Hubert Burda Media

Out of the Closet

And into the living room. Fashion brands have taken over Milan's Salone Internazionale del Mobile. 

Out of the Closet

Inaugurated in 1961, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile (also known as the Salone del Mobile, Milan Furniture Fair and in shoptalk, Milan Design Week) is to home furnishings what Milan Fashion Week is to fashion. Not limited to the actual fairgrounds itself, the hype and festivities spill out across the entire city each April, with more star designers per square footage encamped in the Italian city than anywhere else in the world.
Once the meet-and-greet trade show for furniture brands such as Minotti and product designers the likes of Ross Lovegrove, the fair and its offshoot events are now a platform at which luxury fashion houses stake their claim to the world of home furnishings (or at least use it to generate their own buzz).
Missoni, already a long-time exhibitor, got a jump on the action this year by heavily engaging audiences on Instagram and Facebook in the days leading up to the event, posting images of Milanese landmarks virtually “Missonised” with its iconic graphics and patterns. Similarly, fellow Italian fashion house, Bottega Veneta, started its campaign digitally before the start of the fair, releasing a video teaser of its 2014 home collection on YouTube.
A fair regular in recent years, Bottega Veneta's home collection evolved out of necessity in 2006 when Creative Director Tomas Maier, unable to find pieces for both his home and his boutiques, commissioned bespoke furniture. What happened next was, as Maier explained, that “people wanted to buy the bench that was in the window and I said: ‘No, we'll make you one.' And one thing led to the next.”
From smaller, highly curated home furnishings collection at previous shows, this year's range has blossomed into a full-scale collection for every room in a house. New noteworthy additions include a rechargeable cordless lamp, a Murano glass tabletop collection and a series of bronze-framed occasional tables. Existing lines, such as the Meta seating and Sawhorse tables, have also been extended.
Commenting on the new releases, Maier said: “The evolution of our Home collection has been purposefully gradual and deliberate, as we have never been interested in doing anything flashy or of-the-moment. Some of these new pieces are more rustic, others more refined, but each one is versatile, functional and beautifully crafted to last a lifetime.”
Armani/Casa, on the other hand, used the fair this year to introduce its collaboration with Italian wallpaper designers Jannelli & Volpi on the creation of its first range of wallcoverings. Made from natural materials such as shantung silk and sisal (a fibre from the agave plant), they mimic the veining of rare marble and the texture of shells. As a key focus for the brand, wallcoverings were also used as precious details in several pieces of furniture, most notably for its fabric panelled Exception decorative screen and the Elliot storage unit with wallpaper-lined interiors.
Over at Marni — which turns 20 this year — it was the brand's philanthropic ethos that was on full display. Since 2012, it has presented collections handmade in Colombia, where they work with ex-prisoners in an initiative aimed to reintegrate them into society. While previous years' collections were colourful woven seats, lounges and armchairs, this year's showcase was made festive with the edition of bright-coloured animal figurines — giraffes, ostriches, rabbits, ducks, donkeys and flamingoes — made of metal and PVC. Called Animal House, the creations this time were crafted by women who gained independence and emancipation through their work.
Not wanting to miss out on the action, other luxury houses such as Salvatore Ferragamo, participated on a smaller scale. Teaming up with furniture brand Molteni & C, the leather goods-maker presented an installation by architect-designer Rodolfo Dordoni at its Via Montenapoleone boutique. Called Elective Affinities, the installation featured furniture (produced by Molteni & C) from the archives of celebrated 20th-century architect-designer Giò Ponti.
Of course, Ferragamo could not forget what it does best and so, to mark the occasion, released a special Salone del Mobile edition of its iconic Sofia handbag. Featuring python and a combination of pony skins in pop colours including red and the subtler antique pink, the new Sofia comes in two sizes: Medium and miniature.
Be it through partnerships or a full-blown collection, it seems the big fashion players have caught on — the luxury consumer requires furniture to store and display their handbags too.