As with every April, Milan, the global capital of fashion and design, becomes the centre of the universe. The entire community gathers in this pulsating Italian metropolis in the northern Lombardy region to revel in a week-long celebration dedicated to everything design. With creativity at its boiling point, mainstream trendsetters go all out to cobble together the most fascinating shows; the kind of shows that not only makes a difference but also impresses.
The annual Salone del Mobile in Milan, otherwise known as Milan Design Week, sets the tone for the direction that the design fraternity will be headed for the year. The theme this year — “Be Human” — saw thousands of trumpeting environmental sustainability and technological advancements in living spaces.
From the most lavish budgets to the most exotic features, mainstream luxury brands, which included Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bottega Veneta and Bulgari, levelled the playing field along¬side global furniture purveyors such as Cassina, Hay, B&B Italia, Moooi and Poliform. The ‘battle’ wasn’t about being the best, but to find a balance where everyone can play a greater role in the sustainability of future living.
Fresh from Milan, here are some of the more fascinating highlights, which champion the various way of living in the context of tomorrow.
1. REFLECTION / STUDIO LABICS
Insisting on reversing the point of view, Studio Labics continued to question the relation¬ship between space and architecture through the installation called Visionair. Visionair communicated immediately with the space utilising mirroring materials that created a sense of abstract from the outside and immersive from the inside. The act of crossing a threshold, of entering an interior space, alluded to the image of the home, which essentially welcomes and protects.
2. ROOTS / BOTTEGA VENETA
Surprising, not really? Quintessentially Bottega Veneta, the eclectic inter¬section of tradition and innovation was depicted in elegant fashion by its creative director, Tomas Maier. The expression of the Italian art of living is essential to the culture of Bottega Veneta, with a collection that balanced the fundamentals of craftsmanship, design and functionality. Against dramatic murals, ornate cornices in beautiful chiaroscuro effect, Maier selected a palette of whites and romantic pastels to give the collection a fresh twist.
3. CHROMATIC / HERMES
Using more than 150,000 Moroccan Zellige tiles, the colours of Hermes were brought to life in subtle opulence. Employing the idea of a space within a space, the scenography, designed by deputy artistic director for Hermes Maison, Charlotte Macaux-Perelman, occupied the Museo della Permanente and has since become a hotspot for those on social media. Defining its bold and contrasting colours, the novel pieces of Hermes Maison stationed inside the individual spaces provide a picture-ready setting and a veritable feast for the eye.
4. FANTASY / BVLGARI
Bulgari made it pretty clear that they were breaking the rules this time. Presenting uber chic and forward design concepts, the Brera Design District transformed into a spectacle of hypnotic illusion, col¬ourful neons and an infinite spec¬trum of bedazzling reflections. The stunning visual adventure translat¬ed three key elements of Bulgari’s creativity — materials, modularity and colour — into three-dimension¬al spaces, interpreted by three icons in the design and architecture field: Ivan Navarro & Courtney Smith, MVRDV and Storagemilano.
5. REVIVAL / MOOOI
Inspired by the magnificence of bygone animal drawings from the Museum of Extinct Animals, Marcel Wanders revived the memory and imagination with a new collection that comprised fabrics, feathers, wallcoverings and carpets that seemed to bring exotic creatures back to life. The textures and story behind each print were striking features of Moooi’s new design language.
6. ATMOSPHERIC / COS X PHILLIP K SMITH III
We’re living in frenetic times. ‘Open Sky’ — a collaboration between COS and Phillip K Smith III — invited people to enjoy a unique experience with the Milanese sky and 16th century Renaissance architecture. The idea of a changing environment that shifts through the day in a constant state of flux makes life feel faster than ever. Smith elaborated: “The connective tissue between all of us and the world is the sky. No matter where we live, the sky is over our head. Slowing down as you step in, you walk through and build this desire to slow down so that you can see the sky change. Sit for a minute or an hour if you like, just to watch the sky. When was the last time you did that?”
7. TECH-OVER / GOOGLE
Google revisited a 20-year-old concept as it believes that the arrival of smart instruments will modify the way we live and give us the freedom to express personal behaviours and patterns. Debuting for the first time, Google presented a three-room installation that took its cue from trend forecaster, Lidewij Edelkoort, who in 1998 predicted that technology and home would combine for a lifestyle that would seamlessly blend the two together. The installation, a conversation starter, unveiled the relationship between today’s technology and our future humanity — something that will continue to be debated every day.
8. WHIMSY / LASVIT
Lasvit turned the decadent 19th-century puppet theatre Teatro Gerolamo into an out-of-this-world invasion for 18 glass monsters created by designers from all over the world including Daniel Libe¬skind, Nendo, Kengo Kuma and Yabu Pushelberg for the Czech glassware brand. Describing the project as “a show full of beasts, antiheroes, vicious genius minds, egos, outcasts and fantastical crea¬tures”, brand founder Leon Jakimic explained that Lasvit wanted to show the exceptional Monster collection in a different, edgy and daring way. The ‘Monster Cabaret’ also came with futuristic burlesque dancers set against a stage of glass, glitz and glamour.