Art, Craftsmanship, And Design: My Amazing Experience At Salone del Mobile In Milan, Italy
The Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Italy is the most sought-after event in the world of furniture design. Founded in 1961 primarily for the purpose of showcasing the best of Italian craftsmanship for export, today, it is not only a trade show but also a celebration of art and design. Nearly half a million people from all over the world look forward to being a part of it.
It is an exceptional experience that not only professionals in the design field can appreciate but also students and creatives from other fields. It should definitely be on the bucket lists of those who are in the interior and furniture design industries, are enthralled by design, and aspire to have a place in the global industry.
With over 2000 exhibitors, it is nearly impossible to view each space even if one attempts to visit the exhibition everyday for that week. Having completely different showcases each year just goes to show that it is unlikely to run out of sources that can serve as inspiration.
I have always been engrossed with the art and design particularly reflective of cultural heritage, hoping to one day work closely with Filipino artisans and craftsmen. It led me to my current interior and furniture design studies in Italy, a country I could immerse myself in to understand how much culture and art are embedded into the everyday life.
It has been a longtime dream of mine to see the latest collections of furniture design where it is first revealed. I don’t think there’s anything compared to learning from the crème de la crème, especially in my chosen field of interest. As the face of Milan Design Week, featuring established brands along with independent exhibitors, artists and designers, Salone del Mobile is the ultimate immersive experience for design.
Days before heading to Milan, I was advised to set up some sort of strategy so that I would be able to see what would be most relevant to my interests and design aesthetics since the various exhibitions are spread out through several pavilions. Salone del Mobile’s website features a complete list of their exhibitors and their general products, as well as their exact locations, so that was instrumental in helping me figure out how to work my way through each pavilion and focus on what I really wanted to see.
It was recommended to bring a carry-on luggage for all the catalogs and materials we’d be receiving from these exhibitors, and I chose not to because I thought it was merely an exaggeration. At the end of the day, I was completely proven wrong as I received too many catalogs I couldn’t even carry back home. If I had anything to regret, it was that I did not allocate more days to spend at the exhibition because I underestimated how grand the experience would be when I booked my trip!
The first few minutes upon entering the exhibition alone left me in awe with its vertical architecture made up of glass and steel. As I started walking through the pavilions, each space was alluring as they were set up as if they were actual stores and showrooms, and it was like walking through an enormous pop up "museum." But unlike a museum, there was an added experience because of how accessible it was to directly speak to representatives who discussed the art and craftsmanship and stories behind the pieces.
It was initially intimidating, observing how the established professionals approached exhibitors and immediately began discussing business together. I thought that if one wasn’t going to be a potential client, they would not recieve the same level of attention. It’s like how in certain high-end stores, if you walk in looking like you are going to buy something, you will instantly capture the attention of a sales person and receive undivided service and attention. On the contrary, if you look like you’re just passing by and not really looking to buy, you would not recieve the same kind of treatment. I thought it would be like that at Salone del Mobile, however, it was refreshing to see that they were engaging whether they were speaking to professionals, clients, or even students such as myself.
One of the first booths I visited was Badgley Mischka Home, as I love their runway designs and was very much interested in seeing their first-ever collection for interior spaces. Even as students, my friends and I were warmly welcomed as if we were entering someone’s home. We were toured around, as they explained the details and materials predominantly used throughout the collection. I was in awe with the technique applied to gold plated wood and glass furniture!
Gold plated wood and glass furniture at Badgley Mischka
It helped to remain open-minded and not so strict about my game plan, as the thrilling part about going through numerous pavillions was also being able to stumble upon other brands that just caught my attention while walking. One of the many brands I discovered was Officine Gullo and their line of professional custom kitchens. The product that I was most drawn to throughout the whole exhibit was their Wine Dispenser that could “easily load four bottles and preserve and serve at the ideal temperature without spoilage and over-pouring," instantly solving a wine-lover’s problems! All I could think about was how much my dad would love it and I desperately wanted to bring it home.
Wine dispenser by Officine Gullo
This year’s exhibition promoted innovation and sustainability, and a brand that exceptionally presented this was CC Tapis, an Italian company producing handmade rugs by Tibetan artians in Nepal. The brand celebrates a blend of tradition and contemporary design with an eco-friendly approach to its production. In fact, they were among the three recipients awarded by Salone del Mobile. They have “a perfect combination of product and presentation. Traditional craftsmanship meets art to create a suggestive and captivating atmosphere. Rugs made to be stroked and a stand to be experienced.” The detail in each piece was beyond breathtaking, considering how each strand of Himalayan wool was manipulated piece by piece.
Checking out CC Tapis' handmade rugs
As a whole, I think it is a completely different way of experiencing Milan and its design culture. One can definitely gain appreciation not only in the products that are featured but also the manner in which they are curated, presented and celebrated. It reflects how design can be playful and fun, seen in Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana’s unexpected collaboration with kitchen producer SMEG.
Dolce & Gabbana x SMEG
I was also drawn towards the people walking around, the way they dress and carry themselves, and how they interacted. It is a melting pot, bringing together individuals from different nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds with something in common. It is a place to discover potential and to learn from how it is organized because it had to start somewhere to get this big.
I was particularly moved by the cultural appreciation within the environment. In every space that I visited, I was always asked where I was from. Every time I said I came from the Philippines, they were amazed, even honored that someone like me would go all the way to Milan and have interest in their brands. It is inspiring to see how passionate they are in showcasing what they are known for and what comes from their culture that can possibly relate to others. This goes to show that if Filipinos constantly make it a priority to discover what is distinctly Filipino and continue to grow and if they can appreciate it themselves, the rest of the world has the potential to see that from the Philippines as well. For instance, the craftsmanship applied to the rugs made by CC Tapis actually reminded me of the indigenous weaves produced by artisans in our country.
Reflecting on the exhibitions and trade shows in the Philippines that I eagerly attend and seeing how it is in Milan made me realize that we are going towards a direction of progression. It would be wonderful to continue seeing more Filipinos from my generation embrace the mentality to establish what can be grand and much awaited by the world, stemming from the mere purpose of showcasing heritage and culture. The potential to showcase what there is to be proud of from our country, growth, and appreciation from other nations is undeniable, and I am looking forward to eventually pursue a career that adds value to this.
See more from the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Italy in this gallery: