Milan's fashion brands have long creeped in on the furniture act during the city's annual Salone del Mobile. But what was once an optional event has by now become a mandatory annual appointment. From the mammoth marques that have their own home furnishings collections (such as Versace, Giorgio Armani, Missoni and Etro) to the smaller labels that sell only shoes, nearly every key fashion brand participates in some small or large way during the five-day fair. Most activity occurs inside the brands' boutiques or showrooms in the city centre, where the bubbling spumante and front row-less socialites descend on the design hubs to create one happy party. Here is our edit of the best design initiatives helmed by fashion companies during the world's most important furniture fair.Pictured: Installation view at Antonio Marras
Antonio Marras’ studio looks more like a fantasy-laden theatre workshop than it does a traditional fashion showroom. The Sardinian designers’ pulsating creativity extends to art (he’s a voracious painter) as well as design, which he annually dabbles in during Milan’s Salone del Mobile. For this year’s edition, Marras collaborated with Segno Italiano - a company run by three architects that produces the works of small Italian artisans - to create a giant dining table installation called 'Un Volo A Planare' in his Milan headquarters. The intricate white ceramics were made by a small supplier in Este, the 12ft spindly chairs from Genova, the copper cookware hanging from the ceiling was made in Trento and the vintage mannequins all come from Marras’ studio.
For a top notch example of how a fashion label should properly collaborate with a furniture designer, look no further than COS' endeavour with Nendo. The H&M-owned brand charged the Tokyo- and Milan-based studio - headed up by Japanese designer Oki Sato - with the task of re-imagining its classic white shirt. Granted free creative reign, Sato infused the shirts with increasing gradations of grey in the form of woven panels. Downstairs from the evocative installation, an expansive exhibition of Nendo's oeuvre, from candlesticks and cutlery to chocolate paint sets, was on display.Photography: Daichi Ano
Sato weaved hundreds of garments throughout the store like a dry-cleaning assembly line, caged in metal frames. Best of all, everything was for sale on COS' website. Now that's what we call a real collaboration.Photography: Daichi Ano
To celebrate the start of its Design on Board touring exhibition - which featured, amongst other things, a Palombo Serafini-designed motorhome dubbed 'Hometta' - sneaker brand Ruco launched 'VRAC', a multifunctional bag by the architect Jean Nouvel. The deceptively unassuming bag is a carry-all with external attachments for an iPad or iPhone and features a structured interior with multiple compartments.
The bag follows on from last year's shoe design by Jean Nouvel for the brand - his first ever fashion collaboration - pictured here in a new limited-edition silver version, that was produced in collaboration with the Gagosian Gallery. In honour of the 2013 Salone, Nouvel created a sleek mono-tone high top sneaker in bright candy colours.
Missoni has been in the home furnishings game for decades, but this is the first year that the Italian fashion house has collaborated with ceramics specialist Richard Ginori. In classic Missoni form, the presentation in the brand's Via Solferino showroom took on a cosy, familiar turn. The new range of tabletop products and ceramics, featuring flowers and zig zag designs, were affixed to walls and suspended from the ceilings.
Carpets, pillows and ottomans were strewn across the floors, providing both design professionals and members of the public alike much-needed respite from Salone fatigue.
Over the last three years, Marni has slowly built up a niche home collection that centres on a charity initiative in Bolivia. The project started with a range of simple chairs - designed by Marni but handmade by a group of artisan women in Bolivia - and has now blossomed into a collection of tables, rocking chairs and modular units that can be grouped together to form a sofa.Photography: Mauricio Rivera
Each piece features the kooky colour combinations that are a signature of Marni's clothing - pale pink with yellow, or turquoise and red with black - providing a bold accent for outdoor spaces.
The collection is also growing beyond functional design; this season included towering metal sculptures in the form of frolicking animals, from flamingoes, to roosters, rabbits, donkeys and more.
Though Pucci has had an ongoing collaboration with Cappellini for the production of print-tastic upholstered furniture (which was shown at Rho), this is the first year that the Florentine house has collaborated with the tile titans at Bisazza. The presentation, which took place inside Bisazza's store in Via Senato, featured a wide range of ceramic tiles and mosaics blanketed with the pulsating patterns of Emilio Pucci.
Recent prints from the 21st century - including 2006 Alba and Amelie geometric florals - were used on the commercial small tile collection. Meanwhile, vintage prints, such as 1969s Onde, were beautifully re-created on hand-cut and hand-placed mosaic wallscapes.
Oftentimes, fashion brands enlist the help of a furniture or industrial designer to tweak a classic piece of apparel. Such was the case of Tod's smart pairing with Oki Sato, the founder of the Japanese design and architectural firm Nendo.
