Milan Design Week 2021: Innovative + Imaginative Highlights

Icons reimagined, Caterina De' Medici-inspired home fragrances, objects made from waste at industrial laundries and more

Not everyone believed that Milan Design Week 2021 would be a success, or even happen, for obvious reasons. Despite everything from travel restrictions to immense financial issues gripping many design studios and brands, Cosmit—the institution that’s organized Salone since 1961—forged ahead. After canceling the April edition, they decided that a special Supersalone would be held in September; still at the fair, still in Milan. Consequently, most companies and districts reacted by organizing their usual events in the city, thus giving life to the traditional Fuorisalone happenings and keeping the soul of the Milan Design Week alive.

Of course, attendance was drastically reduced. (The 2019 Salone del Mobile had had 386,000 attendees, while this year that number dropped to 60,000. The Fuorisalone website states 1,348 events were included in April 2019, compared to 763 this month.) But numbers aside, the bet on Milan Design Week was won—especially by Via Durini and Brera Design District, which were the epicenters of the event. Despite many absences and changes, Milan Design Week was successful, full of the same energy and discovery as past iterations. While we eagerly await for the next edition (scheduled for 5-10 April 2022), here are 10 highlights from this year.

by Paolo Ferrarini

A’mare by Jacopo Foggini for Edra

Born in Turin, Italy, artist and designer Jacopo Foggini is best known for his work with methacrylate—a solid and transparent material, usually used to build car headlights. This year, Foggini designed a fantastic outdoor furniture collection for Edra, made from aqua methacrylate bars. The spectacular nature of these objects was amplified by the majestic halls of Edra’s new showroom, housed in the fresco-covered rooms of the historic Palazzo Durini Caproni in Taliedo, right in the center of Milan.

Courtesy of Alcova / courtesy of Paolo Ferrarini

Alcova

Studio Vedet and Space CaviarAlcova‘s curators since 2018—often surprise Milan Design Week visitors with unusual works by designers. This year, they outdid themselves. In fact, Alcova’s new location is housed in three historic buildings within a 3,500-square-meter urban park closed to the public for many years. In this dreamlike location, work from over 50 galleries and independent designers was united by the desire to create a better future through an aesthetic vision.

Courtesy of Flos

Parentesi 50th Anniversary Edition at Flos

At this year’s Milan Design Week, we saw many reissues of historical products, especially by Italian companies. Design icons have been revised to be more efficiently produced, reimagined in different colorways and corrected to be more sustainable. Flos celebrated the 50th anniversary of Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù’s Parentesi light with two new colors and a re-edition of the original packaging. The latest version has also been completely re-engineered by Calvi Brambilla, in close collaboration with the Achille Castiglioni Foundation and the Manzoni Foundation.

Courtesy of Orografie

Orografie

Orografie‘s first collection was presented within Design Variations in the halls of Palazzo Litta. Despite the ancient location, these products are designed for contemporary, digital life within the “amphibious design” category. Here, visitors saw outdoor tables designed around working from home, lecterns dedicated to smartphones and coffee tables full of compartments designed to accommodate our digital devices. These modular objects are beautiful and functional even if used in traditional, analog manners too.

Courtesy of Ginori 1735

LCDC by Luca Nichetto per Ginori 1735

For Ginori1735‘s first collection of home fragrances, designer Luca Nichetto reimagined Caterina De’ Medici’s court—the lover, the scholar, the companion, the favorite, the friar, the lady, the fire-master—resulting in La Compagnia di Caterina, or LCDC, collection. The stories of this legendary queen are present in literature, cinema, comics and even video games. The four fragrances were created by Jean Niel (France’s oldest perfume house), while Nichetto designed candles, incense-burners, diffusers and candle snuffers, each representing a member of De’ Medici’s entourage.

Courtesy of Cassina

Soriana di Afra & Tobia Scarpa for Cassina

Afra and Tobia Scarpa designed the iconic, bulbous Soriana sofa in 1969, and the Compasso d’Oro Prize-winning piece is reborn at Cassina with new colors, a 100% recycled blown-fiber padding, and a structure that can be entirely disassembled. The sofa is even more comfortable and welcoming than previous versions, and different fabric colorways can be cleverly combined with the new hues of the external metal structure.

by Paolo Ferrarini

The Stone House by Stefan Scholten for Morseletto

At Masterly: The Dutch in Milano, a group exhibition curated by Nicole Uniquole, visitors were treated to “The Stone House” by Stefan Scholten in collaboration with Morseletto. For the project, Scholten spent time in the quarries of Forte dei Marmi, one of the most famous places in the world for the extraction of fine marble. He began recovering waste materials, large and small, processed with a technique that creates a distinct patchwork look and a flat surface. Each piece is unique, but not random, as a careful process guarantees its sophisticated and elegant appearance.

Courtesy of Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon at Valextra

Award-winning British designer Tom Dixon‘s Black Light exhibition consisted of 10 illuminating sculptures that, during Milan Design Week, found a home in Italian leather brand Valextra‘s flagship store on Via Manzoni. As Dixon says, “It’s an ode to LED boards.” Some elements of the installation were created in collaboration with Austrian lighting specialists Prolicht.

Courtesy of Etel

Alvor Chair by Daciano da Costa for Etel

Considered the first non-Brazilian designer in the Brazilian modernist movement, Portuguese designer Daciano da Costa created chairs for the luxurious Hotel Alvor Praia in 1966. Characterized by curved lines and only three legs, these pieces have been given new color variations by Etel, each inspired by different moments in the history the iconic design.

by Paolo Ferrarini

Looks Like Magic by Oficina Penadés

Once again, the 5Vie provided a glimpse of the most advanced research and experimentation in design, this year at the Looks Like Magic installation. In a beautiful installation curated by Maria Cristina Didero, Spanish designer Jorge Penadés unveiled an exciting reuse of waste materials as new objects. Penadés developed a process that involves the recovery of textile leftovers from industrial laundries, which he then turns into a moldable clay-like material that he air-dries, rebuffing the need for ovens or kilns.

Hero image of Bibi Smit’s “Clouds” by Paolo Ferrarini