Milan Design Week 2017: The Highlights

Another sunny April means another Milan Design Week – the annual Italian celebration of furniture and product design that draws crowds from across the globe. Before we get started with more in-depth posts on individual shows and installations, here is a flavor of some of the highlights from this year’s festival.

Definitely one of the most Instagrammed installations this year, was Jaime Hayon’s Stone Age Folk for Caesarstone. It was housed in the Palazzo Serbelloni and inspired by “flora, fauna and folklore” with references to the 1851 Great Exhibition’s Crystal Palace. “I hope, with this very graphic and folkloric installation, to put a smile on people’s faces,” says Hayon. He certainly did that.

La Pelota is always a favorite destination during Milan Design Week and this year played host for the launch of Hermès’ latest homeware collection, including a cast bronze table by British designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, and this quilted cashmere throw by SeulgiLee.

Dutch Invertuals is a collective of designers from the Netherlands established by curator and art director Wendy Plomp in response to an invitation to showcase Dutch design in Milan in 2009. Eight years and a string of shows in both Milan and Eindhoven later, Harvest is their latest show. “We project our visions into the future to guide progress,” says Plomp. The Thermodynamic project (above) is by Edhv. “The omnipresence of energy begs for alternative ways to be captured and released,” Remco van de Craats says.

Milan’s newest design district is Ventura Centrale, hosted in five of 150 railway arches under Central Station that have been closed for 30 years. May I Have Your Attention Please? by Maarten Baas and Lensvelt saw the launch of these anthropomorphic chairs alongside an installation of bullhorns each emitting its own human voice soundtrack, the cumulative effect of which can only be likened to the sound of insanity.

In what could be seen as a surprising move, Tom Dixon has launched Super-Texture, a collection of six fabrics – Soft, Deco, Boucle, Fleck, Check, Line – designed to be mixed and matched. “After years of shiny metallics we’ve finally gone a little bit soft,” says a statement from the brand. “Super-Texture is our first foray into weaving, sewing and embellishing where we look at extreme textures of velvets, boucles and knits.”

Dutch enterprise Social Label pairs people who have mental health issues and disabilities with renowned designers to create products like these tattooed ceramics, designed in collaboration with graphic designer Edwin Vollebergh of Studio Boot, which challenge stereotypes and break down taboos about their makers. “It’s a relief to do something for others and not only working for myself,” says one of the makers of this collection. “People are suddenly interested in what I create. You are seen. I am happy with that.”

The Mellow Collection by Seoul-based studio Hattern is “a study of blending light” and was spotted in a tiny corner of the shop at Galleria Rossana Orlandi. An ombre color applied to the outside of each vase blends with the color applied to the inside as the light shines through.

Equally beautiful, but arguably less functional (it doesn’t look comfortable!) is Germans Ermičs’ Ombre Glass Chair exhibited in the courtyard at Rossana Orlandi. And finally Framework by Amanda Yamasaki, part of the annual What Not showcase of students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was inspired by the work of László Maholy-Nagy and enables users to create their own color, pattern and light combinations.

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.