Using an old-fashioned envelope fastener as inspiration, Sato tweaked Tod's signature suede moccasins into a sleek modern suede slipper that featured a hip white rubber sole and leather laces that replicate the string closure of an envelope.Photography: Kate Jackling
Vitale Barberis Canonico
Vitale Barberis Canonico has been in business for 350 years, and is run by the 13th generation of the same family. All that time has allowed this Piedmont-based wool mill to perfect its silky wools, houndstooths, herringbones and tweeds. The full range of its fabrics were artfully photographed in mise-en-scène settings by Fredi Marcarini and exhibited during the Salone in the historic menswear shop Bardelli. The two companies hosted an event in the four-storey shop, located in a 19th-century building in Milan, to celebrate the exhibition and promote made-to-measure suits by M Bardelli with Vitale Barberis Canonico fabrics.
Vitale Barberis Canonico
The two companies hosted an event in the four-storey shop, located in a 19th-century building in Milan, to celebrate the exhibition and promote made-to-measure suits by M Bardelli with Vitale Barberis Canonico fabrics.
Alexander McQueen's partnership with the Rug Company goes back more than five years, this year resulting in a new seven-piece collection at the Salone del Mobile.Pictured: 'Folklore' wall hanging
It's a collaboration that works, mostly because the pure, unbridled fantasy of this London-based fashion brand transmits perfectly to the contained dimensions of a carpet.
For this year's fair, Alexander McQueen hosted a cocktail party (together with Wallpaper* magazine) where the latest designs were exhibited, including the all-silk, hand-knotted, blood-red 'Monarch Fire' carpet and the 'Poppy Day' wall tapestry (pictured).
Hermès' news this season was the launch of a lighting collection, its first since the French brand first began to create home furnishings in 1920s. Creative director Pierre Alexis Dumas tapped two creative workhorses for the job: Italian architect Michele de Lucchi, who presented two collections of mechanically-driven leather and steel table and floor lamps; and French artist Yann Kersale who created a leather-trimmed lantern. De Lucchi also designed the installation in Palazzo Serbelloni.
The new lighting was accompanied by three re-editions by Jean Michel Frank - a leather and steel bench, chair and console, plus a new selection of Hermes' outstanding cabinets of curiosities (a bar, shoe closet and buffet).
Bottega Veneta presented its home collection in the brand's headquarters south of the city centre, a practical ruse now that the collection has mushroomed into a massive assortment of pieces.
This season, creative director Tomas Maier opened his studio doors to a whole new world of materials - from four different shades of tinted oak wood, to veiny black and gold marble and lush velvet fabrics in a lemon yellow - creating a wider and richer offering of home wares than ever before.
Rather than re-inventing the wheel, Maier has evolved his carefully considered collection of one-offs into a healthy, full-scale range that includes this oak 'Sawhorse Table', topped with a thick sheet of glass.
Sometimes the Salone offers a good excuse for fashion brands to do a little re-decorating inside their own shops. Such was the case at Prada, where a new line up of 'Vernon Panton' sofas took over its Via Montenapoleone boutique. The 'Clover Leaf' seating, featuring a slithering silhouette made from curved velvet lined modular components, were remodelled in original jewel toned hues. Ruby red was used for the footwear department, emerald green for the ready to wear and gold for the VIP section (naturally).
Wallpaper* brought together two Handmade stalwarts, Michael Anastassiades and Brioni, to create its first off-site installation during the fair.
A celebration of structural lighting and precision stitching presented in beautifully dressed windows at the brand's Milan store - which played host to our Wallpaper* Handmade exhibitions in 2010, 2011 and 2012 - it was just a taster of an even more ambitious collaboration coming soon.
Giorgio Armani is one of a handful of fashion designers who helms a full-scale furniture line that can ostensibly cover every square inch of one's home. The final frontier left to conquer in his home interiors empire was wallpaper, which the designer swiftly did this season in collaboration with Jannelli e Volpi. The full range of wall-coverings includes fine digital prints as well as more earthy materials - such as silk, sisal and shantung - that create the neutral, but visually stimulating palette for which Armani is known.
Wallpaper was also used as a precious detail for several pieces of furniture in the collection. Patinated linen, for example, was applied with a silver leaf finish on the 'Trocadero' dining table.
Salvatore Ferragamo's large windows along Milan's Via Montenapolone provided the striking backdrop to Molteni's re-editions of Gio Ponti furniture, which certainly deserve the spotlight. A pair of Gio Ponti chairs, originally designed in 1953 and 1970, as well as a drawer set from the 1950s, were featured in the windows.
The rest of the store, curated by Italian architect Rodolfo Dordoni, featured other furniture and original documents from the Gio Ponti archives (which were also enlarged and displayed in the store windows), designs from the fashion house's museum in Florence as well as Ferragamo's 'Sofia' bag constructed in red pony skin with a python handle.
