Skip to main content
Blog Article

Milan Design Week 2023 Recap

Jun 05, 2023

Creative Director, Design & Construction Davidson Hospitality Group

Staci Patton

‘More or Less,’ while appropriately titled for Dutch designer Maarten Baas’s collaboration with clothing brand G-Star Raw exhibiting a narrative of overconsumption in the form of a jet made of recycled denim in the 17th century San Paolo Converso, may be the theme of this year’s Milan Design Week on the occasion of Salone del Mobile furniture fair. Those looking for more found Artemest’s ‘L’Appartamento’ 1930’s Milanese eye swooning playground featuring of a menagerie of six international interior designers, and yes it was worth the wait in line. Those looking for less, or clarity of purpose, found thought-provoking exhibitions by Studio Pepe, a Milan design agency, and fashion houses like Loewe and Hermes that stripped away the unnecessary and focused on artistry and form. Perhaps the single venue to experience both ends of the spectrum was Alcova, an exhibition featured in a former slaughterhouse which showcased over 100 international artists, makers, and independent designers on a raw outdoor stage of experimentation. The energy of Milan was infectious, and the spirit of celebrating design was heartfelt after a three-year interruption of normal scheduling. The contrast of powerhouse brands like Kohler’s ‘Creatives Journey’ launching limited editions by female designers, taking over illusive and private palazzos, to the small thoughtful pop-ups of emerging artists humbly loaning space in hotel lobbies, churches and sidewalks: Furiosalone Milan Design Week was a proverbial dial of design from decadent to reductant.

Here, find Patton’s five inspirational reflections of Milan Design Week diverse as the city rooted in history yet always looking forward:

1. Olfactory Extraordinaire

To the delightful surprise of design exhibitions by brands Moooi and Les Eaux Primordiales also came a surprise experience for the senses. Moooi displayed “Experience a Life Extraordinary” at Salone dei Tessuti with a multi-sensorial design exhibition that seamlessly bridged the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Guests were greeted with a QR code to begin choosing their journey which resulted in a bespoke take home fragrance bottled to match their personality by EveryHuman an AI powered technology. Each guest’s unique combination was prepared while immersive rooms offered exploration through new furniture and textiles, otherworldly music, and tactile home pleasures. Another sensory wonder created by DWA Design Studio’s dream titled Les Expériences Immobiles highlighted the growing fragrance brand Les Eaux Primordiales at Alcova. The built installation inspired by laboratory towers was a fragrant timber visual feast for the eyes while pleasing the nose glowingly resting inside the concrete hall aged with time. Glass vials with mechanical fans and scent-infused ceramics by Natascia Fenoglio enticed guests to lean in and waft an infusion into the senses. These spaces appealed to the senses but dare we say that the supported technology in these installations are the revealing there is a sixth sense to design.

(Image of Moooi ‘Experience a Life Extraordinary,’ and smellable sculpture for Les Eaux Primordiales at Alcova.)

2. C is for Color and Collaboration

If there is one thing about this year’s design week to make note of, is the poetically evident fact that color is in high demand. Our day to day world can feel bleak these days and well Milan just served up the medicine for design savants desiring a soul Rx. Collaborations are where bigger ideas emerged across Milan. Design agencies are pairing up and, as in some cases six agencies for the L’Appartamento installation, coming together all at one time and delivering the dream home we all wish we had today. Artemest was the most incredibly chic 1930’s villa I’ve ever had the pleasure of stepping in that feels incredible relevant to the now. The Artemest L’Appartamento felt like London, Dubai, Miami, Dublin, Houston, and Paris seamlessly found their way in to an apartment that is proudly artistic yet sophisticatedly tailored in such a perfect Milanese fashion. And that is exactly the international line up of talent that collaborated here in a historic Milanese building in Via Cesare Correnti 14, in the 5Vie district. Guests not only could experience the colorful juxtapositions through this exhibition in person, but they could also immediately scan a QR code to shop these designers’ sumptuous designs. Milan is the fashion capital and this approach to approachable luxury is forward thinking with an Italian craftsmanship.

