Having just returned from his fourteenth visit to Milan for what is still considered the world’s most important design event, designer Nick Rennie writes that this year was one full of hope.
The yearly migration to Milan by the world’s design community was most definitely an interesting one, with Europe’s economic hardships on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Speaking with many companies, it seemed to be the catalyst for breaking with tradition – looking at new opportunities and markets in the hope of escaping the depressive feeling among European manufacturing. Living in Australia we are incredibly lucky and have been largely sheltered by the hardships facing those in countries such as Italy.
For me, the fair this year was much more subdued, the focus being on quality rather than the flamboyance of five or so years ago. Over 300,000 visitors attend the event, which this year was broken in to two main sections, one focusing on furniture, the other on lighting.
To paint a picture of Milan during this week it would be one of events springing up all over town in showrooms, in disused manufacturing areas and museums… Some grouped together, others impossible to find – but definitely worth the effort when you do.
Along with the fair itself, the trip is a time to catch up with old friends, make new ones, eat copious amounts of amazing food and to enjoy the opportunities that we as creatives allow ourselves to get lost in.
I have included here a selection of my favourites, and in doing so, must warn that I much prefer the simple side of design.
Without question my standout product this year was by German designer Konstantin Grcic. His new OK lamp for Flos was sublime. An updated version of Castiglioni’s classic Parentesi lamp, for me it truly is the iconic piece from this years show.
In second place was an extremely humble product. Designed by GamFratesi for Cassamania, Compass is the most beautiful ladder/clothes horse I have ever seen. The moment I saw it I just knew I was in love.
As always the Bouroullec brothers, Ronan and Erwan released a range of new projects with two of them blowing me away. Theca for Magis, a beautiful system based on the technology used in their award winning Steelwood collection, and Workbay for Vitra, the most wondrous workstation system I have ever seen.
Australian designers anothersmallstudio were exhibiting in salone satellite, an area for young designers to exhibit and normally the most exciting part of the fair. Their work was beautiful, with their Omoto bench really hitting the mark for me.
Swedish company Offecct showed Circus a small table designed by Formfjord, allowing humour and emotion to really make you smile.
Karl Andersson and Sonar created a beautiful storage solution, simple and elegant.
This year’s Euroluce provided some real excitement. Included here are two of my favourites, a stunning blown glass range by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba for Foscarini inspired by paper lanterns and a task light by Zaven called Row. A bold and modern take on a task light.
Away from the fair, easily my favourite was an installation for DePadova by JoAan Tan. Oversized paper maquettes of the two released product ranges. Included here are versions of Luca Nichetto’s Deck chair range.
All in all it was just as expected, a long hard week filled with both positives and negatives… The overriding factor being the love of what we do and the fact we have the best job in the world.
By Nick Rennie
Furniture, lighting and product designer