Milan 2011 - The city

Matali Crasset Dip in Space by Head-Geneve and Matali Crasset

The part of the Milan fair that takes the greatest toll on footwear is that which lies beyond the glass and steel cage of Rho. The Fuori Salone is also growing at an incredible rate, with the new kid on the block, Ventura Lambrate, nipping at the heels of the more established Tortona area. Then there are the showrooms, the galleries, the Triennale, the temporary spaces……..

To say it is disheartening to see Mini Coopers suspended from a crane (why?!) when you arrive in Tortona is an understatement. The area seems to have been deluged by corporate tie-ins and the young designers that gave the area its energy have been side-lined, from the Mini Coopers to the Tom Dixon collaboration with Blackberry. What is interesting about this development is understanding why these brands want to be here - they know their customers are increasingly design savvy and they know the importance of delivering a “brand experience”. It’s no longer just about the product.

Having said that, we did enjoy the Matali Crasset installation with HEAD Geneve, Vertigo Bird from Slovenia showcased lighting from designers including Nika Zupanc and Mathias Hahn and we stumbled across newcomer Eumenes, with designs by Paola Navone and Jean-Marie Massaud.

Boy’s Lamp by Nika Zupanc for Vertigo Bird

Eus by Paola Navone for Eumenes

Young designers have migrated east to Ventura Lambrate. Now in its second year, Lambrate lacks the energy of Tortona, but that is in part down to the generous amount of space. Less claustrophobic than Tortona, shows can spread out and breathe in a way that’s impossible for all but the moneyed few in Tortona.

Many of Europe’s top design schools displayed works by students and recent graduates. The RCA Intent show was the perfect opportunity to show it’s recently launched Design Products Collection to the wider design world. Of particular note were Will Shannon’s Metro Cabinet, Jack Smith’s Folding Stool and Hye-Yeon Park’s In-betweening Clock we loved so much at the RCA Graduate Show in 2010.

Metro Cabinet by Will Shannon

Benjamin Hubert also popped up at Ventura Lambrate, with his Pod privacy chair in pressed PET felt for Dutch brand De Vorm. Hubert was prolific this year and Pod was certainly one of his most impressive pieces - the shell being constructed using the largest single piece of felt pressed to date.

The Brits certainly made their presence felt with 2 group shows on opposite sides of Milan. At Spazio Botta in Porta Romana SCP, Case, Ercol and Pinch came together to show the quality of British craftsmanship, working predominantly in wood. The opening party was certainly popular, but it was unclear if all those people were there for the furniture or the free beer!

Porta Romana party in full swing and Iona Cheval Mirror by Pinch

Over in Tortona, Design Junction brought together a diverse slice of the UK design world, from Wedgwood to Modus, via the re-launch of Ernest Race’s mid-century classic designs and Michael Sodeau’s Anything range of stationery.

We certainly think Benjamin Hubert and Nika Zupanc were the “names to note” from our whistle-stop tour of Milan.