paper cord seat by the Italian designer Michele De Lucchi for Da Padova.

While there is an inevitable appetite for all things new during the week, this trend for reissuing archive pieces shows no sign of abating

Generally-speaking it appears that the so-called top of the range companies are also pinning their hopes on the revivalist vogue, with peerless creations and significant artisan input providing “exclusive security” – the security deriving from objects from a bygone age, immune to obsolescence, guaranteed investments for any purchaser.

Revivalism, common to many of the manufacturers, is to some extent influenced by buyer insecurity. Equally appealing must be the money saved in avoiding the expensive and often lengthy process of research and development that goes into each new design

hat lights


Design Counterfeiting

china tour group

Organic forms and the use of “Handmade tradional crafts” played a major role at the Salone 2013, in demonstrating the quality of work not easily copied by the Asian knock-off companies who were again in Milan in droves.

Strong and popular discourse from recent Salone years has dwelled on the damage being done to Italian design by counterfeiting and mass production in China — an obsession that is subtly reflected in this years theme – which frames itself as a response to the “cultural uniformity,” or homogenizing effects, of globalization.

a taste of china

The rise of China is now leading to a second wave onslaught on Europe – that is the rise of inventiveness and original design from creative Chinese designers is beginning to be appreciated at the Salone.


Droogs’ ” teapot with handle” is a clever comment on chinese replication.

Dutch design protagonists Droog presented The New Original, a project where designers went to manufacturing capital Shenzhen to copy its often-counterfeited designs, showing how imitation can be a driver in innovation as well.


Trending Colours and Materials

trees go square

Milan – is Design and of course Fashion. So as can be expected trends cross the dividing line, meaning that not just fashion is colorful, but so is design. Thankfully the extreme swirl of color to be seen last season seems to have calmed down somewhat. Both in design but also in the world of fashion.

The dominant theme this year was not to do with products themselves but the increasingly sophisticated treatment of colors used for both products and room settings seen around the Salone

In times of economic uncertainty, maybe design goes color, following the lipstick index – according to which women in times of crisis love to go for red lipstick. Because powerful warm reds and oranges as well as tender pastels are said, in purely psychological terms, to stimulate and brighten the mood.

In our design saturated society a choice set of colors is one way of standing out from the masses – so alongside the many redesigns the “classics in new colors” are of course a comparatively low-risk way of playing the innovation game

Following all the non-colors that dominated homes and clothes in recent years perhaps we sense that we’re just thirsting for color.

2013 undoubtedly marked the return of a natural palette, especially a stunning range of greens (Pantone’s no.1 for this year is “emerald” )  that varied from muddy nuances tinged with yellow, to a petrol hue that borders on the blue. Then there were dozens of shades ranging from rope, mastic and mud, enlivened with hints of dirty red and mustard yellow.

Colours noted to be trending at the Salone were – dusty pinks / terracotta / burnt orange were the most dominant colours, closely followed by pastels, smokey blues, washed out yellow, pisstacchio. There was also a predominance of all shades of grey, warm and mixed with blue

This year designers were even more unanimous in their affection for natural materials, particularly marble in myriad shades. Seams of brass and, to a lesser extent, copper were to be found in abundance.

The continuing trend of quilted fabrics and contrasting/feature stitch detail was also evident amongst most brands

Another continuing thread that was evident was the utilisation of  vertical garden walls to bring the outdoors inside .


The Salone  – “Threats ahead”

salone milan 2013

It’s no wonder that, with its long history of craftsmanship in glass, leather, and so many other mediums, Italy is still the point of convergence for designers around the world, who are looking to leverage that talent for their own work.

That history, and the city’s almost palpable passion for design, give Milan indisputable primacy as the world’s design capital.

However the exhorbitant costs to stay in Milan during the Salone, the sheer sprawling scale of the Salone, the difficulties of getting to the divergent different design districts, the lack of co-ordinated communication, the difficulty with internet access and phone reception around Milan, have added pressure on Cosmit to get its act together before the newer design fairs of London and Kortrijk further erode the commercial viability of the Salone in Milan

The thing that most threatens Milan is Milan itself.

