Milan Design Week 2019

Milan Design Week 2019: Day 2


10 April 2019

Collections Typologie makes a comeback with bottles and stoppers, and Raf Simons collaborates with Kvadrat on a collection of textiles.

The Wine Bottle and The Cork Stopper

Two years ago, at the London Design Festival, Disegno visited a surprisingly riveting display of pétanque boules at Jasper Morrison’s Shoreditch studio. It was the first iteration of Collections Typologie, an ongoing research project from the designers Guillaume Bloget, Raphaël Daufresne, Adrien Goubet, Thélonious Goupil, Guillaume Jandin, Alexandre d'Orsetti and Yun Li which delves into the histories and morphologies of everyday objects. Each iteration comprises a painstakingly researched exhibition and accompanying magazine.

This year, Collections Typologie presents The wine bottle and cork stopper in a dual display at the Via San Vincenzo 6. Curated by Anniina Koivu, whose 2018 Salone exhibition U-Joints tackled its own histories of typological mutation, The wine bottle and cork stopper is small in scope but rich in detail. A central display table presents an artfully arranged cluster of bottles: there are bulbous demijohns, slender Alsatian flutes, and stocky champagne bottles, all in various sizes and types of coloured glass. Along the walls of the room, a more linear chronological display details the evolution of the wine bottle, and the different types and shapes of cork stoppers that have accompanied it.

Some things this editorial team learnt from the display: the standard 75cl volume adopted for the industrially produced wine bottle corresponds approximately to one sixth of an imperial gallon, a unit used in 19th-century Britain and which reflects the UK’s history of early industrialisation; the word bottle derives from the Latin “buticula”, a diminutive of “buttis”, a type of vessel used for both solids and liquids in the Roman Empire; cork oak trees rarely succumb to forest fires because the thickness of their bark – the same quality that makes cork suitable for stoppers – prevents their trunks from getting damaged when exposed to fire; a big round wine bottle is called a demijohn.

The Wine Bottle and Cork Stopper, Via San Vincenzo, 6

No Man’s Land by Raf Simons for Kvadrat

With Koivu preoccupied with Collections Typologies on Via San Vincenzo, the Garage 21 space that she occupied last year with U-Joints has new tenants in the form of Raf Simons and Kvadrat.

Simons has given the venue’s considerable space over to No Man’s Land, an installation launching new textiles for his ongoing collaboration Kvadrat. To exhibit the designs, Simons has filled the gallery space with three prefabricated buildings that Jean Prouvé designed in the middle of the 20th-century – beautiful architectural husks that have then been variously dressed as an artist’s workshop, a home (replete with vintage French furniture drawn from Simons’s private collection), and a seating area for visitors. Between the buildings, Kvadrat fabrics have been cast as elements suggestive of a neighbourhood: a textile fence between properties; shredded fabric repurposed as a scattering of multicoloured grass; fabric-coated palettes to sit on (presumably fallen off the back of a lorry passing through the neighbourhood).

The new collections themselves are lovely, Simons drawing on his fashion background to create heavy bouclés, tweeds and corduroys. Atom, for instance, is a bouclé that attempts to represent pointillist painting techniques, mixing flecks of colour across a design that has no visible repeat. Phlox, meanwhile, is a satisfyingly chunky corduroy, executed in a colour palette ripe with 70s nostalgia. It is fine work all round.

While the designs come through strongly, however, the installation is somewhat less successful. There is an undoubted pleasure in exploring Prouvé’s buildings and Simons’s archive pieces, and the exhibition design throughout the installation is consummate. Nevertheless, one is left uncertain as to what precisely No Man’s Land is in aid of. The theme of the Prouvé neighbourhood bears no obvious connection to the collections on display, for instance, and Disegno could not help but wonder whether the sheer exquisiteness of the installation might rather act against its stated aim of helping visitors to “get hands-on-acquainted with the fabrics”. Throughout its visit, Disegno worried that it might accidentally put its elbow through a bit of pre-fabricated window frame, or else inadvertently scuff a piece of mid-century furniture with a carelessly place shoe.

No doubt many will delight in the theatre of Simons's neighbourhood, and his textiles deserve appreciation, but No Man's Land may have benefitted from a more robust justification for its existence. Following on from the rigour of last year's U-Joints, it is difficult to escape the feeling that this time around Garage 21 has prioritised charm and whimsy over criticality.

Garage 21, Via Archimede, 26