Whereas Milan’s Fashion Week may be seen as the smaller, slightly less influential sibling of the Paris juggernaut, when it comes to design, Italy’s second city is undoubtedly in a league of its own. After a two-year hiatus, Salone del Mobile returned for its 60th edition, featuring a tsunami of art, exhibitions, fashion, and, of course, furniture. Highsnobiety was on the ground to check out some of the best and worst moments across the week.
Given this edition’s theme of sustainability, it seems apposite to start with Timberland, which has enlisted world-renowned architect Stefano Boeri to construct a floating forest on the waters of the Darsena. Flanked by lavender bushes and around 6,000 other types of flora, the devilishly handsome gentleman — he looks a bit like some kind of Italian, impossibly cooler version of Bryan Ferry — explains to me how his master plan of urban greenery (i.e. bringing more wildlife to the city) is important not only ecologically, but also sociologically. "It was an experiment for us, which we like to do," says Boeri. "It's feasible that it could be rolled out in other cities as a permanent installation. The platform might even be moved between different spaces, depending on what it needs to be used for.”
It’s on Tuesday when things really get underway, as luxury big hitters began showcasing their latest, greatest, and very expensive creations. Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades collection included the by-now-expected heavyweight collaborations with esteemed names such as the Campana Brothers and Frank Chou — the latter held court in the showroom, standing proudly next to his signature arched sofa — while Dior tapped minimalist designer Philippe Stark for the perfect little black chair. At a suitably over the top presentation that feels a bit like some kind of Disney World attraction, the audience was plunged into darkness before Stark’s creations are spot lit to the gentle strains of Debussy. As people gasped and took photos, I couldn’t help but feel this is all utterly ludicrous, but hey, perhaps a little ceremony is in order for the three different models, given they come with a hefty price tag that runs up to 5,000 Euros.
Rather than Dior or Louis Vuitton, it’s actually Fendi which, in my mind, came through with the most tasteful home offerings. As Fendi Casa celebrates its 30-year anniversary (the Italian house was the first of its kind to present an interiors line), there is a quite sumptuous range of coffee tables that look like they could have been lifted off the set of Don Draper’s home in Mad Men. He is no doubt the type who would choose to drop over a thousand bucks on a leather Fendi glass tray.
Even if the luxury titans aren’t blessing us with any clothing, it is more than accounted for elsewhere. One of the best things I saw all week was Stone Island’s latest Prototype series, which was made up of lemon-colored Kevlar jackets. As I watched increasingly drunk guests potter around at a cocktail launch event, my heart was in my mouth at the thought of some errant fool spilling their drink or appetizer upon the limited-edition grails. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded.
If your tastes run a bit more street, then consider Carhartt WIP and London design studio Toogood’s latest project, complete with towering sculpture installations at the Spazio Maiocchi. In the same building, there’s also a new line-up of Rimowa gear, including what looks like the world’s most glamorous festival camping chair by South Korean studio niceworkshop., and Brain Dead’s twist on Droog’s iconic Rag Chair, which is made of 50 old stock items, including flawed and unsold inventory. Later that day, I pass the Balenciaga store which happens to have their very own Droog bench taking pride of place in the city’s flagship store window. I can’t decide which one I’d rather own.
There’s a tinge of sadness felt over the course of the week, because Virgil Abloh would have surely been in his element. Abloh might be gone, but his presence is still acutely felt across various projects that were completed before his passing. My favorite is the cutlery collection designed for legendary Italian homeware brand Alessi, which sees a fork, knife, and spoon fastened together by a carabiner — perhaps he was on some kind of outdoors tip at the time, because it reminds me a lot of Snow Peak. Abloh’s deliberately ambiguous “building blocks” tie-up for Cassina was also on view to the public (use them as a side table, poufe, or anything else you can think of), as was Off-White’s extremely surreal fourth home collection.
It would be remiss to not make any mention of IKEA in any Salone round-up. The world’s biggest furniture company went all out with its very own mini festival. There was a ton of good stuff here, my favorite being its new collection with master of light Sabine Marcelis. Now a huge star in her own right, Marcelis’ new work holds a deeply versatile appeal, and would surely look slick in the living room as well as the bathroom. Love or loathe them, it’s cool that a broke college kid will now be able to get their hands on the artist’s work, even if it isn’t quite as ambitious as some of her other constructions that were on show throughout the week (a free-standing pink onyx bathroom made in tandem with SOLIDNATURE, for example).
The sheer scale of Salone means it’s pretty much impossible to mention every single notable item or event that went down. Less spectacular unveilings but ones still worthy of some love are Flos’ limited edition 60th anniversary ARCO lamp, and Vibram, which threw a party to celebrate the 20 years of its highly polarizing Five Fingers.
There’s a lot of stuff at Salone that, especially during the cost of living crisis, would make you wince (who on earth needs dsquared2 wallpaper, for example?) but as a spectacle for the city of Milan it has been sorely missed. Sipping on a negroni at a packed bar on my final night, it occurs to me that maybe normality has finally returned. Welcome back, Salone.