What caught our eye at Fuorisalone during Milan Design Week 2024

‘Emotions of the Sun’ by Champagne house Veuve Clicquot at Fuorisalone © Spinach

Milan Design Week (15 – 21 April) is a highlight on the cultural calendar, renowned for its unmatched global influence. With the creative world gathered for the week, it is about the sharing of ideas, and speculating how design can help better shape our lives.

At the primary fair, Salone del Mobile, leading global brands present their newest collections thus serving as a pivotal platform for observing trends and innovations. Yet it is often at the more conceptual exhibitions at Fuorisalone (as in away from the salone) where grander ideas take shape. The city simply buzzes with design activity during the week—the vibrant districts of Brera, Tortona and beyond hosting pop-up installations and exhibits, talks and discussions, and with parties flowing into the night. It is at Fuorisalone where design, architecture, art, food and drink intersect, and where you can see the cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Material innovation was a key theme in 2024, as was (naturally) the environment, with many designers approaching the hot topic of machine intelligence and how to balance this with craft in design. And, to lift the imagination, Milan hosted a series of exhibits that brought in a little magic to the picture.

So what caught our eye?

Earthic Lab by design studio Formafantasma questioned luxury. Staged within the historic walls of Teatro Gerolamo, the installation challenged us to look beyond mere beauty in design by turning the gaze on ethical modes of production. Working with Cosentino, the manufacturer of sustainable surface in design and architecture, Formafantasma turned waste into luxury by utilising debris from the company’s production processes and cooking oil in the resin, while the white fragments on the surfaces, the pretty parts, were composed of recycled glass and plastic. Meanwhile the color palette of restrained greys and dark green was chosen for it requires less resin than lighter and brighter shades.

‘We see this as the future of surface design,’ founders Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin told us. ‘It’s not about luxury; it’s about the world we live in. We can no longer only look at aesthetics but need to understand the importance of how things are made.’

Meanwhile, Dutch solar designer Marjan van Aubel proposed a future where solar energy is holistically embedded in the design process, rather than an afterthought add-on. Working with carmaker Lexus, her 8 Minutes and 20 Seconds installation took a life-size model of LF-ZC electric concept car, sliced into 11 transparent sheets, while energy was sourced from solar power captured by organic photovoltaic cells and stored in built-in batteries. The car’s color changed as the sun charged the battery, all to the natural sounds of rustling bamboo and the sun, based on sounds collected by Nasa.

The project title refers to the time it takes for a light particle from the sun to reach the earth. ‘The aim of my work is to change the perception of solar energy,’ she said. ‘My hope is that you will see solar with a new perspective.’

Samuel Ross for Kohler at Palazzo del Senato Milano © Spinach

Our team were collectively intrigued by Samuel Ross’s Terminal 02, which captured the imagination for its bold use of colour and enormous scale, as well as turning the surrealist lens on the humble toilet. Working with bathroom brand Kohler, the cutting-edge London artist and designer constructed a maze-like brutalist installation at Palazzo del Senato featuring a giant orange lavatory and twisting industrial pipes to mark the launch of his first product, the smart Formation 02 toilet.

There were more subtle surrealist moments elsewhere with materials, color and shape playing tricks with the mind. Californian designer Yves Béhar’s Peaks for furniture brand MOOOI, for instance, is a modular sofa composed of dual triangles interconnected by fabric hinges, which allows them to rotate up or down to create multiple seating arrangements. While Faye Toogood created an intriguing space for Tacchini at Rude Arts Club with her irregular and elliptical shapes, sculptural elements mixed with delicate softness, which blended the British designer’s quirky spirit with fine Italian craftsmanship.

A favourite installation, and one that offered the perfect bookend to a buzzing week, was to be had at Emotions of the Sun by champagne house Veuve Clicquot—an enchanting space transporting the viewer on a sensory journey of textures and tones. A collaborative project with Magnum’s Steve McCurry, the exhibit featured artwork by a collective of photographers—Alex Webb, Newsha Tavakolian Trent Parke, Olivia Arthur, Lindokuhle Sobekwa, Cristina de Middel, Nanna Heitmann—selected for the way they capture the many shades of the human condition. Unexpectedly, the images suspended in silky and translucent materials to evoke the sun’s universal appeal as well as tease us to read these images in unexpected ways.

Images from top: ‘Emotions of the Sun’, Veuve Clicquot, ©Spinach, Formafantasma’s ‘Earthic’ ©Formafantasma, and Samuel Ross at Palazzo del Senato Milano ©Spinach.

Spinach is a specialist branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.

Emotions of the Sun’, Veuve Clicquot ©Spinach
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