Milan pretty much flies under the radar 51 weeks of the year. True, it's an OG fashion city with several well-established, well-attended fashion weeks, but these days they always play third fiddle to Paris, London, New York and even Copenhagen.
There's rarely any fanfare in the streets during fashion weeks, and outside the usual fashion percorso, fashion week pretty much seems like any other week. Most of the time it's a city whose best treasures are usually kept behind unassuming gates, beyond leafy courtyards, and off quiet streets. But for one week every year, during Salone del Mobile, Milan opens its unassuming gates, leafy courtyards and stately squares to the design world and instantly transforms into the place in the world to be. Olivia Lopez played Need Supply ambassador and visited this year.
Though it's been at least a generation since Milan was the center of any cohesive, earth-shattering design movement like Memphis, it still has the energy and vibrance and institutional willpower that has long made a city synonymous with design. And while the pace of building has been slower than in other cities over the years—this is Italy, after all, and there's history and a sense of scale to protect—modern gems from masters like Gio Ponti and Also Rossi and contemporary gems by starchitects like Zaha Hadid, Stefano Boeri and Daniel Liebeskind nevertheless have come to define the city's diffuse skyline.
The headline event during the week is, of course, Salone itself, the biggest design industry event of the year, which showcases new debuts and classics from big name design houses.
As their showpiece for the fair, our friends at Vitra commissioned Paris-based designer Robert Stadler to curate an installation they called "Typecasting: An Assembly of Iconic, Forgotten and New Vitra Characters." Robert Stadler converted a sports arena into a gallery space, inviting the viewer to ascend a set of bleachers that optimized the range of Vitra’s collection. Round and sculptural forms and furnishings were prominently displayed against a bright neon green backdrop in anthropological grouping, allowing the viewer to move through the evolution and history of the brand in one perspective.
While Salone, is the main attraction, much of the best action happens around the city in neighborhoods like Brera, Tortona and Lambrate that have become design powerhouses over the past several years. FuoriSalone (roughly translated to "Outside Salone") this year introced "Alcova," a platform for multidisciplinary design inside a former pannetone bakery in NoLo, a young neighborhood that's rapidly making a name for itself. The exhibition space houses 27 installations from a host of architects, makers, designers and gallery owners whose experimentatio asks experiments with deliberately low budget and contemporary living, a concept that goes beyond the usually luxury-focused bubble of any design week. The light-filled space plays host to new designs from studios and galleries including Bloc Studios, Nanban, Gijs Bakker, Space Caviar and Studio Vedet.
Our friends at HAY took over Palazzo Clerici, a stately 17th century home, and fully furnished it with current pieces from their collection in collaboration with WeWork and SONOS. Each room was reimagined with classic, Milanese touches with a modern flair.
And last but not least, the stately Villa Borsani, the private residence of designer and architect Osvaldo Borsani, opened to the public temporarily for the first time. The opening coincides with a new exhibition on Borsani at Milan's design museum, the Triennale, which is itself a great little slice of design week you can visit all year long.