Maurizio Ribotti, MD of DesignPartners, gives Wallpaper* an exclusive preview into his plans for this year’s Zona Tortona event held during the upcoming Salone del Mobile


See more images of Zona Tortona past and future

In the year 2000, during the Salone del Mobile, four furniture companies, including the ingenius Cappellini, decided to break with tradition and rather than show in either the fairground itself or their own showrooms, they found a new space in which to exhibit their latest wares. The space in question was the Superstudio – an industrial venue that ordinarily hosted photo shoots – located on the up-and-coming via Tortona.

Cut forward to today, and it’s hard to believe this was only nine years ago. Not only is the Superstudio on a par with the Feria as a must-visit destination during the Milan Furniture Fair, but as a design event has grown to now encompass over 90 locations, 35,000 sq m of exhibition space and over 200 exhibitiors. In 2008, in the five days of the fair, the area attracted over 1,000 journalists, 88,000 visitors and the businesses in the area made over 50% of their entire annual income.

This year, ZonaTortona, promises to be even more successful. With a vigorous marketing campaign behind it, 2009 sees a new corporate identity, new venues, expansion of the area (even moving into new parts of the city), improved accessibility (with bicycles to rent and shuttle services), a marked concern to look after journalists and visitors (with a new Design lounge, media suite and The Private Club – an after-hours members bar) as well as bigger and better curated projects. There’s even a TV and radio studio from which Tortona will broadcast to the world what goes on in this most remarkable of weeks. And to top it off, Cappellini is returning to the event after 4 years of absence.
All this is in no small part thanks to one man and his very driven team.
Maurizio Ribotti, who ran his own marketing and communications company, merged with ZonaTortona and its president Luca Fois in 2006 to create DesignPartners. As well as ZonaTortona, the company run several successful design initiatives whose aim is offer marketing, communication and media services to international firms that make design into a strategic asset.
Fois, who set up Tortona all those years ago is still very much involved, taking a particular interest in That’s Design, the showcase for emerging talent, but it is Ribotti, who over the last three years has steered ZonaTortona to become not only the largest - both in size and visitors - design event of its kind but it is the only design week in the world that actually makes a profit.
about Maurizio Ribotti’s expansion plans for the 2009 ZonaTortona, the new exhibitiors, why his job is a bit like ‘lasagne’ and his thoughts on the fair organizers Cosmit