Color, craftsmanship and comfort at Milan Design Week

It is not a stretch to call Milan Design Week the world’s largest annual design event. The commercial anchor of the annual fair is the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the fair, held this year from Tuesday to Sunday at the Rho exhibition center, where design lovers, curators and the main players in the sector gathered to discover and reveal the latest products and furniture news from all over the world.

Within the city, a sprawling network of related events, collectively known as the Fuorisalone, results in a citywide acquisition teeming with gallery and showroom exhibits, pop-up installations, independent satellite fairs, and brand activations worthy of recognition. Instagram.

After a canceled 2020 edition and a slightly lackluster 2021 “Supersalone” event last autumn and postponed three times, this year the fair, which is usually held in April, marks the 60th edition of the Salone, and an important I’ll be back later COVID-19 has rocked the industry trade show calendar – not to mention the supply chain problems that soon followed.

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“This year is a restart with a lot of positivity and energy, and the joy of being together to experiment through design,” said Marva Griffin Wilshire, founder and curator of SaloneSatellite, the fair’s capsule program for new and emerging talent.

“This felt a bit like a transition year, although it is still unclear where that transition will lead,” said Aric Chen, artistic director of the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and former director of Design Miami. “It didn’t seem like there was so much focus on the ‘new’, in part because everyone was so focused on survival.” He noted that this year’s Milan Design Week felt more grounded in critical discussion.

“There is a palpable sense of sustainability and responsibility as normality,” said Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, especially between young and emerging studies. “There is a lot more discussion and even exposure alongside these objects – chairs, rugs and furniture – about their life cycle, which makes a huge difference. There are also installations and discussions on the role of design in society in general, without unnecessarily focusing on objects. But now objects are the Trojan horse for these topics, in a way that they weren’t necessarily before. “

“Sustainability has been a coherent theme here,” said interior designer Kelly Wearstler, with many established studios and brands such as Hermès, Martino Gamper and Dimorestudio “reimagining vintage works” or using reusable materials.

Even if the only certainty of Milan Design Week is that you can’t see everything during the week, this year many more people showed up than last year, demonstrating how much the fair had been missed. And as always, the key design elements paid off for the effort.

‘Slow design’

Both established and emerging designers and brands alike have embraced the multiple faces of craftsmanship from different cultures.

“I feel that whenever there is a big change in culture and technology, local crafts and means of production re-emerge in a very important way”, said Antonelli, “a kind of slow design that is similar to the notion of slow food. We still have the means of production that are industrial, of course, but now, in a sense, we have come to re-evaluate and appreciate ways of production that are not necessarily industrial. “

One exhibition that highlighted craftsmanship, identity and storytelling was “This Is America”, highlighting a diverse selection of independent American designers. Curators, Jenny Nguyen, Liz Wert and Alma Lopez, focused on the wide-ranging talent and intimate, sometimes touching dimensions of independent color designers. One work that moved Lopez personally was by Monica Curiel, a Mexican American designer whose artistic use of plaster was a significant nod to her immigrant father, a construction worker, and elevated her humble material.

Audrey Range, a Rotterdam-based designer, demonstrated the evolving advantage of hybrid craftsmanship with her “Emissive Chandelier”, the latest in her ongoing series of works made by combining digital rendering and 3D printing processes – a personal “digital sculpture “ technique, as she described it. The resulting work was an iridescent lavender, pale green and silver and with a rugged, glossy surface that visually resembled brocade. Meanwhile, famed designer Martino Gamper presented “Grafting (Rubbing on the Wrong Tree)”, in which he applied the plant grafting analogy to recycle a series of damaged 1930s vintage Cox furniture by inserting leg segments. of furniture and surface details to create a visual mix of old and new. “Sometimes, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel,” Gamper said, “maybe just a detail or a particular joint, like with shafts.”

Comfort creature

A slew of new sleep-inspired seating was unveiled by Los Angeles newcomer Otherside Objects, founded by Sam Klemick, a designer who switched to woodworking and furniture at the start of the pandemic. “I’m really obsessed with sleep and dreams, and with the fact that we spend so much of it our lives dream without even understanding or be able to make sense of it, ”he said. An oversized seating collection, featuring quilted duvet-like cushions and rounded conical legs, continued a motif of his work, reminiscent of mushroom stems and inspired by the geometric topiaries of an iconic scene from the film “Last year at Marienbad “, the classic 1961 French new wave film that takes place in an elliptical and dreamlike state. Intimately aware of the extent of waste from the fashion industry, Klemick’s designs use reclaimed wood and dead fabrics whenever possible.

Elsewhere, New York designer Eny Lee Parker debuted the Cloud chair in a group show presented by artist Daniel Arsham and StockX, the online marketplace of choice for hypebeast and sneaker head, along with fashion brand Wales Bonner, the Swiss company from USM furniture and others. Additional works that cradle and comfort the body, including the Peaches seating collection by Bohinc Studio, created with sinuous and voluptuous contours that celebrate the female form.tap into the desire for tactile connection, comfort and solace in an ongoing pandemic era.

Eye candy

“Across the board, this year’s use of color is really refreshing to see, where it was previously pretty monochromatic,” Wearstler said.

Despite all the uncertainties of the past three years, the perennial trend of sleek geometric shapes and colorful palettes has been a mainstay of the social media era. It’s an aesthetic that equally pleases the eye and translates well on screen.

Highlights among the many polychrome offerings ranged from the Pigeon table by artist Laila Gohar and Belgian design studio Muller Van Severen, a charming version of a buffet table created for entertaining, with colorful tiered and perch-inspired displays for Gohar’s childhood birds in Egypt, at “Monumental Wonders”, a colorful and multi-layered entrance from the OMA design studio with natural and semiprecious stones from the SolidNature company.

Others included India Mahdavi’s Loop chair, available in three colors, for Thonet, and a collection of vases and objects by independent designers, including Studio Berg, which was directly inspired by candy and sweets.

The Great Interiors

The mere sight of plants is said to promote a sense of calm. After the blockade of the pandemic that sent many months in isolation at home, the designers have embraced the serenity and evasion of pastoral environments and landscapes. With motifs ranging from waterways to botanical paintings and woodland landscapes, several designers shared collections that offered aestheticized interpretations of biophilia.

Calico Wallpaper has hit many of its own designs around scenes of abstract nature, including sunsets, lunar landscapes and flowers. For the company’s latest release, Tableau, a collaboration with interior design and architecture firm AB Concept, the team sought outside inspiration. Alpine mountain ranges dotted with conifers in a range of eight pictorial metallic hues are based on photographs that AB Concept founder Ed Ng took from his home in Karuizawa, Japan.

“We had just moved from the city to upstate New York during the pandemic and, like Eddie, we now live in a mountain home completely surrounded by beautiful forests,” said Rachel Cope, creative director and co-founder of Calico Wallpaper. “This idea of ​​bringing the outdoors inside is something we’ve always done in Calico, but due to the pandemic, we’re even more focused on bringing these immersive landscapes that can transport us to another place and time.”

This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

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