Does craft exist at Milan Design Week?

Does craft exist at Milan Design Week?

For the last 12 years, I’ve made the pilgrimage to the annual Salone del Mobile otherwise known as Milan Design Week. The city welcomes 300,000+ international visitors to view the latest designs and trends from across the world. For me, its all about seeking out undiscovered talent, new materials and processes as well reconnecting with the great and good of the industry.  

This year, I made the bold decision not to visit the main fair. Yes I missed out on Salone Satellite (the dedicated area for emerging brands) but with limited time and 1000’s of city showcases, I concentrated on analysing the new Ventura districts, the rising Vie5 area located in the old town, old favourites such as Rossana Orlandi and the new showcase Alcova in the north east of the city.

My first port of call was Zona Tortona. Tortona as an area is no longer the ‘go-to district of Milan’ (hay day was circa 2007) however, there are always some gems to be found and the buzz in the evenings is always electric. Future Icons member Vezzini and Chen (pictured) was invited by Esh Gallery to present a solo show of their glass and ceramic lighting, installations and home accessories. Presented across two levels, this was a chance for visitors to meet the design duo to discuss projects and view collections in a large open space.

Wednesday morning soon came and I made a journey to the new show; Alcova – a presentation of new design from studios and galleries largely from northern Europe. Hosted in a disused panettone factory, I knew immediately this show would be my Milan highlight for 2018. I wasn’t wrong – even if you didn’t like the work on show, the architecture and shadows thrown around venue from the roofless buildings and sunshine instantly made one smile. Stand out studios included Bloc Studio, Sophie Dries, Studio Minale-Maeda and Bohinc Studio (pictured).

In the afternoon, I popped along to a firm favourite gallery of mine; Rossana Orlandi. Lady Orlandi is an absolute hero of mine and she has impeccable taste from the building and courtyard she owns to the collections she selects to present year in year out. Every corner is drenched in clever, pretty design from new to established design studios. She’s also championed craft more than anyone else in Milan since she opened her doors in 2002. This year (I’m going to be controversial now) I wasn’t as impressed as previous showcases. Maybe its because I’ve been wowed time and time again over the years and this year – it was just a bit same old same old. I did however love meeting Nada Debs (pictured) , reconnected with Ochre, marvelled at Pet Lamp’s new installation and I wanted to lick the colourful tables by Dirk Vander Kooij (pictured).

The following day I was lost wondering around the street of Milan’s Old Town to discover the 5Vie district of MDW – shamefully this is the first time I’ve ventured to this district (its been running since 2014). 5Vie hosts a mix of artisanal studios, showrooms, galleries and presentations by international collectives. Although there are quite a few questionable collectives of handmade jewellery groups and baggy clothing brands, I’m glad I persisted as I met some designers and small companies focusing on some understated craftmanship and technology. My favourite was Austrilian designer Elliot Bastianon (pictured) who presented a collection of one off DesignArt pieces of copper sulphate crystals attached to oxidised steel furniture pieces. Other notable mentions from the area include Apparatus Studio, Giopato & Coombes and the impressive Palazzo Stamskin installation by Studio GGSV & Serge Ferrari (pictured).

Following on from 5Vie, I ventured over (pun intended) to Ventura Future & Ventura Centrale. I’m not even going to comment on Ventura Future – my mother said if I do not have anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all. However, Venture Centrale was on a completely different level – a wow after wow. A series of installations presented in a row of disused railway arches. From giant wooden puppets to a neon and marble diner experience – this was well worth the visit after long days of trekking around a hot busy city. The top three for me: Stephan Hürlemann with horgenglarus (pictured), Surface in collaboration with David Rockwell and 2x4 & Fabrica with Pierre Frey.

Final thoughts…

I could have delivered you the same old trend report - Coral is the new pink, cane and rattan seating is back from the 80’s and rugs have replaced hanging artworks – but I wanted future visitors to MDW to gain an insight of where to discover high end craft and batch production design. I hope you’ve found this useful. Until next year, ciao for now Milano. 

Written by Future Icons Founder, Louisa Pacifico. Images courtesy of brands - click to enlarge