Milan Design Week 2013 Highlights (Il Salone)

What happens in Milan does not stay in Milan... It is a true window on what's happening in the world of design and you can be sure that everybody is watching and getting inspired!

Wallpaper editor Henrietta Thompson puts it very clearly: "At a time when every city with even the teeniest signs of an emerging design scene is declaring itself to be 'the new Milan', the annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile still reigns head and shoulders above them all as the mecca. Because of Salone, one week in April now marks, in many ways, the beginning and the end of the Design Year, as designers, makers, artists, commentators, and in fact anyone in need of an innovation shot is drawn like iron filings by a strange magnetic force to Italy's industry capital to see and be seen, collecting business cards and cocktails as they go. With hundreds of events and exhibitions taking place around the city, as well as - of course - all the fun at the fairgrounds to absorb, navigating it all can be tricky."

Last year we had published some highlights that you loved reading so we are back this year with, hopefully, another colourful and inspiring guide! We have reduced comments and text to the very minimum so that pictures and design itself can speak.

Let's get started and, in no particular order, we have been impressed by the following exhibitions, products and designers:

Wallpaper* Handmade at Leclecttico

"Wallpaper* is a magazine at the cutting edge of design and style. Renowned for its beautiful, inspiring features, it is the leading authority on international architecture, design, fashion and lifestyle. With the Handmade project, Wallpaper* has developed an inspired design project to bring together the best in the global artisanal world, injecting a healthy dose of contemporary thinking to realise some unique one-off collaborations. Currently in its fourth year, Wallpaper’s ambitious, never-been-seen-before project is based on the idea and notion that more and more people in today’s modern society are demanding a unique way to stand out from the crowd. Since Handmade debuted in 2010, Wallpaper* has commissioned over 300 pieces and products by some of the world’s finest craftsmen, designers, producers and manufacturers. They also attract approximately 5,000 visitors per year to the exhibition which makes up part of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile design festival." (source Amtico)

Among the most remarkable collaborations, we have selected these ones:

Shanghay' chair

"Designed by KiBiSi and produced by Hay for the Danish pavilion of Shanghai's Expo 2010, the 'Shanghay' chair is made of four folded plywood boards. A new limited edition, a collaboration with fashion brand Wood Wood, allows users to design their own by buying the chairs in various colours then mixing and matching the parts."

Wallpaper has also collaborated with Kyoto traditional Houses, including our Japanese brand partner Kaikado, so we can only invite you to check out the stunning Japan Handmade collection. We were particularly interested in this part of the exhibition as we had already spent a few months developing our own collaboration with Kaikado, which is now available online as an exclusive "travel set tea caddy".

Japanese tableware, by Takahiro Yagi, Nobuho Miya, Hidetoshi Takahashi, Yoshimasa Shibata, Akito Akagi and Analogue Life 

"Wallpaper* has a long-standing love affair with Japan and its commitment to traditional crafts. And while there is an older, more established generation of artisans who have devoted their lives to their craft, there is a very welcome new wave of young designer artisans taking traditional skills into new territories. Part of this resurgence has been due to the increasing number of collaborations between companies, designers and artisans aimed at producing new pieces using traditional techniques and materials. It therefore seemed fitting that Wallpaper* Handmade would curate a special Made in Japan section. They enlisted Ian Orgias of Japanese homeware specialists Analogue Life to help produce the collection, and invited five artists to customise examples of their products with the Wallpaper* asterisk. Each of the artists is at the top of their game while, as the products clearly show, staying true to the spirit of traditional handcraft by creating designs that would fit neatly into a contemporary home." (picture: Nice Images)

International bike, by Kinfolk and Coat, with saddle by Brooks and Kara Ginther

"Despite the perils of potholes and truckers' blind spots, team Wallpaper* are committed urban cyclists. So committed that they commissioned a bike that could be broken down, packed in a bespoke bag and loaded on a plane, with no excess baggage charge, and taken with them wherever they went. The project pulled in a wide range of craftsmen collaborators from the US, UK and Japan -- frame builders, designers, paint specialists, saddle makers, leather carvers and bag and luggage makers -- to ensure that every element of the bike was as beautifully put together as it could be." (picture: Nice Images)

Walking bookcase, by Wouter Scheublin

"Some books are moving. Others are meant to be moved. team Wallpaper* so loved Wouter Scheublin's clever walnut 'Walking Table' when it was displayed at Design Miami last year, they asked him to create a similarly mobile bookcase to store the Wallpaper* City Guides. The movement is based on the principles of the walking platform devised by 19th century Russian mathematician Pafnuty Chebyshev. Basically, when pushed, the legs carry the object along using a complex system of cranks, links and connecting rods." (picture: Beppe Brancato)

'Moor-owl' fountain pen by Stefan Fink

"Handwriting is fast becoming a lost art, and so it seemed particularly appropriate for Wallpaper* Handmade that they asked Stefan Fink to create a fountain pen. The Hamburg-based craftsman designed an elegant instrument (above) made from stainless steel and 3,500-year-old moor oak from the River Elbe, which flows through the city. He also created a display board for the pen, from the same oak. This is the first time Fink had worked with this wood, which is cracked and very sensitive, making the turning a slow, delicate process. The pen's curved shape was inspired by the 'life flow' of the river. And to ensure every word flows smoothly from it, Fink inserted a medium nib of rhodium-plated 18-carat gold, made by Heidelberg nib-making company Peter Bock." (picture: Nice Images)

