Couldn’t make it to this year’s Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week? Rest assured as we look back at the highlights of this year’s bustling fair and share what’s happening on the global creative scene
Photography by © Adrien Dirand featuring Salone Empty Space by Dior Maison and Philippe Starck
Words by Jessica-Christin Hametner
From the cobblestone streets of Brera to the industrial fringes of Ex Macello to the swish set on Via Monte Napoleone, Milan might be a city of contrasts, but its creative energy shines brighter than ever before.
Following three years of pandemic-related disruptions, Salone del Mobile (18 April – 23 April 2023) and the city-wide Fuorisalone (17 April – 23 April 2023) festival returned in full bloom with a strong lineup of creatives who embodied Milan’s innovative spirit.
Read on to discover ICON’s standout moments, the installations that left their mark, the emerging designers who caught our eyes, and some of the masterpieces we discovered while trawling the sun-soaked streets of Milan.
Do you speak design?, Salone del Mobile.Milano, Teatro alla Scala Foundation
Photography courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano and FederlegnoArredo (Andrea Mariani, Alessandro Russotti, Diego Ravier, Luca Fiammenghi, Ruggiero Scardigno, Ludovica Mangini, Francesco Rucci)
Salone del Mobile.Milano 2023 kicked off with an enchanting evening at the iconic opera house Teatro alla Scala. Opening with a concert by the Filarmonica della Scala and conducted by composer Carlo Boccadoro, the tantalising evening was a celebration of musical theatre, opera and design.
The evening was crowned by the La Scala Ballet who performed a three-part programme that found its inspiration in Salone del Mobile.Milano’s Euroluce, which returned this year with a brand new exhibition layout at the Fieramilano.
One act, entitled Luce, or The Light, was commissioned specifically for the evening. Choreographed by Andrea Crescenzi, The Light is a 1987 composition by American composer Philip Glass, his first score for a full symphony orchestra.
The Art of Craftsmanship by Tod’s and Tim Walker
Photography by Tim Walker
Celebrating traditional crafts and artisanship, Italian heritage brand Tod’s, widely known for its expertise in leather craftsmanship and high-end goods, joined forces with acclaimed photographer Tim Walker, on the launch of The Art of Craftsmanship during Milan Design Week.
A fusion of Tim Walker’s creativity and Tod’s classic take on craftsmanship, the installation comprised images and videos that retraced the phases of creation of the brand’s iconic products, from the Di Bag to the Gommino. This amalgamation also extended through to the creative storytelling, which featured imaginative and whimsical photography that celebrated the unadulterated fun of fashion.
To represent a connection to the past, and a dedication to preserving the skills and techniques that have been passed down for generations, The Art of Craftsmanship played with proportions through ironic and juxtaposing scale, focusing on the various processes that craft makers use to create their work, including cutting leather, stitching and brushing.
As modern technologies can sometimes overshadow the human elements of craftsmanship, and the skills that are becoming increasingly rare in today’s world, Tod’s and Tim Walker show why artisanal preservation and slow production play a crucial role in sustainable living and preserving culture.
The Bright Side of Design, Nilufar Gallery and Depot
Photography by Filippo Pincolini featuring Gal Gaon Macaroon armchair and pouf
When Nina Yashar, the Milan-based dealer of contemporary design and one of the world’s best known tastemakers opened Nilufar Depot in 2015, the space represented a new, avant-garde vision for galleries that would push the boundaries of art, design and architecture.
Housed in a former silverware factory and featuring a layout inspired by the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the 1,500sq m space spread over three floors, presents an eclectic selection of enigmatic and timeless objects that combine mid-century charm with contemporary art, and decidedly out of the box, curation.
For Milan Design Week 2023, Yashar presented The Bright Side of Design, and with it, her reflections and observations on collectible design. A showcase of old masters and contemporary creators, including Flavie Audi, Patricia Urquiola, Draga & Aurel, as well as Objects of Common Interest, among others, the exhibits featured a concoction of the very best of design.
Photography by Filippo Pincolini featuring Nina Yashar
One showcase that caught our eye in particular was Poikilos, an exhibition realised between Objects of Common Interest and Milan-dwelling Studio Vedèt. Beautifying and adorning the atrium of Nilufar Depot, the pop up explored new forms of iridescence through a collection of 13 objects created by the Greek duo.
The series of furniture and decorative objects, which included a range of sculptural bowls, a dining table and stacked side table, showed the distinct qualities of iridescent resin. To produce the unique resin, the pair teamed up with Romanian-born Ovidiu Colea, who developed the technique over the decades.
