Milan Design Week 2017: Part One


4 April 2017

Dispatches from the Showrooms

On Monday, Molteni&C opened a spick and span new showroom: a multi-storey space on the Corso Europa. Around the corner, at B&B Italia's Via Durini showroom, Piero Lissoni showcased his first collaborations with the brand – Saké, a collection of low, Japanese-inspired sofas and chaise longues, and Formiche, coffee tables with variations of oval and circular table tops in glass, light oak, and porcelain ceramic. Across the street, a new retail space is in the process of being converted into a showroom that will house Arcilinea, the kitchen brands acquired by B&B Italia in the autumn of last year. The B&B empire expands not just in furniture but into real estate too.

Molteni&C: Corso Europa 2

B&B Italia: Via Durini 14

Studio Wieki Somers has created an installation using Kinnasand's Constructure textiles. IMAGE Matteo Girola

Shields: Wieki Somers for Kinnasand

At Kinnasand's showroom, snuggled inside a courtyard off the Corso Monforte, Dutch design duo Studio Wieki Somers has created an installation using Kinnasand's Constructure collection of textiles. Above, a canopy of delicately crafted kites demonstrate the versatility of the fabrics: stretched and fastened to circular frames with techniques evoking nautical craftsmanship, some of the kites (or Shields, as the installation is called) have been fitted with reflective patches and spotlights that render them airy light sources. "We wanted to use the textiles in a different way than they are normally used," says Somers.

Alongside the suspended ceiling installation, the studio presented panels that could function as room dividers or window covers, semi-transparent textiles embroidered and fitted with movable wooden strips with which the user can create their own patterns of light and shade. Originating in a 2014 installation at the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam, the panels have been recast as products.

Shields: Corso Monforte 15

For Kvadrat, Gamfratesi produced Mask: a series of faces produced using Giulio Ridolfo's Steelcut Trio fabric. IMAGE Matteo Girola

Masks: Gamfratesi for Kvadrat and Jaime Hayon for Caesarstone

Curiously, both Kvadrat and Caesarstone opted for installations that riff on the aesthetic of tribal masks (specific cultural references not stated). In the case of Kvadrat, Gamfratesi produced Mask a series of faces produced using Giulio Ridolfo's Steelcut Trio fabric. At Caesarstone, it fell to Jaime Hayon to design Stone Age Folk, a collection of mirrors, cabinets and tables styled as masks, as well as an immersive space in which 48 different colours of Caesarstone were seated into a vast metal frame alongside panels of jewel-like glass. The result was a sheltering grid of metal – intended as a reference to London’s 1851 Crystal Palace – from within which stone and glass faces grinned and gurned at the viewer.

This kind of cultural referencing can often steer into problematic ethics, although Hayon’s effort in particular sought to evade such difficulties through the level of abstraction to which he subjected the subject matter. The masks blended into the abstract forms and clown faces which have become emblematic of his general illustration style and design work. The installation benefitted from its swift departure from its inspiration, instead plunging headfirst into Hayon’s own creative milieu. In so doing, it proved a compelling showcase for a new, decorative use of Caesarstone’s material.

Mask: Corso Monforte 15

Stone Age Folk: Palazzo Serbelloni, Corso Venezia 16

At the Herman Miller showroom, Scholten & Baijings explored their textiles for Maharam. IMAGE Ben Anders

Chromatography at Herman Miller

In 2016, Michael Anastassiades showed his The Double Dream of Spring installation at Milan’s Herman Miller showroom, creating a space that felt meditative and considered in comparison to the hurly-burley and maelstrom of the week as a whole. This year, the space was given over to Scholten & Baijings, who responded with Chromatography, a display of all of the textiles that the studio has developed for Maharam as part of their ongoing collaboration, as well as new trio: Mesh, Tracery, and Pare. The space felt more playful under Scholten & Baijing’s curation – with the fabrics hanging down from the ceiling in satisfyingly fat loops – but nonetheless possessed of the same kind of calm as Anastassiades’s showing. Dangling spools of textile make for a soothing space in which to reflect. Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings’s work with colour is worth celebrating and a trip through their back catalogue with Maharam is compelling.

Meanwhile, the studio also showed its ColourForm Sofa Group for Herman Miller, its first collection for the brand. It was a confident debut – the manner in which the collection’s quilted fabric drapes over its wooden structure is pleasingly redolent of Inga Sempé’s Ruché collection for Ligne Roset – and one that continued Herman Miller’s recent blurring of contract and consumer markets in its product design.

Chromatography: Corso Girabaldi Guiseppe 70

In the Cinema Arti, Studio Swine crafted an immersive exprience involving a tree-like installation and bubbles that can be treated like balls. IMAGE Courtesy of Cos

COS x Studio Swine

For the second consecutive year, fashion brand COS has staged its Milan offering inside Cinema Arti, a decommissioned cinema built in the 1930s by Italian architect Mario Cereghini. You can see why: shielded by a double layer of heavy black curtains, the main space hums with a dramatic darkness in which only the central installation provides illumination. New Spring, by the emergent British practice Studio Swine, is a minimal tree-like structure. Its branches produce opaque bubbles that gracefully float to the floor.

These are not the bubbles of children's parties or kitchen sinks. Swine has devised a formula that allows them to gain a curious and unique robustness. Wear a set of black gloves or a particular item of clothing, and you can interact with them like balls, batting them up and down. Without these garments they burst as usual, but do so into a fragranced mist, a concoction of three scents.

COS's installations during Salone del Mobile tend to be highly immersive and crowd-pleasing in their visual instancy. New Spring is no different in this sense – there's a sense of magic – but this installation is a little different from its predecessors. It has a charming serenity, aided by the solitude of most who interact, and provides ample ground for people-watching. These interactions are as much part of the composition as the installation itself. And to COS's credit, inside the space there is little inkling Natural Spring is a branded installation. Studio Swine have been allowed to take centre stage.

COS x Studio Swine: Cinema Arte, Via Pietro Mascagni 8