Polar bear rug, by Form Us With Love and Bolon

"A traditional bear rug, with a not-so-traditional method of design and material of production. Using Photosynth, a software that enables a picture to be converted into 3D, and then reversing the process through Pepakura Designer (a software used by paper-modelling craftsmen to create fold-and-tab geometric cuts-outs for paper crafts), design collective Form Us With Love turned an image of a polar bear into a design for a rug. The rug was then made out of white vinyl flooring. More complex, perhaps, than shooting and skinning, but better for the bears." (picture: Nice Images)

Wallpaper* also issued a fairly flashy issue during design week, featuring the Salone stars.



MOST by Tom Dixon offers for the second year so many things to see, touch and experiment! 

You can find a fairly comprehensive summary on Dedece design blog and Dezeen.

Influential designers including Tom Dixon, Marcel Wanders, Yves Behar, and Konstantin Grcic discuss the importance of Milan design week in the video below, and whether it can retain its title as the world’s leading event ! 

Milan remains the only place where you can still see everybody in one go,” says Tom Dixon. “Whether it can maintain that top spot … is hard to tell. It becomes impossible to navigate the city, you can’t get a taxi, you can’t get a hotel room and you can’t afford space to show your goods.


Rightfully so, Tom Dixon does not forget to push forward his numerous new creations that launched at MOST, like the new tea set that was being used in the tea room set for the event. The Eclectic Form Tea set is a six-piece set all formed in solid brass including tea pot, jug, tea caddy, milk jug, sugar dish & spoon and tray.

But Tom Dixon also launched the "Disrupt Design Contest" with Sculpteo and Dassault Systèmes, an open design contest for international designers, to encourage the online community to participate, contribute designs and to be inspired by the creativity offered by 3D printing. In a bold move, Tom Dixon gave participants access to the design files of new products, and challenge them to re-configure and remix into different functional objects. The winner will be chosen by the jury on July, 31st.




The new idea by Philippe Starck? A hat that becomes a lamp. The French designer created Chapeau, the new table lamp for FLOS, presented at Euroluce 2013, during the Design Week in Milan. The irreverent and a bit retro gesture of throwing the hat on the closest piece of furniture - remember scenes from famous films? - is immortalized by Starck who made it an everyday object, original and simple.

The designer attended the exhibition during the Design Week and Borsalino has been pleased to grant, for the creation of prototypes, some of its models, which have become, albeit temporarily, the elegant and sophisticated shades for the new Chapeau.
"One year after its launch during Salone 2012, La Chance is back in Milan to present 10 new products: tables, seating, shelves, but also a new range of lighting, a rug, and some accessories. The French brand carries on developing a distinctive style with references to Art Deco with a great variety of materials in graphic and decorative yet practical designs." For a good review of the full collection, read the Dezeen article.
Beijing based architects PIDO 众产品 (People’s Industrial Design Office) have created for La Chance a surprising tilted wall system.

The Borghese coffee table by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance is also very pleasing, and it matches the eponymous sofa.

Borghese coffee table by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance



"BMW i and French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec invited the international public to experience the installation QUIET MOTION. Visionary design based on sustainable materials and generous space. That's how you can summarize the installation." Based on the comments submitted by youtube viewers it seems that this lounge installation was not everybody's taste so it is up to you to judge how relevant it might be for BMW as a concept... To know more, you can refer to the designboom article.



"The Foster 520 follows a series of successful collaborations with Walter Knoll and is the first in a new family of chairs developed specifically for manufacture, rather than for a particular project. Drawing on both traditional craft techniques and modern production methods, the high-backed leather armchair is designed to suit a variety of either office or residential settings and features a separate foot stool. The armchair is based on three flat patterns, which are cut from leather and stitched together to create a single, flowing piece of furniture with the minimum amount of different surfaces. Its form derives from ergonomic studies and a series of prototypes; its refined linear profile is designed to visually reduce the chair’s bulk. Offering the texture and comfort of a traditional leather armchair, the outer shell is made of tough saddle leather, with a contrasting soft upholstered interior – the chair can be specified in a variety of colours, materials and combinations."


"Hermès is enriching its universe for the home: 'Les Nécessaires d’Hermès', a range of cleverly-designed, comfortable and multi-functional pieces of furniture, imagined by French designer Philippe Nigro." Hermès has unveiled a new collection of furniture, fabrics, wallpapers and unique bespoke pieces, exposed in an unique construction created from superimposed origami houses. For a deeper insight, click on the designboom link.


The Andes House is a design studio based in Santiago, Chile. Our friends at anothersomething spotted these lovely wooden household products. "Las Doce is a line of tableware – dishes, plates, and mugs – all made from a single piece of wood, hand-carved by the Mapuche artisans in Chile. The ‘hammered’ structure of the outside and the beautiful colors are lovely, and although these are still prototypes, hopefully they will go into production soon!"


