By Carol Kurth, FAIA, ASID
Baldwin Design Council Member
At Milan Design Week, design is everywhere and everywhere is design!
The city of Milan comes alive during Design Week, an annual event that celebrates all facets of design. Set amidst a vibrant and historic backdrop, this incredible occasion has non-stop activities, amazing food, stunning fashion and incredible culture. I was fortunate to travel to Milan with my colleague this past week and experience the excitement first hand. Here are my main takeaways:
When thinking of the Design Fair... think gigantic. Imagine yourself walking through an outdoor galleria with airport-style, people-moving sidewalks flanked by numerous jetways. Now imagine each of these comparable to buildings the size of the Javits Center! The walkways themselves are lined with incredible vendors and amazing restaurants. Next, imagine all of that stacked onto a second level! That’s the approximate scale of the Fiera Milano Rho.
The buildings are massive and the vendors spare no expense in creating their elaborate booths — impressive, high design, innovative — many with advance VIP access-only areas. For those who are “on the list” or who plan ahead, velvet ropes and the VIP red carpet treatment await, with carefully curated experiences.
These vendors do an enormous amount of business at the show. Unlike typical shows in the U.S., booths at the Milan Design Fair are often divided into two sections — one for the trade access (and Public on the last days of the show) and another for VIP access. Many booths have two levels with the main level showcasing new products (no photos allowed) and the upper section set up to wine, dine and place orders.
Upon entry to each booth, we were greeted at a check-in counter where multilingual attendants welcomed us. Once checked in, we were escorted through the booths for tours of the furnishings, after which we were whisked off to alcoves to dine and do business. Many booths had 20 or more such stations, which are set up to close the deal. This is the only opportunity to see and experience the products in-person.
The real standouts at the Milan Design Fair were Molteni & Co., Minotti, and Flos (where I caught a glimpse of Philippe Starck!). Lamborghini looked incredible with Karim Rashid designs, and luxury booths, such as Fendi, were invitation only and so mobbed you couldn't even get close!
In the course of seven days, my colleague and I walked more than 47 miles and took almost every form of transportation from tram to funicular, train to trolley, it was truly an amazing experience.