Milan Design Week 2024 – part 1

It is the year 2024 and the weather is cuckoo. The design week in Milan started with 28 degrees and sun, and four days later it was snowing. Almost. It was actually hail, but a good story. So how hot or how cold was Milan Design Week? We will go through all the details.

Introduction

I will do this report in three sections. This first one will be an overview and then I will do two more that goes into trend details.

We can start with the obvious. Milan Design Week was liked and loved. I would say that everyone I met liked to be back in Milan. There were talk about how “everyone” really should be present here. I am personally not sure we need MORE activites and events. I spent a lot of time cruising through emails and specific times for shows.

I have a specific folder in my inbox for invitations and events just for Milan. 457 emails. And of course including some reminders etc. Press materials is a specific file. These are only invitations for events. And my final list of selected events turned out to be abour 120 exhibitions. In five days where one day is the fair. 30 exhibitions per day?

Not everyone in Milan need to see as much as I do. The majority of designers here are in Milan to find inspiration. Architects are mainly here for meetings, and a bit of inspiration. But I want to see it all.

And this year – taxis stopped working. Yay…

But this was the year when the queues came back. That was a big conversation throughout the week. I remember before the pandemic and how upset I was about these lines. But yes, some places had queues that lasted more than two hours.

As part of this introduction I think I will do my top five exhibitions.

Top five

  1. Marimekko and Apartemento
  2. The Finnish brand celebrated the Unikka flower print together with the magazine Apartemento at a bar. Why is it a favourite? Well simply because it was so well executed. The bar was renovated but still nostalgic and everything in the bar was exchanged for Marimekko things. Staff were wearing the clothes and even napkins were Marimekko. But most impressively – the staff were nice. It was like they were trained to extra service minded. And that is kind of rare in Italy… No new things, just an amazing atmosphere.
  1. Mutina and Bouroullec
  2. The showroom for Mutina was (as always) beautifully executed. Alwasy nice. The weaving tiles on the wall could be a part of a weaving trend but we’ll do trends later. Colours were nice and the outdoor tiles looked really new and nice. Which one of the Bouroullec was it? No idea, but one of them…
  1. Majotae 9490
  2. At design district 5vie I stumbled across the brand above. In a courtyard you had a handful of exhibitions and they were all fun. Like “Indian Tiny Mega Store” by Ikkis. But Majotae 9490 stood out. Curated by Teruhiro Yanagihara and India Mahdavi they showed Japanese craftmanship. Downstairs was focus on textiles, hemp and weaving. There was a loom and a strange lady making ritual noices while folding clothes. Upstair was this tile installation. Beautiful. And emotional.
  1. Muuto
  2. The apartment at via Solferino has a long story. It started as a project by File under Pop where Muuto was a participant, but now takes lead. Some commented that there weren’t any new products. But the colours are always nice here. Innovative.
  1. Lasvit
  2. Milano always brings exhibitions based on smoke and mirrors. Pun intended. We have seen Arsham for Kohler, car installations and more. This year Czech brand Lasvit took over a courtyard. Besides the magic atmosphere I really liked the technical side where they made these enormous glass pieces by Max Velcovsky.

What about designed objects?

I will briefly touch on the topic and then move the next – more important – chapter. Basically none of my favourites above had any new products. More emotion than actual design pieces. In my role as trendhunter I talked to a handful designers to see what pieces was most inspiring to them. I would say three pieces stood out and came back to basically anyone I talked to.

As you can see, two of the pictures are proper pictures since I missed to photograph that. But the one in the middle is by Arper. They had several things that stood out. This chair has an almost weaving (yes, a trend…) effect in the wood. They also brought new technology to the presentation. Together with Swedish brand Paper Shell they make wood waste into paper and press that to a plywood like material. Waste to chair.

Top sofa is by Faye Toogood for Tacchini. Absolutely a thing people talked about.

Third picture is by Daniel Rybakken for Alias. Apparently liked.

