Maria Porro: ‘We are pouring our hearts into Supersalone’

Newly appointed Salone del Mobile president Maria Porro is the first woman in the role. She talks to Wallpaper* Milan editor Maria Cristina Didero, a Supersalone colleague, about her plans to focus the fair on design, sustainability and creative encounters

A portrait of Maria Porro, Salone del Mobile president, sitting on a upholstered bench
(Image credit: Press)

In July 2021, Maria Porro was nominated to lead Salone del Mobile, the first woman in the role. It is a solid and happy choice: born in Como in 1983, she is former president of Assarredo (the trade association for Italy’s furniture manufacturers), and head of marketing and communication of design brand Porro, co-founded by her great-grandfather. 

‘We are pouring our hearts into organising Supersalone because we believe it’s crucial to go back to meeting each other, to conduct relationships and see for ourselves the products that our companies have carried on creating.’ This is how Maria introduced the upcoming edition of Salone del Mobile, a ‘Supersalone’ curated by architect Stefano Boeri. In the expression ‘pouring our heart’, we can find the desire and strength to restore optimism after the pandemic. 

Maria Porro: a life in furniture

Maria has always been close to the creative world at-large; having graduated from Milan’s Brera Academy of Fine Arts with a degree in set design, she worked within the fields of theatre, events and curation, and conceived Porro’s Salone presentations, to which she brought a personal passion. 

Her relationship with design is well rooted: her great-grandfather Giulio co-founded the family brand in 1925, and it was developed further by her grandfather Carlo and her father Lorenzo. The latter studied alongside Giulio Cappellini and Piero Lissoni, and through his work at the company, combined the concepts of architecture and space with furniture design. 

I grew up with Salone del Mobile. It was a feast

Maria recalls: ‘I grew up with Salone del Mobile. When I was a kid, my grandfather used to take me along to the fair at the old venue. It was a feast.’ She joined the family company in 2014 as director of marketing and communication, crucially focusing on sustainability and quality.

Maria Porro and Salone del Mobile: focus on sustainability

The installations include 200 trees, which will then be replanted across Milan

Supersalone exhibition design led by Andrea Caputo. The installations include 200 trees, which will then be replanted across Milan

(Image credit: Press)

‘Design, sharing and sustainability are the key words for this supersalone edition,’ says Maria. For the 2021 edition of Salone del Mobile, the plan is to recycle installations, saving 1.2 million kilograms of CO2. ‘We have to commit to a better world as soon as we can; this year we are all facing this Salone with a great sense of responsibility.’

You get the sense that her commitment to protecting the natural world is a personal, as much as a professional one. ‘To me, nothing is more important than culture, and to be in direct contact with nature. I like to differentiate experiences in my personal life and share them with my family: I love to bring my three children to the Scala in Milan, but also to camp in woods with them.’

When asked what she would like to pursue with her new appointment she says: ‘I have come to the fair since I was a child, and I have always been impressed by the fact that Salone is actually about encounters. You meet people walking down the halls, you talk to those you don’t know, you get to know some others, you (sometimes literally) bump into an architect or a designer.

We have to commit to a better world as soon as we can; this year we are all facing this Salone with a great sense of responsibility

‘For Porro, this particular fair has represented an opportunity for business as well as creative dialogues,’ she continues. ‘The fair has always had a key role in the world of Made in Italy, as well an international scope. While I’m covering this position I would like to invest in quality, to keep the leadership that Salone established within the industry for many years.’ 

Maria describes collaboration as a key aspect of her approach. ‘I have always worked in events, so I learned that team work makes the difference. It is a special feeling. I particularly enjoy the association of energies of different roles in order to reach a mutual goal. I tried to bring into my company this idea of collective effort, and I’d like to do it at Salone.’ 

Maria Cristina Didero is an independent design curator, consultant and author, who has contributed to many publications over the years. Didero has consulted for companies such as Vitra, Fritz Hansen, Lexus, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Valextra among others. Based in Milan, she works internationally, curating exhibitions for institutions: some of her most recent projects include Nendo: The Space in Between and The Conversation Show at the Holon Design Museum, Israel; FUN HOUSE by Snarkitecture at National Building Museum, Washington D.C.; SuperDesign a project about Italian radical design, NY; Vegan Design, or the Art of Reduction by Erez Nevi and The Fish and The Crowd by Carlo Massoud, Milan. In April 2022 she curated a Mathieu Lehanneur exhibition at the Triennale in Milan called The Inventory of Life, while in July she debuted a project at the MK&G in Hamburg titled Ask Me if I Believe in the Future, alongside a series of ongoing collaborations. She was appointed 2022 Curatorial Director of Design Miami/. She is currently preparing two projects for Milan Design Week 2023.