“It’s hard to take a group of Italians and make them all go in one direction,” he says. “That explains why we’re in a big crisis and why we are almost losing the importance of Salone del Mobile.”…Milan-based designer Fabio Novembre

“The city is really in need of someone who’s going to have a vision for the future,” says Joseph Grima, editor of Domus magazine

“To visit Milan during the Salone is to experience the Antithesis of design” …  Marcus Fairs


Highlights from Salone 2013

While there were noticeably fewer new products on show than years past, the quality and ingenuity was still impressive.

Our highlights from the fair include a range of innovative products that took risks as well as presentations that created atmospheres that appealed to the senses.

We love Jetty van Wezel’s drawn diary below,  recounting her journey around the Salone 2013 – enjoy !


1)  Tom Dixon’s MOST installation which turned the city’s National Museum of Science and Technology into an ambitious environment for innovation and culture during Milan’s design week is the most innovative new player for the Salone over  the past few years

The MOST satellite show, promoted by the eclectic British designer Tom Dixon and titled “Disrupting Design”, was intended to challenge existing industry norms and out-of-date marketing practices and to return more power to the designer.

Unlike his Italian counterparts, Dixon understands the digital forces that are changing the way design is manufactured, marketed and sold.


2)  Tom Dixon’s collaboration with Adidas was nicely presented among the trains at MOST.


Adidas, teamed with designer Tom Dixon to create The Capsule, a collection of sleek sports clothing that converts into luggage and camping equipment.

This includes padded parkas that convert into sleeping bags, hoodies that can be zipped into small pouches during travel, and a five-in-one overall design that converts to a coat, jacket, pant, skirt, or short.

Adidas said the collection reflected “both Adidas’ forward-thinking technologies and Dixon’s inventive style.”

“The teaming up of Tom Dixon and Adidas is an opportunity for grand exploration into the sport’s world expertise in performance, matched with British ingenuity, both representing unique craftsmanship and innovation.”


3)  Pritzker winning French architect Jean Nouvel spearheaded the trade fair’s highlight, “Office for living“, a project that instigates a new style of working away from the cloned office spaces we’re used to.


New work environments such as the home or warehouse were reconfigured and decorated with personalised style, which Nouvel intended to give the user more pleasure in life -a more human attitude to designing workspaces.

The immaculately conceived and styled room sets were introduced by four films discussing the workplace with Agnès B, photographer Elliot Erwitt, artist Michelangelo Pistoletto and writer and film director Alain Fleischer.


4)  The most opulent installation was in the cavernous space ( designed by dutch architect Rem Koolhaas) where Prada stages its fashion shows.

As part of Knoll‘s 75th anniversary celebrations they exhibited the furniture designed by Koolhaas and his collaborative architectural practise OMA

tools for life (2)

An exceptional display of conceptual thought and thorough exploration of atmosphere occurred at Knoll’s “Tools for Life,” –  a collection of counters and seating which are adjustable in height, rotatable or changeable to allow different degrees of privacy.

Koolhaas shifted scale to create 11 pieces of furniture – The “Tools for Life” – meant for home or office, include a dynamic counter — a stack of three horizontal beams that can be transformed from a screen-like unit to cantilevered shelves and benches that invite people to sit, climb and lean in.

Life is more mobile than ever, thanks to furniture that enables different environments to be created.

knoll prada

The avant garde design of the pieces was set within an environment of exaggerated accessories and color stories which helped solidify a singular vocabulary for the objects.

The vignettes were further expressed with large video projections that looped slightly subversive views from high-rise windows.


5)  Domus magazine commandeered Casa degli Atellani, the house where Leonardo da Vinci lived while painting “The Last Supper,” to exhibit Ramak Fazel’s photographs of the Milanese design scene since the early 1990s, including, of course, many shots of past Saloni.



6)  What A Wonderful World by François Confino for Samsung.

samsung 2

Visitors were handed a Samsung smartphone on entering this interactive world of illusions. Waving the phone at screens depicting a collage of natural and playful themes, would make various features pop out or move, much to people’s delight.


7)  Karl Lagerfeld – ” Little Black Jacket


It was the turn of Milan to triumphantly hosted the touring exhibition “The Little Black Dress: Chanel’s Classic Revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld.”

