#SLOW MILAN, THE MILAN REPORT, JUNE 2017

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All copy as provided to the publication.

Slow Milan

Perhaps inspired by the slow food movement, and with slow fashion gaining ground, Milan Design Week is applying the brakes too. Now that every product launch is disseminated worldwide within minutes thanks to the power of the Internet, the focus of Salone del Mobile, the city’s annual celebration of design, is shifting. People seem less inclined to race around design districts collecting images and information; instead, they want to slow down and enjoy a richer, more personal experience of design – first hand. From Cos x Studio Swine’s mesmerising bubble-blowing tree to Lee Broom’s cool carousel, design brands are responding with installations that stop visitors in their tracks and encourage them to pause, take a breath and enjoy the moment. Here are five installations that made this year’s design pilgrims do just that…

Stone Age Folk

Without doubt the most Instagrammed installation of the week, Stone Age Folk by Jaime Hayon was worth seeing in the flesh. Despite the incessant vinyls encouraging selfies, hashtags and ‘joining the conversation’ that may have gone some way to explaining its online ubiquity, it was undeniably a thing of beauty. Combining Caesarstone quartz with metal and stained glass, Hayon created a pavilion that played with light, colour, movement and shadow in a spectacular fashion – the word “kaleidoscopic” might have been overused in the press materials, but there is no more fitting term.

Housed in the Palazzo Serbelloni, Hayon’s installation was inspired by ‘flora, fauna and folklore’ with references to the 1851 Great Exhibition’s Crystal Palace. “There is a strong element of surprise in the visible contrast between the Napoleonic, marble-made palace and this beautiful pavilion, made with 21st-century Caesarstone's quartz,” says Hayon. “I hope, with this very graphic and folkloric installation, to put a smile on people's faces and compel them to think that they are in Milan for the furniture fair, but they have just seen a 'funtastico' world." While we may have serious doubts about the word 'funtastico,’ Hayon is definitely onto something with this playful approach to visitor engagement.

Sé Ensemble

Taking design off the plinth and putting it in situ was a popular move at this year’s fair, with Studiopepe furnishing an early 19th-century apartment in Brera, and Dimorestudio creating a series of 20th-century room sets to showcase their latest collections. But none were more successful at slowing the pace than Sé Ensemble, a four-room apartment within Galleria Rossana Orlandi, itself arranged around a sun-dappled courtyard that practically demanded a leisurely lunch stop.  

Described by Sé co-founder Pavle Schtakleff as a “wonderful opportunity to share our philosophy for living,” the space comprised a lounge, dining room, dressing room and salon, showcasing three Sé collections alongside rugs from French producer La Manufacture Cogolin and wallpapers by Brooklyn-based Calico Wallpaper. The cool temperature, gentle music and mesmerising hand-made brass Mobile Sculpture by French artist Christel Sadde conspired to make this a place to linger, no matter how tight your schedule.

Armour Mon Amour

Swedish-French design duo Fredrick Färg and Emma Marga Blanche took the idea of design in situ one step further and as well as presenting a solo exhibition in Teatro Arsenale, they hosted nightly dinners throughout Milan Design Week during which guests sat on their chairs, ate and drank from their tableware and were entertained with experimental Swedish music played on their furniture. A three-course meal served over three hours gave visitors the time to really immerse themselves in the exhibition, which ‘questioned the relationship between hard and soft,’ showcasing existing work alongside more than 10 new objects from the pair.

Inspired by a three-month residency in Japan and in particular by the armour worn by Samurai warriors, the latest Färg&Blanche furniture collection comprises sewn metal – quite a leap even for two designers best known for their experimental tailoring of wood. “We were fascinated by the mix of hard and soft material, and how they attach to each other,” says Blanche. “The different pieces create a shell when combined together, a protection in three-dimensional form. We were also intrigued by the fact that this armour conveyed a strong sense of the personality of these warriors.”

Le Refuge

After a childhood spent in Rome, an early career in the Italian car industry, and a studio in Paris, designer and Bloom Room founder Marc Ange says he finally found peace in Los Angeles, where he has recently opened a second office. He likens the feeling to the sanctuary of the imaginary rainforests he played in as a child. He created Le Refuge or ‘The Imaginary World of Marc Ange’ to recreate that feeling for Milan Design Week visitors.

“Le Refuge is a place where one finds comfort and peace,” he explains. “It is the projection of a childhood memory. Its large leaves form a shelter under the sun, away from reality, just like those of the imaginary jungle that grows in the room of a child who seeks escape.”

A concrete base, foam and fabric cushions and perforated metal palm leaves created a welcome moment of pink peace in the calming gardens of the Mediateca di Santa Teresa as part of Wallpaper* Handmade.  

Passeggiata: An Airbnb Experience of Milan

Built in the 15th century and a private home to this day, Casa degli Atellani played host to Leonardo da Vinci while he painted The Last Supper at the nearby Dominican convent, and once held parties that were the envy of the city. For Milan Design Week, it was the starting point for a series of designer-led city tours, inspired by Airbnb’s new Trips platform, that took in local destinations not usually on the iSalone trail, such as JJ Martin’s fashion boutique La Double J, Fabrica’s creative director Sam Baron’s favourite dried-fruit shop Noberasco 1908, and of course that Dominican convent.

Inside, a treasure trove of the work and personal collections of contemporary designers, curated by Martina Mondadori Sartogo, was nestled into the original interiors of Casa degli Atellani – ranging from Matteo Thun’s watercolours to Faye Toogood’s collection of stones and rocks. All while prosecco and canapés circulated among the beautiful people in the garden to the sounds of a performance by the Ensemble Scaligero from Milan’s Filarmonica della Scala orchestra.