After a three-year break, Milan Design Week, the design calendar’s most influential event, returned earlier this week, filling the city with installations and exhibitions showing the latest in luxury homeware. One of the biggest stories at the fair in recent years has been the style crossover between fashion and furniture; when it comes to trends, what starts on the catwalk usually makes its way to the cushion before too long. This year, more fashion houses than ever are taking part, opening their showrooms and private palazzos to showcase new products and collections, and proving how important their homeware lines have become in terms of how the brands position themselves.
Some, such as Ralph Lauren, Armani, Versace and Fendi, have been producing furniture for several decades; for others, it’s a relatively new endeavour. Dolce & Gabbana launched its first full D&G Casa range only last year – and has gone characteristically full-throttle, with enough product to fill a huge new flagship store in Milan and others to follow around Europe.
Similarly, Dior had kept its interiors offering to tableware and small accessories until last autumn, when it collaborated with a selection of designers on a range of one-off chairs, each a modern reworking of the Louis XVI-style Medallion chair that was a favourite of Christian Dior’s. For design week, the brand teamed up with Philippe Starck on the Miss Dior chair, his own version of the Medallion, which comes in a variety of metallic finishes, from rose copper and gold to black chromium, and can be bought to order – perhaps signalling the start of a more permanent move into furniture for Dior.
In many ways, what fashion brings to design week is a shot of glamour; there is never a bland moment when a fashion house takes on interiors. It’s also an indicator of the catwalk references that are due to make their way into the home.
The power of print
The use of colour and pattern is perhaps the most apposite way in which fashion and furniture trends can come together. Designer JJ Martin of fashion label La DoubleJ, who started out making vintage-inspired dresses, has since led the charge in maximalist tableware, translating her colourful aesthetic on to pattern-embellished porcelain and linens that can be mixed and matched for full effect, along with vases, cushions and other home accessories.
D&G Casa has a similarly playful approach to pattern, wrapping everything from table and kitchen ware to textiles and furniture in bold print – floral and animal motifs being a particular speciality. Although not many furniture brands are taking pattern to such extremes, there has been a notable shift towards stronger, more optimistic tones, Capri blue, claret and sunshine yellow being among the shades that are appearing in many a palette this year.
At Armani Casa, the brand’s classic chequerboard print appears on table linens and cushions, and is echoed on a new table made from blocks of wood and plexiglass, providing a recognisable link between the fashion and home accessories – and referencing a current trend across homewares for large-scale check motifs. Likewise, bold stripes are also on trend, and Fendi’s signature Pequin stripe has been translated from bags and scarves on to sofa and bed upholstery, cushions and Murano-glass lamps. Both brands have also incorporated their logos into furniture pieces with subtle touches such as drawer pulls and stitching.
The youthful Milanese fashion label Colville, launched in 2018 by British designers Molly Molloy and Lucinda Chambers, is notable for its confident use of contrasting colours, and its new range includes its first foray into built furniture with colour-blocked side tables in a mix of wood and lacquer finishes. Patterned cushions in the same fabrics used to make the label’s bags, coloured glass vases, oversize pouffes and shaggy rugs – some with a chequerboard motif – complete the brand’s joyful collection.
From the coat to the couch
Another element in which fashion and furniture coincide is in the choice of textures used for upholstery and soft furnishings. Loro Piana made its debut at design week with a collection of sofas, chairs, chaises and tables by Paris-based designer Raphael Navot, designed for comfort, with rounded shapes inspired by natural motifs. The ‘cashfur’ fabric the brand developed for its clothing – a blend of cashmere and silk – has been adapted for use here as super-soft upholstery; while linen, another fabric for which it is known, offers a more tailored alternative.
Bouclé – a fabric notably used by Chanel in the 1950s and 1960s to make its iconic jackets, made famous by Jackie Kennedy – has taken over from velvet as the most current choice for upholstery, due to its tactile, textural quality, and the natural warmth it brings to a sofa or chair. It can now be found in most homeware collections, often in classic cream, but also in bolder reds, blues and greens.
Cassina has taken a more laidback approach with the reissue of its Soriana chair from the 1960s, which now comes wrapped in premium Japanese denim; while Ralph Lauren Home’s new Palazzo collection blends ornate gilded and classic mahogany furniture with its signature tartans and tweeds.
Sustainability is, increasingly, a key concern for the luxury furniture industry, and, as in fashion, ever more innovative fabrics are being developed from natural fibres or discarded materials.
British fashion designer Stella McCartney is showing a range of clothing, shoes and bags in Milan made from Mylo, a vegan leather derived from mushrooms. She has also designed a mushroom-themed toile de Jouy-style print for her Summer 22 collection which is to be made into a wallpaper for Cole & Son, to be launched this autumn. It will be the company’s most sustainable wallpaper yet, with a substrate made from 79% renewable fibres.
McCartney’s print has also been used as a fabric by the heritage furniture brand B&B Italia to cover a reissue of its squidgy Bambola armchair – which is itself now made in a circular fashion, using recycled and recyclable materials. It’s one more example of the way fashion and furniture are aligned, in a cross-referencing relationship that is bringing ever more creative results.
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