Open-Armed Milan

By Jo Phillips

Milan, it’s fair to say, is one of the most famous cities in the world when it comes to style. Known as one of only four internationally recognised centres of fashion, it is a city that ‘holds’ a frisson of mode, debonair, trend and spirit in its very air. As well as this it hosts the most important design fair in the world, where visitors and exhibitors gather at this voluptuous event together. The city opens its arms to the world welcoming a universal array of talent that sits alongside its own. Particularly interesting considering how long the history of style is in this glorious town is that special emphasis at this world-famous event Salone del Mobile has given to young aspiring talent.

From the 12th century until the 16th century, Milan was one of the largest European cities with major trade and commerce and therefore went on to it became the capital of one of the greatest political, artistic and fashion forces in the Renaissance. Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan from Mediolanum in 313 AD, granting tolerance to all religions within their Christian Empire. This open-armed approach is still part of what makes Milan such a great city. At its heart, it carries the very best of its Milanese spirit whilst welcoming those from across the world to share in its glory. Salone del Mobile sums this spirit up better than none.

The fair celebrating its 61st year is back healthy and vibrant this April after shifting its dates last year saw a passionate return of a plethora of talent, press and buyers all excited to dive in. Companies coming from more than 24 countries from around the globe come together to ‘Be Design’ within the 24 halls.

The fair for those that have never visited is huge covering over  753,000 sq m making it daunting for an initial visit. This year navigation was aided by several distinct areas. and a downloadable app for navigation purposes. One highlighted area was a lighting section dedicated to showing the best in this arena. One of the most dynamic parts was put together by Marva Griffin in a platform titled SaloneSatellite.

Founded in 1998, SaloneSatellite is dedicated to the under-35s. the Salone del Mobile which aims to facilitate the relationship between business and young designers preparing to enter the profession, post-study, and the market. If you are looking to see where design is going then this hall is a great place to start.

Unsurprisingly everything from maximalism to designs via algorithms was pretty much all wrapped in conscious eco-green initiatives. These talents, however, don’t look to emphasise these credentials they are just part and parcel of their design language, new technology meets sustainability and is just knitted into their world.

Spread across areas 13 to 15, sat a dedicated area for young talent. Here, as an important interface, between young designers and businesses with the ability to also connect with global press and buyers to get their ideas out in the world. For Salone 23′ 550 designers all under 35 from 31 different countries, along with 28 Design Schools and Universities from 18 different countries were present. Many looked back at their cultures and bought historical techniques onto the modern world

Take for example the Tatami ReFab Project

Tatami mats, which have been used in Japanese living environments for centuries, are made from plants that are fragrant and have the ability to adjust humidity and reduce odours. A truly ancient craft used as a flooring material in traditional rooms or to be slept upon. Originally a luxury item for the nobility they gradually were popularized and reached all homes toward the end of the 17th century.

The Tatami ReFab Project by the group Honoka is made up of voluntary product designers who have come together to revive and re-embed the craft of Tatami into modern life using 3D printing technology. This collection of furniture is made from a material made of recycled tatami with biodegradable plastic. A resin that is made from sugar cane.

Tatami a truly ancient craft, is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms or to be slept upon. Originally a luxury item for the nobility it gradually popularized and reached the homes of commoners toward the end of the 17th century. A type of woven grass that was a craft passed down for centuries but has in recent years become a dying technique.

Sori and Mukuri are knitted tatami-resin furniture. They are traditional Japanese shapes and textures by Ryo Suzuki, Chigusa is based on the motif of the traditional Japanese “Sen-suji” pattern, this stool combines multiple 3D printed parts by Shoichi Yokoyama ,Taba Lighting is designed from the motif of bundled grass. The plant-like shape was made by dripping the 3D-printed material. by Shinnosuke Harada. Tachiwaki is a self-standing basin in which the body is made of multiple stripes, inspired by the Japanese traditional “Tachiwaki” pattern, used in Japanese Kimonos by James Kaoru Bury.

Yocell is a Stool designed from the motif of the traditional Japanese “Asanoha” pattern by Moritaka Tochigi. The Ami Stool and lampshade were created by refabricating the Japanese 2D weaving expressions in a 3D form by Kazuki Fujiwara. Finally, Kohshi a lattice-like vase, reminiscent of Japanese architecture, allows plants to be inserted at any angle or position like the Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement by Shinnosuke Harada and Moritaka Tochigi.