RE;CODE & Dekasegi, RE;COLLECTIVE Milan
Photography courtesy of Eunha Kim
Korean fashion brand RE;CODE, founded by textile company Kolon in 2012 with the aim of creating a sustainable company that would serve as an alternative to fast fashion, displayed a circular initiative at this year’s Fuorisalone.
Realised in collaboration with Dekasegi, Japanese studio Schemata Architects and TANK construction company, the trio selected nine groups of Asian designers from across Japan, Korea and China, who are committed to sustainability in their respective fields.
From fashion to industrial design to furniture, lighting and fashion, the designers displayed 12 projects dedicated to the theme of upcycling and showing new and innovative ways of reusing industrial waste staying true to RE;CODE’s conscious ethos.
Loewe Chairs, Loewe
Photography courtesy of Loewe
To expand its focus on contemporary craft, reframing traditional practices in a modern setting, Spanish fashion house Loewe returned to Milan Design Week 2023 with Loewe Chairs, a whimsical and inspiring exhibition devoted to the humble chair.
Exhibited at the city’s majestic Palazzo Isimbardi, the installation focused on craftsmanship and creation, as Loewe teamed up with artisans from around the globe who weren’t afraid to juxtapose new and existing materials and styles to showcase different weaving techniques.
With unexpected colour combinations and beautiful material palettes such as leather, raffia and shearling, Loewe Chairs focused on the interplay of materials and the creative dialogue between artisans, their favourite medium and the object itself, allowing the reimagining of an everyday object, and transforming it into a unique, collectible item.
Habitarematerials, Alcova Milano
Photography by Agnese Bedini, Pier Carlo Quecchia, DSL Studio
Now in its fifth edition, this year Alcova brought the vast and monumental spaces of the Ex-Macello di Porta Vittoria back to life with over 70 projects, each exploring a different and complementary direction of contemporary design practice.
Alcova 2023 also displayed the work of emerging designers, including London-based creatives N/A (Natalia Triantafylli – Andrew Scott), Greek architect and designer Kiki Goti and Monstrum Studio, among others, whose work was seen alongside more established brands and studios such as Lindsey Adelman Studio, Atelier Areti and Estudio RAIN.
A further highlight of this year’s edition was Habitarematerials, a specially curated materials library that displayed 14 of Finland’s most forward-thinking material brands. Designed and curated by Helsinki-based NEMOarchitects, Habitarematerials presented an inspiring collection of samples of all kinds – from fabric, wood and metal to ceramics and composites such as terrazzo, and more.
Photography by Sameli Rantanen featuring Habitarematerials
Launched by Habitare, Finland’s popular design and interior decoration event, the specially curated materials library at Alcova invited visitors to interact with a diverse material and colour palette from the likes of Cover Story and Sera Helsinki to explore their own individual palettes and tastes.
Displayed on a collection of bespoke furniture, including a table crafted from rammed earth and white kaoline clay, as well as Carrara marble, recycled from façade tiles from Alvar Aalto’s iconic Finlandia Hall, the library explored questions relating to sustainability.
Demonstrating the ways in which materials reflect the evolution of taste both globally and on a local level, beyond that, the exhibit highlighted the shifting world of product design by democratising the industry and seeing the consumer as a co-designer.
Dior by Starck, Dior Maison
Photography by © Adrien Dirand featuring Dior Maison and Philippe Starck
For the Salone del Mobile 2023, Dior Maison and French industrial designer Philippe Starck continued their collaboration and unveiled the Monsieur Dior armchair, a tribute to the emblematic figure of the couturier, in the heart of Palazzo Citterio in Milan.
‘After Miss Dior, unveiled in 2022 – the chair inspired by the iconic Medallion – it was natural to expand the family with Monsieur Dior, this new armchair,’ shared Philippe Starck.
Made in Italy and revealed in various materials, colours and finishes including ecru bouclé fabric and pink, black or fluorescent orange toile de Jouy, Starck continued to reinvent the iconic Medallion chair by adding a contemporary twist to a design icon.
To complement the launch, Dior Maison also created an immersive experience. The scenography was enlivened by a video and musical installation devised especially for the House by Soundwalk Collective, a contemporary sonic arts platform of founder and artist Stephan Crasneanscki and producer Simone Merli.
Bocci x Studio Frith
Photography courtesy of Bocci and Studio Frith
Guided by an impression of Bocci as a company driven by experimentation, material tinkering and collaborative idea exchange, Frith proposed to turn the inside outside, unveiling the process behind the Bocci designs.
A striking new logo was shaped to reference the abstract, spherical forms produced by Bocci, alongside energetic photography by Fahim Kassam, a typeface designed by Studio Frith and produced by design company Dalton Maag.
