Dear Salone del Mobile.Milano, how I miss you! I know letters have gone out of fashion, but this is digitised on your new platform, so please humour me. It’s a sort of love letter…
Twice now, the Coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to you happening in April as usual - a financial disaster for you, and a sad loss for me and for all the other fans of the Salone.
I’ve been making my regular pilgrimage to Milan to visit you since 1983, and I’ve only missed you once because I wasn’t well. I reported on the first steps of Memphis for Ambiente magazine at the time. I got to know Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini well, and I’m still a fan of Matteo Thun and Aldo Cibic. Over the course of the nearly four decades in which I’ve come to see you, I’ve seen lots of trends come and go. I’ve met countless designers and written about them. I’ve interviewed many amazing furniture producers and published their products. My visits to Milan for the Salone have always been the high spot of my year: in the past, in the old fairgrounds in September and from 2005 in April at the new Rho Fiera Milano venue, designed by the Fuksas architectural practice. The spectacular complex of buildings with its boulevard has become symbolic of an innovative trade fair: modern, visionary and communicative.
Over the years, the magazines on whose behalf I visited the most chic and important of all the furniture fairs has changed. From 1999 to 2016, I came with my team as Editor-in-Chief of the classic magazine Architektur&Wohnen. We planned the annual run-down of new products, tendencies and trends, and movers and shakers, with exceptional images and layouts, which netted us several design awards. During the Salone, Milan always fired our creativity.
So, for many years, I was at the fair from around 10 till 4 every day (with privileged access to the Red Lounge, which was a godsend for tired legs and provided welcome food and drink at midday – thanks so much, dearest Salone!). Naturally, I’ve taken a turn around SaloneSatellite every year since its inception. It’s admirable that its founder, Marva Griffin Wilshire, has gone on curating it and creating the greatest talent show in the design world since 1998. I know a few designers whom she discovered and who are now hugely successful, the German designer Sebastian Herkner, for one.
But let’s go back to a normal day at the Salone for me. In late afternoon a quick pitstop to leave the press material at the hotel – and change my shoes. Then off to the evening Fuorisalone, in the showrooms and events venues in the city. Milan, the city of fashion, turns into the World City of Design during the Salone del Mobile. The celebrations go on far into the night. The Night Cap at the Bar Basso, where you mix with design celebrities, is legendary.
I’ll never forget events like the scenarios created by Mondo during the Eighties. Paola Navone designed extraordinarily lyrical rooms in old industrial warehouses, with furniture and accessories that celebrated craftsmanship. Then there were the pieces of furniture by Saporiti (during the early Nineties) that floated on the pontoons in the famous swimming pool on the Milanese Lido. That might have been a display by B&B Italia? My memory may be playing tricks on me. But one thing was crystal clear then, imagination and emotion triumphed over mere function.
Swarovski’s glamorous events, for which international stars created fascinating crystal objects, were also unforgettable – fabulous experiences that have probably had to give way to the greater focus on economic viability over the last decade. At the Superstudio in Zona Tortona, on Moooi’s iridescent design stages, and at Boffi, Moroso and Kartell in the Brera Design District, wherever you went in the city there were things to discover, new things to try, old acquaintances to meet, talents to get to know. I really miss that!
Of course, a very special, hybrid “supersalone” is being held in September, and I’m really curious to see what the architect and new curator Stefano Boeri has come up with. But I honestly can’t wait for the 60th anniversary, which we’ll celebrate with the international design family next April. Let’s just hope it will be Covid-free, large-scale and come up to our expectations.
Ciao my dear, see you soon!