Cindy Lilen Studio is a textile design and production workshop inspired by ancestral textile communities around the world, mainly from South America. Revisiting unwritten legacy, and wisdom behind their crafts, then giving a contemporary touch. Working with natural materials with every piece being hand-made.

Allca rugs merge ancient knowledge with new approaches. Woven in India these unique pieces are from plastic waste and produced in handwoven recycled and recyclable polyester, then digitally printed allowing for an innovative process to skip yarn dyeing. They produce custom and co-created pieces on demand.

Aleksi Remsu is a furniture designer. He graduated from Lahti Institute of Design and is now doing his Masters’s at the Royal College of Art in London. He focuses on user-centred design and feels that it’s important to understand the needs of humankind and do meaningful design alongside a belief in just beautiful objects. Often working with his beloved glass yet his chair built stood out. Designed like a womb encourages each and every one of us to curl up and feel sung safe and protected, try me you will never want to leave

Dutch satellite group of young designers from across different practises from furniture to fashion fabric to lighting.

Tom Couwenberg presented Austral, an innovative plant-based biomaterial derived from brown algae. Whilst Albert Potgieter used his background as a healthcare provider in physiotherapy in Soth Africa as a base point for his wood furniture all made of offcuts. Distinctly African traditions mix here with utterly modern crafted aesthetics.

A team working together under the name Envisions with their project Re a multi-disciplinary agency created a new set of textiles pure from waste textiles woven with virgin wool utilising digital design methods. Lastly, Claire Cherrigie another multidisciplinary designer produced an immersive light experience presented from dawn to dusk a light installation that asks us to watch time.

Based on how humans experience the passage of time and used to look to the sky for clues to time through history, Dawn to Dusk is a translation of ever-changing colours worn by the sky throughout the day, symbolising time flowing. The emphasis on the fluid nature of time means questioning how, through our constant pursuit of time, we have lost touch with the present moment.

Claire Cherrigie

Andean designs include functional and sculptural objects that meet with artisanal pieces, materials and Ecuadorian talent. Designer Alejandro Moyano the created studio where artisanship is combined with modern manufacturing processes, resulting in innovative and sophisticated object d’art.

Studio RYTE (pronounced “right”) is a Hong Kong-based design studio comprised of architects and product designers. They navigate between spatial and objects and are dedicated to harness technology and craftsmanship to redefine mundane urban objects, materials and space. They highlighted at Salone how an ordinary piece can also
be pleasing, decorative yet functional, they presented three new projects

The Triplex Stool, is an experimental piece of furniture that pushes the physical limits of a stool. This super light module is made of biodegradable flax fibre, one of the strongest natural cellulosic materials found. Designed with a strategically curved geometry,
and can be carried along when moving apartments or cities in its modular stackable form.

The Wave Bench is a lightweight bench with iconic wavy geometry that serves as the bench’s structure as well as the undulating sitting surface. It can support weight and achieve structural stability due to its inherent geometric characteristics. Comprised of three sheets of identical wavy plywood in which two sheets were cut into half to form two sets of sturdy pairs of support.

Finally, THE String Light is acoustic lighting made of 100% PET fibre with 60% recycled content. A lighting system that doubles as a sound-absorbing element. The technique of kerf cutting allows for curved surfaces to be used for absorbing sound waves while
creating an aesthetic element to the design.

Designer Kei Kato of Itsuka Design, trained and worked in interior design but since he has been living in Tokyo, has focused on floristry.

His works show how flowers can ‘paint their own pictures’ or even create their own sculptures. Utilizing ‘wall clips’ and wall mirrors’ flowers can adhere directly to the room surface creating its own image of almost dancing blooms.

As well as swirling plates that allow for simple bouquets he also produced marble-effect floristry foam, giving the effect of flowers growing out of carved stone.

Nathalia Nova – Fragments Collection

We know that in the past, furniture design was made to last, passing through generations. After the Industrial Revolution things changed, with a frenetic pace of production when the purpose was more quantity than quality. This situation resulted in a large number of discarded products that had a great impact on nature.

Designer Nathalia Nova’s response is Fragments Collection. By exploring local factories in Brazil with different segments, to understand the production processes and what kind of material residues were produced.

What caught her attention was a place making beautiful blown crystal with a technique from Murano in Italy. Utilising pieces of leftover blown crystals became tables lamps bricks and even jewellery in a kind of wabi-sabi approach.

