What a week!
If you’ve been following us on Instagram and Twitter, you know we ran ourselves ragged for another incredible Milan Design Week this year. Despite the less than perfect weather, 2019 proved to be another fantastic festival of creativity.
We came away with quite a few favourites we’ll share with you below, but before we get to that, let’s set the scene:
Brera Design District
The Brera District is one of Milan’s oldest and has, for centuries, been a centre for design and manufacturing. Every year it becomes one of the foci for Milan Design Week: the Salone Del Mobile.
This year, sustainability was very much on the Brera’s mind; their theme was named ‘Design Your Life‘, inspired by “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life”, the book by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans evangelizing the importance of instilling sustainable design into the consciousness of every designer and consumer.
Lambrate Design District
Then there was the Lambrate Design District! This area is just on its second year, partnering with NYCxDesign – New York’s May exhibition of sustainability and creativity.
That’s right: another whole district dedicated to Sustainability.
Lambrate’s new-comer status provides an amazing stage for new, young designers to set out their stall. For example, Promotedesign.it featured 100 young designers and fresh graduates, while the new online platform Trash2Treasure was launched with a series of sustainability workshops, focussed on ways to connect companies and upcycle waste materials.
BE SWISSTAINABLE by SWISS CHRONO GROUP was another fun installation, with narrator Pinocchio taking on the role of eco-sustainable warrior.
And that’s just two key districts dedicated to sustainability. Beyond that is the amazing Tortonna District – home to design schools and industrial chic offices such as the Armani Silos; the Quadrilattero della Moda, or Fashion District; the exhibitors around Porta Venezia and up to the Central Station;…
The list goes on, and eventually you get to the Fiera itself: Milan’s vast exhibition centre. Some 400,000m2 of display space, and judging by the blisters, we saw most of it.
Milan Design Week 2019 – Highlights!
The team from Ames have a clear and simple ambition: to bring traditional Colombian manufacturing and culture to the world. And the result is fantastic!
All over the country, entire regions still specialise in a particular crafts and traditional manufacturing processes, all the way down to specific forms and colours.
What sets Ames apart is their drive to pair these traditional craftspeople with international designers. This year’s input from Designer of the Year, Sebastian Heckner, who Ames invited to immerse himself in Colombian culture and traditions, resulted in designs that are a melding of traditional methods and modern forms. The result is an exciting international offering which also sustains traditional Colombian manufacturers.
Bethan Gray is an iconic, British designer.
Nature Squared is a company with 20 years experience in finding ways to reduce waste and encourage sustainable practices.
This year they combined their powers for an exhibition called Exploring Eden, which was truly one of the most exciting collections we saw this year.
Using scallop and capiz shells from the Philippines, abalone shells from East Asia and goose and pheasant feathers from as near to home as the UK, Nature Squared takes materials that would otherwise be thrown away and reimagines them as incredibly luxurious surfaces.
The more we find a market, the more we create a virtuous circle of jobs, appreciation for materials that were seen as waste, acceptance of sustainable practices, and self-belief in our people.Lay Koon Tan – Co-Founder, Nature Squared
Bulgari brought two installations to Design Week. The second was an impressive display of their iconic rings, which was all very well, but completely overshadowed by their spectacular installation from Argentinian artist, Tomás Saraceno in the Ulrico Hoepli Municipal Planetarium.
Saraceno’s installation consisted of a series of silver and gold spiders’ webs, playing on the cosmic origins of gold and the “cosmic web” of floating galaxies, or displayed within the pitch-dark planetarium, as the spiders continued to weave their webs and the sounds of their vibrations were amplified to the realm of human hearing.
It all sounds simple, but was an incredible featuring of natural beauty and conscientious design.
Fashion brand COS has been facilitating show-stopping installations for the last few years, and for 2019, they partnered with French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani to create one of the must-see events of the year’s Salone.
“Conifera” overwhelmed the imposing, sixteenth-century Palazzo Isimbardi, and it embodied the Brera’s theme of sustainability. Mamou-Mani combined 3D printing with compostable bioplastics to create each of the striking, 700 modular bricks; the juxtaposition of these cutting-edge elements with the traditional Palazzo made for a beautiful, natural light-filled summation of the sustainable aspirations of the 2019 Milan Design Week.
