Fashion week and the furniture fair are Milan’s two biggest calendar events – and both bring traffic to a standstill. Yet while the former takes place behind a velvet rope to keep onlookers away from leggy models, during Salone everyone is happy to throw open their showroom doors and let the public plonk themselves down on their latest creations.
This year the crowds gathered, as usual, in Via Durini to peruse B&B Italia’s latest furniture offerings, including Gabriele & Oscar Buratti’s pared-down leather Doyl chair. A few doors down, Meritalia offered a sharp contrast with Gaetano Pesce – who already made waves this week with an installation showing Italy nailed to a cross – unveiling a sofa inspired by the uniform of a court jester. It was positioned next to Fiat scion Lapo Elkann’s first stab at design: a kitsch two-seater mimicking the front end of the carmaker’s iconic 500 model.
Other brands eager to play included De Padova, with a wind-swept display to launch its all-purpose Florinda chair by Monica Förster, in a riot of pastel finishes. And plenty of creative sparks were ignited by Swiss design school ECAL, whose students collaborated with both big names (Alessi and Baccarat) and small (Ewo, an outfit making public lighting in South Tyrol).
Established galleries held their own, with Spazio Rossana Orlandi finding room in its crowded space to showcase kitchenware from Naoto Fukasawa’s PlusMinusZero and Jasper Morrison’s alarm clock and phone for upstart Swiss electronics brand Punkt. But as the week has gone on, some of the biggest news from this edition has been trickling out of smaller galleries and venues in the Brera district – a strong contender to take Tortona’s Fuori Salone crown.
French luxury goods maker Hermès premiered its first collection of furniture at the sought-after La Pelota space inside an intricately assembled wood-and-paper pavilion, designed by Shigeru Ban. Inside, a steady stream of admirers shuffled through to get a closer look at Enzo Mari’s elegant office, composed of a subtle wing-shaped desk, side table and seating covered in bull calf leather and Canaletto walnut. The furniture will be produced by B&B Italia.
Elsewhere in Brera, less noble materials were getting the once-over from designers. Portuguese cork producer Amorim tested the waters with its Materia collection, featuring 22 objects made from sustainable material that ranged from a fruit bowl by Nendo to Big-Game’s bathtub toys. A few blocks away, Big-Game made another appearance – in the form of stackable stools – for Japan’s Karimoku New Standard, a company that works with sustainable wood to protect the country’s diminishing forests.
In a stark, all-white art gallery, the brand exhibited furniture along with photographs of domestic life in Japan, mixed with images of the recent earthquake. “It’s nicer to be here and stay away from Tortona this year, which has become something of a zoo,” says David Glaettli of Osaka-based studio Teruhiro Yanagihara. Given the crush of corporate tie-ins around the city this week, Brera provided a much-needed breath of fresh air.