The future of design

We are slowly coming to the main topic of the design week. What is the future of design? A huge and important question. I would say 2024 is a shift. We are seeing design as an excitment tool. Are we talking emotional design? Sensory design? This is super early and I am sure we will see this evolve. I would say there are two major factors to why we do this now. First, we are still thinking about what is “the new normal” after the pandemic. Are we working from home or not? Secondly we have been talking so much about sustainability and we need a new topic. Call it a new narrative if you want, but that is just a trendy word for “storytelling”. I am not saying sustainability is “out” but we have been talking about it so long that we need a new conversation. So this conversation will fill that gap.

There are of course other factors to this too, like how different Gen Z are from us. They are going through a phase where the define themselves and they don’t want to be us.

Alessi made this interesting exhibition about Gen Z, and one of the young designers made a kit for our connection to our pets. Gen Z don’t want kids (true) so why not develop a whole new set for you and your pet?

Google made this enormous installation about feeling colours. And tasting colours, smelling colours etc, etc. Basically using more senses than usual. It wasn’t amazing but interesting to see how a huge brand like Google is approaching this.

The curated conference Prada Frames basically invited people to discuss – what is a living room? Now when we are working from home, what should a kitchen be?

I think my most interesting conversation was with US based studio Rapt. They approached this question with too many angles at the same time… But basically they wanted to talk about what we feel for our objects. If you house catches fire – what do you save? Most likely not your Piero Lissoni sofa. But you will save something that “means” something to you. How can we make objects mean more?

With Rapt I also had the conversation of AI. Now, when everyone can be a designer with AI – what is the role of the designer? Rapt didn’t want to go into what, but just opened the question. But I think there is absolutely is a conversation for this. Should designers be guardians of “good taste”? As said, Rapt didn’t want to in to that. But this is the time to talk about this.

And you can also see how the role of the designer is kind of struggling. Two of the most prominent designers in Europe made colour collections. Yes, colour. Not furniture.

Luca Nichetto (above) for Kerakoll and Sabine Marcelis for Vitra.

Conclusion

I need to summarize this so you understand my standpoint. There is a shift in the way we talk about design. We leave sustainability and talk about other values in design. If we get an emotional connection to a piece that is good and we will save it when our house is on fire. An example of how things are changing is that the role of the designer is also changing. Will they be colour experts more than functional experts? Who knows… But this is just the beginning of this conversation.

Personally I think everyone should go back to look at how Dieter Rams defined good design. Read here.

One last thing

Before I send you off. One thing that is growing is how magazines now acts as PR agents. Yes, I realise you might disagree with me, but hear me out. I think this also is a sign of the times. A lot of the things are discussed and everyone is trying to make a buck. I have just talked about how designers do colours… And now magazines are doing PR.

Should they? Absolutely not. But they do. It can of course be done in an OK way… But journalists are now paid to promote brands. Look at my favourite exhibition with Marimekko. Produced by magazine Apartemento. Look at the whole concept of Capsule at both Spazio Maiocchi and Corso Como. Look at how Vanity Fair collaborate with Poltrona Frau and Fornasetti. High Snobiety with Zanotta. And just look at how German magazine H.O.M.E. is working with their instagram.

Critical journalism? Not this year…

Why does this happen now? I think a lot of things are up for grabs. There is a recession out there, statistics show that we are done shopping interior design which means brands need to find cost efficient ways of reaching out. And why not let magazines make some money? I just hope we can be honest and open about this.

There were initiatives by magazines in Milan that didn’t feel sponsored or PR driven. I am thinking of Damn Magazines installation at Palazzo Litta and the Wallpaper exhibition at Triennale. But there were few of these.

Did I like Milan 2024? Absolutely. A bit too crowded and no taxis, but yes, it was a good year.

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Erika
24 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

Sandra Könings
24 days ago

Thank you! I really agree. If design doesn’t touch the heart it becomes boring. Yes there where too many people and events spread out inna to big area. Tip. Bring a Brompton bike with a 10 kilo bag on front.?My trend-lectures are connected with MOODS… a new approach where stories are based on feelings they aim to touch. Time for a change, absolutely. It is so frustrating 500 mails 100 registrations and still not been able to see enough in 5,5 days . Walking and cycling 20 km a day! Alcova by car….

gunnar
gunnar
22 days ago

thanks!