The Mauritius-based studio devised a beautiful collection of furniture not only inspired by the natural elements of the islands, but integrating them into their very fabric.
From bronze castings of tree branches to the exceptional utilisation of Mauritian sand in organic shelving, CYPRÆA’s entire exhibition (in amongst Rosanna Orlandi’s fantastic compound in western Milan) was a rainforest glade – a sanctuary away from all the hubbub of the Salone.
The DavidPompa studio has made a name for themselves by creating unique objects from unusual, challenging materials.
Their use of volcanic stone for the superb ‘Origo’ range of lighting launched at this year’s Salone is another example of this. Highlighting the stones natural irregularities and texture, transforming it into something that is at once simple – even obvious – but at the same time profoundly beautiful and unique.
7. Elle Decor
Elle Decor decked out the Palazzo Bovara for their exploration of ‘The Evolution of Workspace’. This exhibition was as practical as it sounds, but no less important for that. After all, most of us are liable to spend a third of our lives in the workplace.
The emphasis on digital features and remote team work, woven together with biophilic design elements and climate and lighting control solutions, all come together to demonstrate a series of innovative new ways we might prioritise healthy and efficient workspaces in the near future.
Golran were a great surprise to us as we wandered into their shop in the Brera. Celebrating 120 years of operation, this is one of the original ‘Persian carpets’, but they have kept with the times while respecting their traditions, and the result is exquisite carpets with minimal waste, no pollution and traditional craftspeople employed from Persia to Nepal and India.
But they don’t only make beautiful new carpets, they also have a line of “reloaded” carpets, enabling the decolouring and re-dyeing of old carpets for a new lease on life, rather than just waste disposal.
9. Green Wise: Stem
Green Wise was established in Japan in 1905 as a design firm focussed on bringing more nature into cities and homes. Now, in 2019, they’re attending their first Salone and they seek to join the sustainable revolution that is taking hold in Europe.
Stem comes from their ‘Slow Green’ initiative, highlighting not just integrating plants and flowers into design, but those that are naturally grown; something that industrial plant nurseries cannot afford.
Stockholm-based Hem is just 5 years old, but already boasts over 300 products available throughout the US, EU and beyond.
Their intention has always been to bring high-end design direct to the consumer, with an eye to minimising shipping, packaging and construction; and it’s that combination that we found most compelling.
Their understanding of and dedication to sustainable concerns, along with working with the very latest designers, like Max Lamb, Luca Nichetto and Pauline Deltour, leads to a really exciting collection for anyone looking for affordable, high-end design with a sustainable heart.
We were honestly shocked by just how good the Hermes pavilion was. Beautiful design coupled with exceptional workmanship, presented in a mock-Pompeii-like ruin… Everything was breath-taking.
Of course, from a ‘sustainable’ perspective, they may only rate particularly highly on the longevity scale, but why would you ever want to throw any of these pieces away?
The hard-wearing fabrics from ISKO were another revelation.
You’ve probably already seen (and possibly have worn) their fabrics. Their stretch denim material is already featured by the likes of Hugo Boss, Replay and O’Neill among others. But did you know they’ve set the bar internationally for sustainable textiles?!
We certainly didn’t, but were thrilled to experience their ‘Denim Soundscape’ installation, created by Chiara Luzzana, and to meet their Brand Director, Fabio Di Liberto, who kindly agreed to sit with us in the near future for a deeper dive into all the current and future ways ISKO intends to keep pushing sustainability forward.
13. Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton’s ‘Objets Nomades’ collection showcased experimental and innovative furnishings, with Mandala-inspired forms, meshwork and block colouring.
Of course, the items we were most excited to see were those designed by the incomparable Campana Bros., who have led the world with creative applications of upcycling for years from their studio in Rio De Janeiro. Their sofas and hanging chairs did not disappoint!
Moooi always brings an interesting perspective to their collections. Playful and yet high-end; deeply thoughtful, yet tongue-in-cheek, we can never visit Moooi without really needing a new sofa or lighting, and this was no different.
