Every April he global community descends on one Milan for Salone del Mobile, a design celebration unlike no other. From the outset, entry to the official Rho Fiera exhibition ground is the first challenge to conquer – those not pre-registered join snacking ticket booth queues, inching slowly whilst enduring the obligatory 1-2 hour entry delay – and those arriving with ticket in hand soon find there is NOTHING ‘rapido’ about the express entry program!
Day one of the exhibition brims with design superstars – with Jaime, Marcel, Yves, Dror, Karim, Philippe, Lissoni, Sebastian, Tom, Rossana, Newson, Konstantin, Tokojin, Nendo … all in attendance! Our favourite was the BOLON installation curated by Jean Nouvel - creating virtual renditions of himself that grad the floors, walls & ceiling!
Kartell showcased a sombre display of safe, commercial pieces that continue to push materiality, with designs that evolve new manufacturing techniques in plastic. Original sketches (that were a tad more inspiring than the end result) were exhibited with reissued archival works, a highlight being the reissue of the 1964 classic by Joe Colombo.
Missoni Home always delights - this year elevating knitted textures to new levels with the addition of digital print knit upholstery, set atop jumbo knit carpets; & a sneak peek of the new outdoor collection that was developed for Missoni Hotels in the Middle East.
There are a few contenders for the ‘nicest guy in design’ monicker – Tokujin Yoshioka, undoubtedly is up there at the top of the list. Ever calm, relaxed, and ready with a smile, revealing he’s embarking on yet another project for Issey Miyake.
Half way during Day 1 exhaustion sets in – time to bond with Pratone at Gufram - the brand formed by a renegade group of artists, famously ‘anti-design’ who held a single sell-out show at MoMA in the 1970′s before permanently disbanding. Gufram, recently liberated from being under the umbrella of the Poltrona Frau Group, held their own in the main design halls.
Pratone is radical for being the first plastic product to be finished in automotive paint – one of the many examples of Italian furniture design evolved from innovations in the well-established automotive industry – and their explorations of how to enter the home furnishings market.
The ‘Sofa of Salone’ – so far – is by Front at Moroso. Carpets are also strong this year – interior stylist & author Sibella Court, pours over a book on Spanish artist Chillida – a selection of his famous paintings now released by Spanish brand Nani Marquina – the collection being classic, contemporary and beautiful. Other carpet highlights include Paola Navone’s signature blue, with prints and stripes in a superbly styled installation nearby.
Vitra - renown for hosting one of the best art directed presentations at Rho Fiera – this year fusing classic designs with contemporary pieces, each carefully art directed setting accessorised with imagination.
In tough financial times, factories often opt for the ‘existing product / new finish’ model (as opposed to the massive expense of launching an entirely different product. At Vitra the Hella Jongeriu-designed Polder Sofa is anexample of this working well – a collaboration that revealed refreshing texture and pattern melding, a great counter-balance to all the sea of colour blocking seen elsewhere at the fairgrounds.
The experiences are so varied – here Sibella is listening to plants grow. As media – remaining sombre in such circumstances is, well let’s say, essential, but not easy ….. yes we really were listening to plant grow – go figure?!!
After trekking miles (literally) through the main design halls, ones arms grow longer by the hour, laden with catalogues, press kits and samples, the weighty press bags swiftly stem all desire to segue to the fashion precinct for shopping respite.. Well almost anyway….
At the end of a successful first day, one is ready for collapse.
IMAGES // Anne-Maree Sargeant (c) The SNAP Assembly