Cèramique, Flos, Ronan Bouroullec, Euroluce
Photography courtesy of Flos featuring Céramique
During Salone del Mobile 2023, French designer Ronan Bouroullec put the spotlight on Italian lighting specialists Flos with Céramique, a new collection of lights that embodies a captivating blend of timeless style and impeccable craftsmanship.
Widely recognised as a leader in classic and contemporary lighting, Flos has been committed to innovation, sustainable solutions and exceptional artistry from the get-go, and the brand’s latest collaboration with Ronan Bouroullec, is no different.
Composed of three elements – a base, stem and a cap, each lamp can create different lighting styles by simply moving the position of the cap, from focused lighting for reading or writing, to indirect ambient lighting, or users can place the lamp to illuminate a dark hallway or corner of their home.
Featuring a lead-free crystalline lacquered finish and available in three sophisticated shades – Moss Green, Navy Blue and Rust Red – Céramique comes with a retrofit LED that can be simply replaced and upgraded over time.
Photography courtesy of Liberty featuring FuturLiberty
A commemorative collection has been produced for Milan Design Week 2023 to celebrate Liberty’s 150th anniversary. Entitled FuturLiberty, the British design store marked the milestone with two large-scale exhibitions at Museo del Novecento and Palazzo Morando in the city of Milan.
Realised in collaboration with esteemed couturier and designer, Federico Forquet, FuturLiberty presented an unexpected collection of bold, geometric fabric designs which combined traditional heritage knowledge with cutting-edge technology. The interiors fabric range spans 17 fabric designs; alongside a home accessories collection comprising 26 cushion designs and Liberty’s debut throw collection made from luxurious cashmere and wool.
World-renowned for its historic 50,000-strong print archive, these new collections spotlight the lesser-known role of Liberty in developing dynamic and abstract prints. Working alongside internationally renowned art historian and curator, Ester Coen, the exhibitions were placed alongside prominent Futurist and Vorticist artworks loaned from the likes of the Tate and the British Council.
Bruno Munari, Porro, Piero Lissoni and Sfelab
Photography courtesy of Porro featuring Bruno Munari
In celebration of its new, multi-level Milanese store, Italian design brand Porro marked the occasion with an immersive, three-colour installation created in collaboration with famed Italian architect and designer, Piero Lissoni and Cantù-based studio Sfelab, which surrounded visitors with a rainbow of colours.
This spring, Porro also showcased an exquisite exhibition dedicated to Italian artist, designer and polymath extraordinaire Bruno Munari, realised with Corraini Edizioni, which pays homage to Munari’s playful inventiveness, research on colour, and his fascination for children’s books.
Having dominated the Milanese scene during the 50s and 60s alongside Argentine-Italian painter, sculptor and theorist, Lucio Fontana, Munari’s kinetic, mobile-like sculptures achieved wide popularity. He contributed to many fields of both visual and non-visual arts, and was twice awarded the Compasso d’Oro design prize.
Desacralized, Galerie Philia
Photography courtesy of Galerie Philia
Staged in San Vittore e 40 Martiri, a deconsecrated church located in the centre of Milan and next to the city’s OMA-designed Fondazione Prada, Desacralized was the first major exhibition to take place in the church’s majestic space.
Presented by international contemporary sculptural design and art gallery Galerie Philia, the awe-inspiring display featured over 20 established and emerging international designers, including Rick Owens, Studiopepe and Ukrainian designer Faina, each exploring the concept of desacralisation.
Inspired by the church itself – originally built in the 11th century but the edifice closed for worship in the late 18th century and has since served many purposes for the local community – most recently, it was used as a basketball court and playground.
For Desacralized, each designer was asked to create an entirely white body of work that gave their own personal interpretation of the notion of desacralisation, taking inspiration from objects which formerly had religious associations but have now become solely functional.
Vieni a Vedere, Bottega Veneta, Gaetano Pesce
Photography courtesy of Bottega Veneta featuring the brand’s Montenapoleone store
For Bottega Veneta’s Summer ’23 fashion show, the Italian label, famed or its intrecciato woven bags, invited Gaetano Pesce to create a temporary site-specific artwork as show space.
The Italian architect, born in La Spezia in 1939, grew up in Padua and Florence and is widely regarded as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. During his 50-year career, Pesce has worked as an architect, urban planner, and industrial designer.
Once again given creative carte blanche, Pesce returned to transform Bottega Veneta’s Montenapoleone store, creating an otherworldly installation called Vieni a Vedere (Come and See).