We particular loved their new line of Tokyo Blue denim work, using the unapologetically workman-like fabric on everything from furniture covers to wall-hangings. This collection is bound to mark another inflection point for upcycling’s move, not only to the mainstream, but into the high-end!
15. “The Litta Variations” – Palazzo Litta
The Palazzo Litta is another of Milan’s marvellously quirky venues, with rooms and wings added over centuries in a hodgepodge of styles, making it a perfect foil for the 60 or so different designers they hosted this year.
But this year, their show was stolen by the ‘Echo’ installation by Chilean architecture studio Pezo von Ellrichshausen. The inverted mirror pavilion reflected and twisted the courtyard’s baroque architecture, giving viewers a fabulously Inception-esque view of themselves and the building. Simple and perfect.
16. Riva 1920
Riva’s offering was less show-stopping, but no less sustainably exciting.
The recycled wood and durable designs are all gorgeous; imagine bringing these heavy chunks of nature into your home?!
17. Rosanna Orlandi
Rosanna Orlandi is Italy’s answer to Iris Apfel. Not only is she an iconic designer in her own right, but she is also a nurturer, drawing a whole host of like-minded designers to the various spaces in her studio complex in west Milan.
Orlandi is also a pioneer in plastic recycling and re-use, through her Guiltless Plastic initiative and her Ro Plastic-Master’s Pieces exhibition and Ro Plastic Prize; all aimed at bringing greater attention to designs and designers working with recycled plastics.
18. MateriAttiva: Iris Ceramica & School of Sustainability
Iris Ceramica is a manufacturer or long-lasting, hard-waring ceramics through low-impact, sustainable methods, and as one of this year’s major sponsors, we have them to thanks for the Salone’s strong emphasis on sustainability this year.
For their own exhibition, they went a step further, partnering with the architecture firm of Mario Cucinella, which also runs Milan’s School of Sustainability (SOS); a post-grad school for young architects looking to focus on all the very latest ways to heighten and implement sustainable practices in their projects.
The MateriAttiva installation beautifully employed the ceramics as more than an inert, man-made substance, conveying instead a sense of their timelessness and the ability to transform even the simplest of spaces (a dim corridor) into a cavern of wonders.
A German company with an odd name, Slamp took us be surprise. More than “just” lighting, Slamp’s environmental conscientiousness has led them to develop recycled (and recyclable) materials, which are truly breathtaking, when you realise: it’s not glass.
Chandeliers so lightweight that shipping and installation can be done single-handed. Modular pieces that can be part lighting, part installation art and part sound baffles for large corporate spaces. Foldable, mouldable plastics – compliant with international eco-friendly standards – that can give their designers a near limitless options when it comes to working with some like glass, but better than glass!
Last, but absolutely not least on our (alphabetical) highlights list for this year is Wallpaper*.
When we grow up, we’d like to be half as cool and clever as Wallpaper Magazine. Their exhibition – Handmade – has been a mainstay of the Salone del Mobile for the last 10 years and this year marks the end of that illustrious run… because next year, Wallpaper promises to launch a new display: ReMade! Dedicated to recycling, up cycling, and all things sustainable!
It’s exciting beyond words that design curators as prestigious as Wallpaper* are so wholeheartedly embracing sustainable design.
But for this final Wallpaper* Handmade, the emphasis was on “Love” and the effortlessly curated exhibit certainly left you with all the comfort-foodie, fuzzy-feelings you might hope for. From high-end jewellery and furniture, to the wood-carved, circular kitchen of your Robinson-Crusoe-meets-The-Jetsons fanfic and sofas that you want to take pictures of as much as snuggle on, this was a great exhibition that ticked every box you could hope for.
Honestly, we had so many more highlights than just 20, but if we don’t put an arbitrary limit to this list we’ll never get it posted!
Rest assured, we’ll be following up with the designers here and the many other brands and creators who are coming to grips with the many exciting new ways to employ ever more sustainable practices in the pieces and processes over the coming weeks and months.
Thanks Milan Design Week 2019! See you again for Salone Del Mobile 2020!