Karl Lagerfeld officially “cut the red tape” at the Milan photo exhibition, held at the Rotonda di Via Besana in Milan, an 18th-century historian who, besides being one of the most important architectural monuments of the Lombard capital, is also a location for an artistic performance by Chanel.


8)  The most impressive individual show this year was the vast, lavish, recession-defying installation by Dutch brand Moooi.

moooi unexpected welcome salone 2013 (13)

Moooi was standing out, but mostly because of the blow-up size of the show.

The art direction was a complete vision that not only presented their products, but offered a collection of cryptic vignettes which created the unease of a recent crime scene, while infused with a subtle sense of humour.


9)  Paola Lenti‘s exhibition “In the Key of Color” at the magical Chiostri dell’Umanitaria.

paola lenti salone milan 2013

Having visited first in the rain on Monday, our trip back was marked by abundant sunshine and warmth perfectly allowing the perfectly selected vivid hues of both indoor and outdoor furniture shine.

The installation featuring new items for the collection was playful and joyful, full of soft and welcoming shapes, while remaining classic and simple

paola lenti 2013


10)  A design-driven Africa came to life in Afrofuture, where the shop windows of upscale department store La Rinascente displayed the fictional story of a Zamibian space race, while talks and workshops on design technology in Africa were held in-store.

afro futures

Some of the week’s most dynamic events also put the spotlight on the global design discourse


11)  Dutch design protagonists Droog presented The New Original, a project where designers went to manufacturing capital Shenzhen to copy its often-counterfeited designs, showing how imitation can be a driver in innovation as well

droog milan


12)  Jasper Morrisons’ new line of indoor / outdoor furniture called Village for Kettal

kettal village chairs

Village, is an outdoor stacking chair by Jasper Morrison made of aluminium and comes with an optional fabric seat pad and backrest. The light weight aluminium structure allows easy handling while the neutral language of it’s form takes nothing away from the scenery. This chair pays respect to the long standing codes of metal stacking outdoor chairs while gently refreshing the look.


13)  Heineken returned to Milan Design Week for the second year and created The Magazzini, an experiential brand space.


Heineken also launched the second edition of its Open Design Explorations project which invites designers from around the world to collaborate on building the ultimate concept lounge bar.


14)  A table laid with fresh flowers and exotic food was the centrepiece of Patricia Urquiola’s installation at the Moroso showroom


A series of panels around the outside of the room revolved to reveal different patterns and colours.


15)  Salone Satellite -a way of rewarding the designers for their zeal and motivation and opening doors to the big players in the furniture industry, three years ago the trade fair organizers decided to start bestowing the design world’s young blood with the annual Salone Satellite Award, and have been doing so ever since.

satellite 2013

For the week, they pay up to 2,500 Euros for one of the 16-square-meter stands just to be able to vie with the competition and make the best impression with potential clients.


Of the approx. 330,000 visitors that take to the Salone del Mobile each year, unfortunately only a small % find their way to the 120 newcomer designers touting their new furniture designs to the public at the Salone Satellite.

satellite awards

They certainly prove to be much more refreshing and experimental than the furniture ideas to be seen in the rest of the exhibition halls, which are mostly made to cater to the tastes of the masses.


16)  But the young designers must go through all kinds of hardships to gain their place on the big furniture carousel.

esterni campers

Hotel rates were so high last week that the Public Design Festival set up a temporary campsite for designers doing it tight

Making their way across Europe in mobile homes, their trunks (and roofs) filled to the brim, or flying in from every corner of the world with bulky luggage in tow.


The non-Italian Trend Influencers

The Salone’s market importance and dominance stems from the network of family-run companies, prodigious home-grown design talents and highly skilled artisans who collaboratively turned Milan into the furniture design and production capital of the world in the post-war era.

Yet towards the end of the twentieth century the city’s stock of great designers mysteriously began to peter out – Sottsass, Castiglioni and their ilk left few protégés of note – and Milanese companies instead turned to foreign designers to design their products and give them marketing cachet.