Studio Pepe’s reach at the design week continued to pop up in several collaborations all over Milan with soft and provocative furniture and design spaces. A notable and serene installation ‘Fluid Marvel’ by the creative agency showed at Senato Hotel in collaboration with stone innovator Alimonti Milano and creative textile company Kirkby Design. The ethereal installation offers poetry in stillness and motion with a water filled courtyard and limited-edition marble and onyx furniture designed using reused slabs in a moment of dialogue on repurposing precious resources. Over at Alcova, the studio collaborated with LeoLux design furniture brand and Studio Truly Truly to install “Rhythms” a moving citron velvet upholstered sculpture that rises and falls revealing new seating and case good piece vignette.

3. From Runway to Home

As the luxury market grows so have their customers desires to expand the lux loyalty to their homes. Loewe took an unexpected approach to reimagine an everyday object into a masterpiece: the chair during their 7th appearance on the occasion of Salone del Mobile. The Spanish fashion brand, under the creative direction of Jonathan Anderson, showcases 30 stick chairs all available for purchase with weaving techniques in different materials such as raffia, thermofoil metallics, leather, and furry felt like textiles using bold color use. The brand also featured a whimsical installation of oversized mushroom sculptures that certainly delighted the Instagram feeds. Many brands showing avoided overly “instagram” shock and awe displays for a more chic appeal. Hermes took a bold step to strip away the noise and embrace the materiality as the star of the show. Known for its quality and exclusivity the fashion house showed their new creations with exposed geometric iron frameworks and concrete backdrops asserting strength through subtraction with effortless ease. Both standout for their restrained approach and raising the bar on beautiful fundamentals. Another luxury staple, Giorgio Armani opened his Milan Palazzo Orsini headquarters for the first time for Armani Casa delivering a decadent combination of rich historic fresco rooms and his signature sexy style for collection styled with Italian flair. The Casa collection was presented with a focus on outdoor collection in the beautiful garden and exquisite mother of pearl desk and dresser and interesting ceramics.

4. Object of Materiality

Hidden from the stately palazzos were emerging artists experimenting with shapes, materials, and the status quo but if you weren’t paying attention may have slipped by. One artist catching everyone’s eye from the moment stepping into Il Covo at Alcova was Greek Architect Kiki Gotti and her infectiously bizarre but adorable homewares from lighting to mirrors. Her use of materials, from squishy painted foam to metallics and concreate, are formed in a pop art style. In another concrete hall of Alcova came a bright and colorful form of peculiar lighting designs by Jonathan Bocca. His objects, ‘Corallo Lamp’, ‘Giraffa Lamp’, and ‘Iceberg’ are born from dreams and you feel it when you approach his objects that have a gritty technique, bold color saturation and trippy forms. Using paper that is part of everyday life, Bocca uses waste material to give his objects new life. Irthi’s installation at Via Cesare Correnti pulled you in with natural earthen colors and tables inquisitively displaying the ingredients that explored recipes for materiality titled ‘Echoes of Alchemy.’ A sort of sustainable material library, the rooms of the villa displayed building blocks and elements made from the recipes and tableware items experimented with clay. The exhibit is a collaboration to preserve, engage, elevate, and empower the art of crafts and their Emirati creators.

5. Lumens and Beats

With the much anticipated Euroluce exhibition at Salone de Mobile the City of Lights did not disappoint. Preciosa’s mega exhibit was a standout of light, music and the choreography of sight and sound with its immersive installation. Crystal Grid is a modular lighting concept that can be customized using a wide range of configurations varying in shape and size. The signature materiality of crystals results in slender tubes glowing with tiny sparkling bubbles illuminate via polished bronze elegant connections. However, one couldn’t help but notice this year that illumination was frequently accompanied by texture, natural materials, and less metal. The Art deco craze has subsided for interesting material combination lamps like Dimarmo’s Crosta Table lamp by Sid&Sign Studio using marble and glass. Agglomerati, a London-based studio created “Objects of Permanence” functional art and lighting sculptural objects in stone for Alcova. After working many years in the fashion industry, and driven by an immoderate passion for refined and timeless objects, Elisa Uberti chose to feature her mineral and organic inspirations of ancestral manual gesture named ‘Primitive Island’ also at Alcova. Some of the shapes seem to point to the sky and want to touch the sun in her African interpretation of material form and light.