My trip to Milan, Tuscany and London in April and May took in some of the world’s most prestigious design houses and showrooms including Moroso, Edra, B&B Italia, Kristalia, Cappellini, Kartell, Zanotta, Poliform and Flexform. The fair was well attended but I didn’t find the furniture section as inspiring as two years ago, a sentiment echoed by many of my colleagues. Having said that, the weather was reasonably decent for once and it was great to be around so many passionate design professionals from all over Europe and the world. It was fun to meet up with clients and contributors as well as attending the many off-site events and parties, most noticeably the one held by Superstudio.
This year, particular attention was given to the bath and home textiles sectors, along with the biennial Euroluce exhibition and SaloneSatellite. For me, the bathroom sector featured the most creative designs of the show but the pièce de résistance was the off-site event, Zona Tortona. A hotbed of creativity and innovation, Zona Tortona is one of the most lively and interesting areas in Milan and it is recognised on an international scale as a centre of design, fashion and creativity.
At the main event, the Moroso stand was by far the most innovative and interesting, although many of the products were not new. Designs by Patricia Urquoila, Ross Lovegrove, Marcel Wanders and Ron Arad all featured.
Kartell’s stand was also one of the best, with designers Philippe Starck, Vico Magistretti, Antonio Citterio, Piero Lissoni, Ferruccio Liviani and Patricia Urquoila the well-established team.
Natuzzi’s stand was one of the largest. The Natuzzi 2005 collection is characteristically elegant, with wrap-around comfort and Italian design. The products were designed at the group’s style centre and were inspired by the creativity of Pasquale Natuzzi.
Colours in evidence were again burnt orange, lime green, red and, of course, the mandatory black and chocolate. These could be found in bathware, cabinets, chairs, sofas and coffee tables. Small pieces and accessories were in hot pink, orange, blue, yellow, green and any other colour you could think of, adding an interesting injection of colour into an otherwise neutral sameness.
HiFi and home entertainment systems were very much in evidence, available in many colours and configurations to suit every room. And for the really storage conscious, fitted wardrobes were an artform in themselves, with compartments for jewellery, accessories, shoes, long and short garments, suitcases, bags and toiletries.
Outside the fair, many companies which did not exhibit opened their showrooms. People on the street stopped in amazement at the window of the Flos lighting showroom, which displayed an AK-47 — an 18-karat gold-dipped replica made into a lamp by Philippe Starck. The window of the Flos lighting showroom displayed Starck’s entire Gun Collection, from Beretta-shaped table lamps to floor lamps modelled after the M-16.
“Why doesn’t furniture show that everything is a political choice?” asked Starck, whose gun lamps were topped with black shades, lined with crosses. “I am a designer and design is my only weapon, so I use it to speak about what I think is important.”
Starck is planning to donate proceeds from the sale of the weapons lamps to charity.
“We kill out of ambition, out of greed, for the fun of it or for the show,” commented Starck, stating that weapons are society’s new icons. “The Guns collection is nothing but a sign of the times. We get the symbols we deserve.”
Although furniture sales were up last year in Italy, according to figures provided by Milan fair organiser Cosmit, the outlook for 2005 is not good because of Europe’s slow economy and the threat of Asian imports. Exports to the United States slumped after 9/11 and the dollar continues to decline vs. the Euro. As such, the Italians realise they have to take their show on the road. This year, for the first time, Cosmit will present a New York version of Salone del Mobile coinciding with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in May. According to Manlio Armellini, administrative director of the event, the show of 60 Italian manufacturers will be open to the public. In October it goes to Moscow, where sales of Italian furniture were up more than 30 per cent last year.
September is the arrival date in Australia for furniture from Milan; look out for it in a store near you.