Every April, the city of Milan is transformed into a stage for the world’s largest design event, where the tone is set for the coming year. Effect Magazine rounds up the biggest trends of Milan Design Week 2023.
Milan in April is a design-lover’s paradise. The vast Rho Fiera exhibition hall plays host to the world’s most celebrated design brands as Salone del Mobile; showrooms and galleries across the city host exhibitions and parties launching new collections; creatives from around the world descend upon the city; and there is a palpable sense of excitement in the streets. It can, however, be an overwhelming experience – even for the most seasoned of Milan Design Week attendees. Effect Magazine was on the ground this year to uncover the most inspirational trends, from sophisticated tonal palettes to some impressive collaborations from the biggest names in fashion.
Back to Neutral
After several years of bold maximalism, this year’s Milan Design Week heralded a return to an elegant, more neutral palette – think sophisticated tans, beiges, and creams. The collaboration between British designer Faye Toogood and Maison Matisse, a design house for objects inspired by the art and universe of Henri Matisse, was an exemplary iteration of this trend. The collection of chairs, tables, and rugs pays homage to the ink drawings and still life works of Matisse, in delectable caramel and monochrome hues. “I’m always fascinated by the play between two-dimensional and three-dimensional creation,” says Toogood of the way she has evoked the drawings through physical form.
Love it or hate it, resin was definitely in the spotlight at this year’s Milan. At Nilufar Depot – which is housed in a former silverware factory near Garibaldi train station – ethereal resin forms by Objects of Common Interest were set atop podiums on the ground floor of the soaring space. Titled Poikilos, the collection featured 13 pieces that use a “secret recipe” from an artisan to achieve the unusual opalescent finish.
At the iconic Rossana Orlandi design gallery as part of RoCOLLECTIBLE – an event dedicated to collectible design – two very different expressions of resin were displayed. Draga & Aurel showcased Waterfall, a collection of furniture and lighting that celebrated the way vibrantly coloured resin interacts with light; while Alcarol created screens and tables from maple wood with live edges encased in transparent resin to create an intriguing play between natural and organic materials.
No design week would be complete without some interesting explorations into textiles – but this year’s Milan offered up some particularly innovative takes on tactile textiles. Structured form and regular weaves were replaced by organic and artistic expressions.
A new collection of upholstery fabrics from Kvadrat is inspired by the sketches of Ronan Bourollec. It features three patterns – Tero Outdoor, Sone, and Alle – that recall the dynamic linework and rich colours of the French designer’s drawings. This kind of organic textural variation was echoed in the rugs found in Art + Loom’s installation at the Alcova exhibition in an overgrown former slaughterhouse. Titled The Art of Formation, the contours of the four hand-knotted rugs were informed by tectonic plate shifts, rock formations and shattered slate.
Sustainability at an event dedicated to launching more new objects into the world is always going to be rife with tension – and this year saw some interesting approaches to green design that acknowledge this. Dutch designer and artist Maarten Baas collaborated with G-Star RAW to explore this dichotomy between needs and wants. The More or Less exhibition featured a series of Denim Cabinets crafted from a denim board by Kvadrat Really that is manufactured using recycled denim from the G-Star RAW Return Your Denim programme. Continuing this exploration into the “desire for more and the need for less”, Baas also used waste denim to clad a private plane.
“Every year in Milan I witness the tragicomic dialogue between green design and mass consumption,” explains Baas. “When G-Star approached me to collaborate, it was the perfect opportunity to focus on this duality. After all, we are all part of the same puzzle: we enjoy our Prosecco next to this private jet made from recycled materials. We are not saving the world, but are we contributing to an improvement? More or less…”
Italian studio Formafantasma can always be counted on to present some of the most interesting investigations into material innovation. This year, the duo presented FLOCK, an installation that showcased four classic seats by Tacchini reimagined using surplus sheep’s wool and natural latex to replace industrial foam.
Each year we see more and more collaborations between fashion and design, bringing trends from the fashion world into our interiors. The highlights this year came from two of the biggest names in fashion: Hermès and Louis Vuitton.
Louis Vuitton added 10 new objects to their Objets Nomades collection, which sees some of the world’s top design talents celebrating the craftsmanship and materiality of the brand. The new Binda armchair and sofa by Raw Edges was a stand-out piece, offering a sumptuous pairing of velvet, leather, and sweeping lines.
New pieces from Hermès also had a focus on craft – think minimalist lamps in blown glass, traditional upholstery, and intricate hand-embroidered rugs with graphic motifs.
Marimekko – which has always been known for blurring the boundaries between fashion and design objects – celebrated its idiosyncratic bright graphic style with an exhibition showcasing new artwork by German artist Sabine Finkenaer and a glassware collection by Matti Knel.
Read more: Design Fairs | Design | Art | Interior Designers I Interiors | Milan Design Week | Sustainability