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It’s Tuesday morning and I’m already running late; it’s Milan Design Week 2017 and the air’s filled with enthusiasm, the metro’s packed and it’s hot: can it really be only the 4th April? Looking at the faces of the people around me, I wonder who travels on the red line to Rho when the Salone del Mobile’s not happening.
I go up the staircase at the entrance - crowded with people - and see my companions in adventure waiting for me. It’s not often I get to share the excitement of the fair with someone else, and I’m glad I’ve got two colleagues with me this week. I love seeing their curious expressions, typical in people who don’t do the rounds of 20 or so fairs every year. If only I could go back to the first time…
We begin with Euroluce, the biennial exhibition of lighting: four overflowing pavilions, brightly-lit and splendid, made of technology, innovation and extraordinary objects. It’s here that design blends with light to create incredible combinations. Among the stands I find all the latest trends: exquisite and luxurious materials like brass, metals and hand-blown glass, and also plenty of white and infinite shades of LEDs.
At Euroluce, the big names are reinforced by collaborations with sensational designers and their stands are a treat for the eye, like small museums of art. We’re impressed with Japanese designer Nando’s creations for Flos, and the more classic - but never banal - Philippe Starck, Konstantin Grcic and Piero Lissoni.
After this I plunge into the iconic world of FontanaArte and find the white, hand-blown glass and one-off pieces that have made the brand’s name, in an extremely stylish dusting-off. And what can I say about the new Yanzi collection from Artemide, a journey to the Far East? I’m entranced.
Looking around, I notice that innovation is everywhere, in shapes and in technology; home automation is becoming an integral part of the collections. But nobody seems to lose sight of this year’s trends, and so everywhere we look there are plants, cacti, greenery and playful patterns, created to amaze visitors from every corner of the world, who won’t miss the opportunity to post an image or two on Instagram.
We pass through the traditional pavilions, which fill each year with the ultra-fabulous stands of brands that have made history or that hope to do so by launching new inspirational products or mixing classic icons with state-of-the-art newness.
Wherever I turn I see plants: real plants, artificial plants, plants made of unknown materials, gorgeous flowers and references to the Far East. I like it, I’m crazy about it. Have I mentioned that apart from design, I love flowers, cacti and flamingos? I can’t work out whether I’ve always liked them or if I’ve liked them ever since I started seeing them everywhere. This evening I’ll take a few minutes to think about it and try to understand which came first, fairs or flamingos.
In any case, if that’s your question, the answer is: yes, there are patterns everywhere, on wallpaper, on colourful cushions and on brand-name dressers where you’d least expect them.
The most classic of producers reverse the trend, and indoor sofas can also be made in plastic materials (as we mere mortals say, not knowing the difference between technopolymer, polypropylene and polycarbonate, ed.), but always topped with upholstery and cushions in exquisite materials, as are chairs and coffee tables.
The materials we are accustomed to seeing fuse with new ones, and tables are no longer made of metal or wood but can be both, or maybe brass and marble - increasingly present in collections - but also plastic and glass or wood and plastic.
Shapes are streamlined and everything becomes lightweight: shelves are practically invisible, wall-mounted items increasingly sophisticated and all lines hidden from view. But wait: they’re accompanied by eccentric accessories, vivid colours and exaggerated shapes that make us smile.
I’m pleased to see that even this enchanted world of the Salone del Mobile - which until a few years ago seemed to me the most sober and businesslike of fairs - can take itself a little less seriously these days and get carried away with colours, animals that turn into tables or lamps and patterns that until recently would have seemed from faraway a galaxy.
And, talking of faraway places, how many Asian visitors came to Design Week 2017?
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