GWILEN produces tiles for interior wall application. Our material is 100% mineral. A no-bake process solidifies marine sediments and moulds them into the desired shape. These creations can be tinted in the mass thanks to natural pigments and then solidified into the desired shape without cooking. 

The tiles are available in 21 colours and 3 sizes. All pieces are made by hand in the workshop located in Brest using an artisanal manufacturing process.

Mingyu Xu Studio, based in London, is focused on furniture and lighting design that aims to incorporate cultural heritage and traditional techniques intertwined with contemporary design. It brings bamboo weaving into modern interior spaces by rethinking bamboo objects, offering unique furniture, which is sustainable and bespoke, adding luxury and value.

He brings bamboo weaving into modern interior spaces by rethinking bamboo objects, offering unique furniture, which is sustainable and bespoke, adding luxury and value. A great example of many young designers at the show who bought their cultural vision to a modernist world, reintroducing craft ideas into elegant furniture for today.

Many universities set projects for the Salone and bring key students with them, Brazlian Fragmentos an IED Sao Paulo project that from the observation of discarded materials from a glass factory of the southeastern region of Brazil in order to recreate different surfaces for a collection of furniture and objects.

Re-design reaffirms the relationship between sustainability and social responsibility.

Argentinian designer Joaquin Ivan Sansone, currently living in Spain explored materials either from nature or discarded materials here with his Quartz lamp born from large-scale production discards and a bullrush (junco) stool created from a material usually utilized in curtains in the Tigre Delta.

And just because, sometimes design should simply make you smile!

Nanako Kume brings irreverence to her work, she has created her whimsical Wood Chandeliers that are actually giant pencil shavings from her own made giant pencil sharpener. A sense of fun can be also seen via play, let’s face it as children we learn through play so why as adults do we disregard play and fun so easily?

Alexandre Delasalle‘s pieces at Satalitte highlight it’s still good to be in touch with the fun of our inner child with his furniture that is as playful as ‘paper cut-out dolls’ we dress.

The idea is that each person can put together the items as they wish in a modular style.

Nicole Ferarri showed an led light that didn’t need to plug in but could be utilised to pick up ambient colours and lend to its surroundings

Hsiang Han designs is a multi-disciplinary design studio based in Taipei & Milan, which gets inspired by nature and concentrates on exploring bionics to combine with technology. The design range covers lighting, furniture, tech products and even limited-edition objects.

Working with plastic, 3D printer, glass, marble, ceramic, wood, electronic technology, and more is dedicated to the research of materials and production processes in order to create further possibilities and value of products, craftsmanship and industry innovation.

Stefan Putzer an interior architect, designer and maker based in Italy used honest materials in his French ash wood with a Walnut wood stool with a white concrete base called Ombra was elegant and simple and utterly desirable.

RSK took iconic items of design from across several decades and countries and imposed the ideas of her home in the Middle East.

Lastly from the satellite room at Salone del Mobile comes a standout project. A collection of works that summed up the inventive caring selfless set of young designers coming through. Faenza ISIA is the name of four Italian universities, for students’ learning design.

ISIA Faenza with IED, Istituto Europeo di Design, presented a set of design projects that bought together man with urban regeneration and our relationship with nature.

They explored the term, ecotone, a term that defines the transitional environment between two neighbourhoods, a border, think where the sea meets the beach. 

Survival, migration, and natural resources were explored and dissected, Man versus Nature in the fight for life. The aim was to trigger positive changes in the care of the territory, through appropriate behaviours and according to the principle of minimum effort. 

The objects on show, all related to sand and water: compensate, retain, and filter offering hospitality to living beings, shelter, food, and refreshment for all.

Giorgio Francesco Calvi created a water desalinator named La Serina (the mermaid) a multi-function system to turn seawater into clean drinkable water. Floating in the sea anyone coming upon it (think of boats full of migrants) has access to healthy water, which potentially can keep them alive. The solar product made of glass, ceramics, stone and a sand mixture can then biodegrade back into the water from whence it came

These objects, designs, and furniture highlight the very open-hearted nature of this brought crop of young talent highlighted at SaloneSatellite go to show the future of green bright and full of hope.

To find out all about Salone Del Mobile Visit here

If you enjoyed reading Open Armed Milan then why not read Milanese Alphabet Here

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