Driven by aesthetics more than technology these days, big-name manufacturers are using foreign stars to inject excitement into their collections, bringing their own cultural sensibilities to the European-dominated manufacturing table.

This has led to the curious situation today where rival Milanese furniture companies work with the same promiscuous pool of international names, resulting in product portfolios that are often indistinguishable.

It is a story that begins in the postwar period, when some companies hunting for new began to call a handful of brilliant designers. At the beginning these were all local Italians. But after some initial successes, things have changed.

Italian companies recognised early on, that they are in an open and internationalized markets and face competition from all directions

To get more ideas and interpretations of different taste, better suited to pleasure abroad, brands made in Italy began to broaden our horizons and work with designers from all over the world.

When we talk about design made in Italy, today we refer to a reality in which Italians are trademarks, but designers are international.

jay osgerby

Companies that plan a production and realize with great expertise always looking for the best creativity without looking at their passport.

But they developed these collaborations without distorting the Italian features attention to detail, an industrial production valued from ancient know-how but evolving and by craftsmen whose skills he uses. A choice often rewarded with success.

But while the design world convenes in Milan for the city-wide festival of events centred around the Salone,, its nexus seems to have shifted, quite subtly – a new generation of global talents has emerged.


Now the companies themselves seem to be under threat from more adventurous designer / owner overseas operations that are making the running on the Italians’ home turf eg  Tom Dixon, Marcel Wanders.

And the strength of rival “design centric” countries is picking up pace – the Japanese, Germans, British, Dutch, and now slowly entering the market as are the genuine Chinese design companies. The traditional countries like Italy, Denmark, Germany are under threat from the emerging design specialty countries

Today, in times of crisis, this has become a bigger threat.

However in reality, Italian design is more alive than ever, only it has had to become increasingly international


The Starchitects were out in Force

When architects and manufacturers come together today, it is as a product of the marketing department. An attempt, using the brand names of the Olympian Gods of Architecture, to stimulate business and unlock new markets. Success or failure is measured not in mere sales but through the media impact that is generated.

Hence why the 2013 Salone del Mobile occasionally felt like being at a merchandising stand for the international architectural scene. A sellout of identity on both sides. Who is using whom here remains just as murky as the benefits that the individual parties will actually receive.

Unfortunately, the results of these collaborations hardly provide any answers to the questions of our time. The fast pace of the industry is therefore likely to mean many of these designs will fade rapidly into obscurity. ”  ……

Stephan Burkoff

hybrid presentation



The lines between design, fashion and architecture continue to blur. Houses, they say, are like the garments of life.

In their attempt to furnish these garments with linings and accessories by adapting their own stylistic idioms to the scale of furniture, contemporary architects can be seen to have largely failed.

Often their furniture designs are just a facile synthesis between their own architecture and design, sometimes they are just stereotypic reproductions of a certain aesthetic. They rarely produce any real creative novelty, being instead icons intended to convey an image. In some cases, these criteria might well lead to sales.

It can be presumed, however, that on their part the manufacturers are pursuing very different goals from that of just selling as many as possible of the design objects they exhibit.

rem koolhaas

rem koolhaas at knoll

What is undisputed is that many of architecture’s greats from the past have created exceptional pieces of furniture.

Modernism in particular, with Le Corbusier, Mies and others, proved that architecture together with furniture and interior design can – or indeed must – constitute a meaningful aesthetic whole. Because they ideally always proceed from a single need, goal or aim.

But there lies precisely the problem with much of today’s furniture by architects. There is no must.


Salone del Marketing

Some of the splashiest shows were bank rolled, not by furniture manufacturers but by car, fashion and technology companies hoping to attract the attention of the thousands of journalists, stylists and bloggers who had flocked to Milan.


Some years ago British designer Jasper Morrison suggested renaming the fair the “ Salone del Marketing.”

Thanks largely to the rapid rise and dominance of Apple products, which showed the world the importance design could make not only to product success but ultimately to a brand’s status and the company bottom line, design has become a crucial battleground for brands.

However recent years have seen more and more unlikely brands jumping onto the Salone bandwagon.

