Fashion, luxury labels tap Milan Furniture Fair to showcase new projects
A magical stationery store, a graffiti-ed porcelain tea set and a roving detox bar were only some of the surprising, amusing and often downright quirky initiatives dreamed up by fashion labels to make their mark on this pared-down edition of the Milan Furniture Fair. FashionNetwork.com was there, and had a peek at some of them.
The renowned Milanese design and furniture fair was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. This year, it was back in a streamlined version rechristened supersalone, held on September 5-10. The dates, only a few days ahead of Milan Fashion Week, scheduled on September 21-27, were ill-suited for most of the fashion labels keen to take part in this much-hyped event. It is tough to work on two deadlines so close to one another, knowing also that new design projects will have to be developed for the Milan Furniture Fair’s 2022 edition, set to return to its usual April dates.
Except for Hermès, Dior and Bulgari, which took part in Milan Design Week with extensive initiatives, the majority of luxury labels, from Versace to Fendi, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Missoni and others, took advantage of supersalone to present their interior decoration collections via a simple press release, or by showcasing select products in their stores, without staging special events as they often did in the past. Other labels teamed up with designers or artists to create capsule collections that were showcased in their shop windows during the event.
A handful of labels did however unveil highly original projects, like for example Gucci’s pop-up stationery store, open until September 17 on Milan’s central via Manzoni. Gucci Cartoleria (Italian for ‘stationery shop’), with its period stationery store feel, its parquet floor and wooden wall-panelling, is a tiny Wunderkammer, welcoming only two visitors at a time because of Covid restrictions. It gives the luxury label the chance to launch the new Gucci Lifestyle collection, designed by Creative Director Alessandro Michele.
Michele styled this fairy-tale space down to the minutest details, filling it with an array of toys and amusing props designed to evoke childhood memories: from the mini metal locomotive chugging upside-down along the ceiling’s perimeter, to the cases lining the shelves, their lids open like the mouths of strange animals, to the fans unfurled on the walls, and even the tiny hole at the bottom of a wall that is home to Milan's coolest mouse, its den’s interiors entirely furnished by Michele himself.
Gucci Cartoleria showcased diaries, notebooks, exercise books, coloured crayons, card decks, poker, backgammon and dice sets, alongside skateboards, basketballs and everything one needs for an unexpected trip (pyjamas, inflatable pillow, mules and eye masks). The Gucci Lifestyle Collection is available from September 10 at select Gucci stores and on the label’s e-shop.
Not far from there, in via Bigli, on the corner with via Verri, Virgil Abloh transformed the ground floor of its Milan store in a kind of private flat decorated in the contemporary, street-chic style typical of his Off-White label. Visitors were met at the entrance by a huge dining table surrounded by brightly coloured metal-wire stools. The table was set with plates large and small, and cups and tea pots from a porcelain set decorated with black tagging and graffiti. A surprisingly avant-garde look for this gleaming, ultra-classic white china crockery.
The tableware is a preview of a larger collection to be launched in 2022, a partnership between Off-White, recently acquired by LVMH, and long-established porcelain manufacturer Ginori 1735, founded over two and a half centuries ago in Florence and owned since 2013 by French group Kering.
Givenchy too came up with something original. Keen to catch the eye in Milan's central luxury shopping district, once again brimming with onlookers and tourists during design week, the French luxury label fitted out a three-wheeled van as an itinerant bar, painted Givenchy mat black all over, except for the label's name and logo in white.
The van offered passers-by only one variety of drink, a black, weirdly tasting concoction with detox properties, as the Givenchy barman told FashionNetwork.com, explaining it came straight from Paris and was the beverage of choice of Matthew Williams, the label's young creative director.
Valentino instead customised a newspaper kiosk, transforming it into a theatre box office. The kiosk was repainted and papered all over with black and white prints, pictures of the collection that showed last March at one of Milan’s theatres, the Piccolo Teatro.
Milan had plenty more surprises and unexpected encounters in store for this early-autumn week, a sparkle of conviviality enlivening the Italian city again, and infusing it with an agreeable mood. After the long pandemic months, the desire to meet up in person again is strong, and some brands decided to stage public events, as did Acqua di Parma. At its via del Gesù store, the Italian perfume label presented a capsule collection of fragranced candles created in partnership with artisanal online platform Artemest. Acqua di Parma had organised some entertainment for the occasion, but visitors seemed mostly drawn to what was happening at the back of the store, in a pretty courtyard where hearty cocktails were handed out.
At Milan’s Triennale art and design exhibition, FashionNetwork.com met French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, there to take part in a panel discussion. Wilmotte, who has recently opened an office in Milan, appreciated the “sensation of freedom” he felt visiting supersalone, held at the exhibition centre in Rho, on the city’s outskirts. “This year, the Furniture Fair features a sort of ‘best-of’ selection, presented very sparingly in an exhibition space where everyone has equal standing. No more giant, exclusive booths,” said Wilmotte, who labelled this concept as “surprising,” adding that “it’s a very interesting approach, I loved it.”
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