The exhibition was created by Bang & Olufsen in collaboration with Pal Zileri & Hosoo. They share the vision that craftsmanship "beyond the ordinary" is what we all strive for every day, each in our own way. You can see on the picture some of the materials that evidence the great attention to details and constant research for innovation. For instance, the BeoPlay A9 on the left did receive a very unusual treatment.


'Jar RGB' by Arik Levy for Lasvit. The Czech glassmaker is presenting pieces from its new 'Lasvit Constellation' collection (picture: Jessica Klingelfuss).

Jar RGB by Arik Levy for Lasvit


"A new voice joins the Kartell designer chorus, Christophe Pillet. For his first Salone with Kartell he signs the elegant line of vases and table centres called Shibuya made of coloured transparent PMMA. The line includes two models distinctive for their use of a perforated lid by which they can transform vases into bowls or table centres. Both models have three bands of colour and are displayed in three possible colour combinations of base and lid." (source Nykyinen)

Shibuya vases by Christophe Pillet for Kartell

"Zaha Hadid folded a round sheet of plastic to create this chair for Italian brand Sawaya & Moroni. The single indigo-coloured sheet has been creased along two lines so the edges almost meet at the back, then bent in the middle to create the seat and backrest. Edges that touch the floor have been levelled to stabilise the chair." (read the Dezeen article)

Kuki Chair by Zaha Hadid


"Researchers and engineers at MIT Senseable City Lab, Cambridge, in collaboration with The Coca-Cola Company and Barcardi rum, have designed a robotic bar, capable of preparing approximately one googol (equal to 10 power 100) crowd-sourced drink combinations. The project, called "Makr Shakr", was developed with the endorsement of “World Expo Milano 2015 – Energy for Life. Feeding the Planet”, and was tested during Milan Design Week before being unveiled in its final form at Google I/O in San Francisco (on May 15th, 2013).

Visitors to the Galleria del Corso were invited to download an app to their smartphone or tablet and create their own recipe before sending it to the robots to be mixed up. "The number of combinations is almost infinite, especially if we take into account the machine's precision of measurement," said Yaniv Jacob Turgeman, project leader at Senseable City Lab."

Watch the cool video and read the Dezeen article!

Makr Shakr - The 3 Robotic Bartenders

This year, probably because of the uncertain market and small budgets, some designers were keen on offering small but smart details and inventions. The result is a mix of flattering shapes with straightforward materials.
Mirrors by Zaven for Secondome Edizioni

"Jaime Hayón based the form of the Catch chair on the image of a human figure with outstretched arms. Produced by furniture Brand & Tradition, the chair is composed of a moulded polyurethane-foam shell, which is covered in cold cure foam and then finished with either leather or textile upholstery. The legs are available in white-oiled or black-stained oak, while the upholstery comes in various finishes, from a naked shell to pigmented leather or wool in a broad range of colours." (read the Dezeen article)

Catch chair by Jaime Hayón

Hayón also presented "aluminium and terracotta outdoor furniture designed for BD Barcelona Design. The handmade terracotta flower pots have smooth sculptural shapes and a white watering can has two golden handles and a golden spout!"

Gardenias collection by Hayón for BD Barcelona Design



"German designer Ingo Maurer's table without any legs has gone into production with British brand Established & Sons. Ingo Maurer devised a hidden mechanism beneath the table that allows the chairs to be pulled out so users can sit down. Rectangular and circular surfaces are available." (read Dezeen article)

Floating Table by Ingo Maurer


As a conclusion we invite you to review Yatzer and Dezeen highlights, two of our own favourite design blogs, and both friends of Jardins Florian! Equally interesting is the video put together by Wallpaper to provide industry insiders' take on the fair.

Last, as many complained about their practical experience during the Salone, including Marcus Fairs (Dezeen) and Tom Dixon (see above), it is worth looking at how the city and the fair are going to react with a view to keeping the leadership as a design destination. In a strong article debating the Italians' capacity to remain on top of the design world, Marcus Fairs states that: "The most innovative new players over the past few years have been the Dutch-runVentura Lambrate district and the MOST exhibition at the city’s science museum instigated by British designer Tom Dixon (and this year sponsored by US online retailer Unlike his Italian counterparts, Dixon understands the digital forces that are changing the way design is manufactured, marketed and sold. But the thing that most threatens Milan is Milan itself. The city treats fair visitors with contempt, allowing hotels to more than double their rates during the week, fleecing exhibitors with permits, bamboozling them with red tape (such as the Byzantine impossibility of getting a licence to sell products direct to the public) and doing nothing to help baffled foreigners negotiate the arcane taxi-booking system or the complex public transport network. There is little evidence of curation across the city, with good shows mixed up with dreadful ones. Cosmit, the company that owns and operates the Salone, has appeared to lose touch with reality in recent years, commissioning lavish cultural spectacles in the city or organising sprawling press trips that had no relevance to the business of selling chairs and lights."

You can read the answers from Claudio Luti (new president of Milan's Salone Internazionale del Mobile) to Marcus Fairs to get a deeper understanding on this issue.

See you next year in Milano, or not...