A slew of new –somewhat unexpected – brands have begun to create a presence at the event, in a bid to bolster there credentials in the worlds of design and innovation.

durex pop up store

Italian eyewear maker Safilo engaged architect Michele De Lucchi, who created a natural pinewood structure fitted with plaster casts of ancient figures wearing eyeglasses. The company’s participation in the design fair is meant “to underline we are fully part of the world of design.”

hybrid 13


Automobiles are still hijacking the Salone

ross lovegrove renault TwinZ

This years’ event saw brands such as BMW, MINI, Lexus, Renault and Hyundai collaborate with artists to create installations and artworks.

The world of the automobile is rapidly evolving – no longer is it sufficient to build reliable, well-engineered machines. Now cars need to be thoughtfully designed to express current trends and they have to at least be seen to be relevant. And it helps to be spotted mingling with the creative world.

What they exhibited – in other words how conceptual they’ve been willing to go – and the choice of designer partnership reveals a great deal about where they wish to position themselves. Some revealed a more daring side, others stayed close to the world they know best.

Car designers are forever noting their involvement with other design disciplines, of how they keep on top of trends and are involved in a discourse within the wider creative community.


It is here where they gain inspiration for their work, and understandably have long wished to get involved.

Shows like Milan don’t bring immediate financial gains, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a bit of creative kudos behind you, even in the hard sell world of the automobile, and the car world has wised up to this.

car seats

if you cant beat them – join them !


Milan’s Design Districts  = outside the Rho Fairgrounds 

duomo now restored

Milan salone

The term “FuoriSalone” is used to define the vast range of events animating the whole city of Milan during the Salone del Mobile.

This term was institutionalized at the beginning of the nineties, due to the action of “Interni”, the first design review to publish a guide in the month of April: the guide to FuoriSalone.

The FuoriSalone events around town felt much less busy than in recent years. Still, even a slightly slower Milan presents a bigger and more exciting design event than anywhere else in the world.


To list  ( let alone visit ! ) all the events held during Milan Design Week is now impossible, given the excessively large number and diversity of initiatives, between official and unofficial, including events organized by large international companies and small or tiny alternative exhibition set up situations in the most unexpected places.

To make it even harder to see the presentations across Milan, an extra diversionary twist was introduced this year by the arrangement between Cosmit and the Municipality of Milan – free public access to all the city museums for the first time.

salone milan 2013

It is essential to recall that this phenomenon is completely independent from the Main Fair “Salone del Mobile”: it is self-produced.

It has never institutionalized and has never been established as part of an overall efficiently co-ordinated and run organization.

There were many great presentations, and as always, more missed opportunities to see what was on offer.

The Italian dedication and enthusiasm for design and the global community that visits the Salone never ceases to inspire. What would Italy be without a great sense of theatre?


Zona Tortona

tortona map

tortona entrance area

From the early nineties, a lot of young talented designers moved into the Tortona District – bringing with them creativity and genius, introducing new ideas and communication skills

The Italian furniture heavy-weights seemed to have trimmed their sails this year, choosing to return to the Rho Fiera to present their collections instead of the satellite design districts like Zona Tortona.




Overall the Zona Tortona area in general was weak this year.

You could walk down Via Tortona without running the risk of being crushed to death. There were unfilled Exhibition spaces. Taxis were generally plentiful.

All these things would have been unthinkable in previous years

temp design museum zona tortna

Superstudio seemed to be suffering from a lack of “artist direction” and has been noticably in a negative trend for a few years now


Ventura Lambrate


As if events taking place in the City, Tortona and Brea districts weren’t enough, the Ventura Lambrate area has been gaining more and more ground since 2009.

In recent years Zona Tortona has indulged in all kinds of multimedia folly and has slowly dried up re product development / fresh ideas / theoretical propositions.

The glimpse of the “future of product design development” can now be more strongly found in the Ventura Lambrate design district –  which can now claim to have overtaken Zona Tortona as the rightful home of design’s cutting edge

ventura lambrate 5

Thoughtful and irreverent fringe shows have always acted as refreshing counterpoints to the commercial bombast of the Salone – – energy and sense of purpose – ideas rather than commercial realities

However it can also be said of Ventura Lambrate, that it probably presented an overload of prototypes from colleges and recent graduates. We soon drew tired of seeing too much academia from the students, left at the mercy of themselves, and the same schools that put their reputation at stake.

We do have to applaud the universities and young designers, who have substantially reduced the time it used to take to pick up on and adopt ideas and processes taking root in the design world.

Many of them are now committed to championing environmental, political or social causes – which s not bad. However it could also be stated that in 2013, there were too many displays bereft of meaning.

Even among the more or less young designers in attendance, in search of both an audience and of course a manufacturer, there was absolutely no sign of a new awakening, let alone a revolt. Quite the opposite.

ventura lambrate signs

Visitors were met with timid revisions and half-hearted copies and things that simply oozed a rather amusing sloppiness.

There was simply too little experimentation on show, no bolt for freedom from the dictates of the market and a preoccupation with “career management”.

salone milan food cart

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that small labels have to assert their position on the market too, which is not exactly an easy undertaking when there’s less and less cake to go round.

ventura lambrate (3)
The Brera District

brera design district map


The Brera quarter, beating heart of the cultural life of the city. It has the highest density of showrooms, galleries, locations and spaces dedicates to design in terms of art and culture.

Brera is the historical and artistic centre of the city, hiding among its winding streets a whole number of boutiques, antiques shops, curiosity and décor shops, attractions that have made it the favorite quarter for bohemians.

brera (2)

A creative and social itinerary in this suggestive scenario from Bastioni di Porta Nuova to Via Broletto and from Via Legnano to Via Montenapoleone, where happenings and events will be highlighting the value of craftsmanship of the urban fabric.

In this sense, the district will function as the perfect frame, with its selection of fine establishments and historical shops emphasizing the handcrafting vocation of the neighborhood in the world of design, art and fashion.

Looking, now more than ever, for ways of adding value to its products, there’s a renaissance of craft-based thinking within design manufacturing taking place. Where better to see this trend presented and discussed than in Milan’s leading design quarter, Brera, which has long been the cradle of artistic expression and craftsmanship

Brera corso como

10 corso como


The Brera is home to the Accademia di Belle Arti and the Pinacoteca, has for centuries been synonymous with fine art and the bohemian expression of the individual, who translates their personal vision into a visual, material form.

In the same way, pre-industrial craftsmanship, before the advent of the division of labour in the mechanised manufacturing process, was characterised by an intensity of individual thought, labour, problem-solving and personal pride. The resulting artefacts, with their honed quality, were precisely that – objects of quality.

Gli scatti di Stefano Leotta


Long popular with tourists for its cobbled streets, restaurants and resident fortune-tellers, you don’t need the gift of prescience to see what’s happening in Milan’s Brera quarter.

The past few years have witnessed the area become, beyond the annual Salone del Mobile, a highly credible design destination in itself, thanks to the many high-end design brands that have chosen to set up their showrooms in this historic city neighbourhood. And it’s a trend that looks set to continue.

brera outdoor village

Yet it’s fair time in April that truly sees the Brera Design District – the banner under which these premium-segment manufacturers, together with other quality-name brands who temporarily exhibit in a number of architecturally intriguing venues, join forces – come into its own, offering visitors a design experience that’s greater than the sum of its individual parts.

The 2013 edition, the fourth for the Brera district, is setting its sights even higher than last year’s programme, which saw a remarkable 100,000 design fans flock to the area


A strong focus of Brera Design District was food and design given the large number of renowned restaurants and historic bars. This was reflected in the Food Tours that were organized for the week.




The Salone & Food


Certainly the trend to incorporate food into each design districts marketing plans was more prevalent this year than any previous Salone.

The Design districts specifically organised events which focussed on the “taste routes” scattered throughout the city, and temporary restaurants, opened for the occasion,

Perhaps that took advantage of the otherwise vacant spaces !.

veuve caravan

Outside pavilion 9 at the trade fair centre, was an American Airstream travel trailer personalised in the unmistakable Clicquot style

milan salone 2013 food




Brera Food Tour

tortona 2

at Superstudio you could taste vegetable smoothies.


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Fashion & the Salone

Global fashion brands again tried to take over the Salone

This year,more than previously noted, the fashion houses weaved design and fashion in a series of events — organizing temporary installations and collaborations with famous fashion and product designers for FuoriSalone.

marc jacobs reimagined window

During the Salone some very well known international fashion brands unveiled their new home furnishing collections.These brands are now definitely trying to muscle in on the established furniture manufacturers

Fashion houses that already for many years have shown furniture lines eg Armani, Missoni  etc are now flanked by newer entrant brands creating a “design experience” through new partnerships and products and installations.


Noticeable fashion houses involcved in the Salone during 2013 were — Antonio Marras / Blumarine / Bottega Veneta / COS / Dior / Etro / Hermès / Krizia / The Pearl / La Rinascente / Louis Vuitton / Malìparmi / Marc Jacobs / Marni / Massimo Rebecchi / Patrizia Pepe / Pinko  / Pollini / Prada / Roberto Cavalli / Salvatore Ferragamo / Simonetta Ravizza / Stone Island / Tiffany & Co / Versace / Vic Matié / Vivienne Westwood



As a counter message to the fashion houses – Kartell’s Salone booth was a cleverly stylized facsimile of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an arcade strip of luxury shops in Milan, next to the Duomo

Where a shop window of say, Kenzo would be in the strip , Nendo’s name would be there.  Kartell’s designer’s had reinterpreted their name into a fashion house’s logo.



Street Style

fashion milan

The annual Design Fair in Milan, is a lot like fashion week—only with a lot more people, a lot more traffic, and, well, let’s be honest here, a lot less street style.

Milan’s extravaganza of design, Salone del Mobile, again inspired more than the furniture world.  The streets come alive with young people, installations and exhibitions. It’s a magic moment.

It’s no surprise that the Salone’s fixation on style and beauty has drawn within its visitors, a large crowd of equally stylish fans.

Franca Sozzani

Franca Sozzani – editor Vogue italy

Is it the sun that inspires them, the magical essence of great wine or the taste of la dolce vita, we might never know the secret ingredient to the Italian recipe of beauty, but it’s easy to see Italy is a nation sensitive to aesthetics and fated to create and carry on fashion, luxury and beauty

Lifestyle Mirror’s photographer Ottavia Poli hit the streets to snap the best dressed at this year’s design fair.


Proudly Italian, fanatically Milanese.

When walking down the streets of Milan you can not shake the feeling that time stood still here.  Not only do the overwhelming Piazzas and historical buildings remind you of the past, so do the people.

What ever their style, what ever their age and what ever their origins, Italians possess a particular and peculiar sense of beauty.


The Milanese man is the best billboard for Italian style – yesterday, today and tomorrow. A style meant to last and carry on in the future.

Milanese men look as elegant as their language sounds. A meticulously cared for style, masculine vanity at its best, a from head to toe tailor-made look.

photos above courtesy of

Elegance does not only reflect in the masculine image of Milan, but you just as often encounter female beauty in the streets of this fashion capital. Italian female elegance is the living witness of a great fashion heritage.

Time goes on here as well and influences of many cultures and styles colour the street view.


Italians love London and Brit style and you can not deny the obvious London street/ music industry influences that makae it all the way to Italy these days.

The Salone attracted a sartorial set that was more arty than fashiony, with denim, sneakers and combat boots rounding out the key looks

Dressed in black, a nonchalant yet well studied outfit, Doc Martins to give a traditional look an aggressive edge, Kreepers to transform a girly pose in a more daring one.


Parties during the Salone

chanel little black jacket  (2)

The Salone del Mobile is not just a trade fair. It is an enormous networking machine.

Milan serves as the pulsing heart, and design is the widespread theme that animates the entire town.

t-magazine party


tortona at night

a via tortona bar during the Salone

salone milan 2013


After the last party had finished. the last pannini was eaten, the last event was watched, the last drink was consumed and the last chair had been seen,  we returned home with a few enlightened  design trends and products in our keep, but more importantly we had been re-energised with the desire for renewal which comes from being exposed to a true melting pot of global ideas, research, innovation.






Caio Milano ……..  until next year ( hopefully a warmer week) ……  who is coming with us  ?

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