Over the years, Roberto Cavalli has harnessed every animal in the jungle as design inspiration for his home collection. This season he took a different turn, focusing on new materials such as leather, wrought iron and silky velvets. The collection was rounded out by a new offering of wallpapers and blown glass.
Of course, Cavalli didn't completely lose his penchant for a roar: chairs and patchwork carpets were covered in glossy coloured pony skin, while walls came covered in either screaming leopard print or more subtle crocodile patterns.
Slick suit-maker Canali has been featuring a diverse roster of distinguished men on its website in an ongoing feature entitled '200 Steps'. For this year's fair, it cast a spotlight on the stylish London-based design duo Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. Dressed in Canali finery, the Barber Osgerby team was filmed for a video and a selection of their designs were featured inside Canali's Milan boutique.
Stone Island's showroom on Via Savona housed a textile and sound installation by designer Asim Khan, and painted textiles by Sergio Perrero entitled 'De-Formation'.
Other corners of the space were lit up with 'Lumio' (pictured), a lighting installation by Max Gunawan crafted from paper.
Shoemaker Alberto Guardiani teamed up with Wallpaper* for the fourth year running at this year's Salone, asking us to conjure a window display and installation at its flagship Milanese store.
We drafted in set designer and artist Robert Storey, known for his work for Opening Ceremony, Nike and Vionnet, giving him the simple brief: interpret the Alberto Guardiani 'brace' logo (a version of the curly parenthesis from a computer keyboard) in dynamic and attractive form.
Storey used light-diffracting Perspex cut into multiple brace shapes to build a central installation and window display. Referencing the brace, we called the project 'In Parenthesis' and co-hosted a cocktail event with Guardiani at the store to celebrate its grand unveiling.
Eyewear giant Safilo produces sun and eyeglasses for some of the biggest names in fashion. But they also have a proprietary line that got a boost this season, courtesy of industrial designer Marc Newson. In honor of Safilo's 80th birthday, Newson devised a range of unisex eyewear based on the brand's iconic 1979 'Elasta 3003' model. The slimmed-down frames, rendered in steel wire, aluminium or lightweight plastic, were presented at its Corso Como boutique during the Salone del Mobile.
One of our favourite off-piste design events occurred not in conjunction with a fashion brand, but rather with Milan’s oldest department store - La Rinascente. Under the guidance of furniture designer Martino Gamper (who had prolific output at this edition of the Salone), the entire edifice of the store was transformed into a work space for small Italian artisans to set up shop and to offer free repair services to the public during the Salone’s five-day run.
Entitled 'In a State of Repair', this ingenious installation featured artisans specialising in shoes, handbags, toys, book binding, straw chairs and even bicycles, all of whom were fixing product - for free - in front of the public’s wide eyes.
Loro Piana is one of the few Italian companies that effortlessly transmits its extensive textile know-how from fashion into the world of interiors. Impeccable raw materials are the brand’s trademark and a key component to its interior decoration fabrics. This year’s collection, displayed beautifully in the windows of their Via Montenapoleone store, included the new richly decorative Maharaja collection.
Precious wools, crisp linens and silk velvets featured a spicy palette of colours and an exotic array of patterns, some of which were created by embossing or imprime, all of which were designed specifically for upholsteries, draperies or wall tapestries.
British fashion designer Paul Smith paid his own tribute to Hans J Wegner, dipping into the archives of Carl Hansen & Søn - the largest producer of the Danish designer's products - for a limited-edition collection of furniture.
Smith picked an assortment of his favourite Wegner furniture designs - from the 'Shell', 'Wishbone' and 'Wing' chairs, to the 'CH163' sofa. Each of the iconic items were dressed in the British designer's trademark striped textiles, produced in collaboration with Maharam.
To mark the occasion of Vitra Design Museum's current major show - a sweeping overview of designer Konstantin Grcic's prolific career - exhibition sponsor Hugo Boss hosted a design talk in its flagship store on Corso Giacomo Matteotti. Wallpaper* Editor-in-Chief Tony Chambers, Vitra Design Museum director Mateo Kries, along with Grcic, led a lively debate to a full house.
Iterations of 'Chair One', a 2004 design by Grcic and featured prominently in the 'Panorama' show, were peppered throughout the store.
The footwear masters at Fratelli Rossetti tapped a Milan-based artist to create an installation for their well-placed windows on Via Montenapoleone.
Entitled 'Isola', the installation features the artist’s preferred pair of Rossetti masculine-inspired lace up shoes tucked within an imaginary island setting.
Trussardi's history with industrial design goes back to the early 1980s when founder Nicola Trussardi dabbled in everything from airline interiors to sofas. Now, his daughter Gaia Trussardi has relaunched the home collection in collaboration with Luxury Living Group. Designed by Carlo Colombo, the collection includes four different chairs, two tables, three lamps and a velvet couch.
Leather, of course, features prominently, while blackened shiny steel added a slick effect to the pieces. Dining chairs with python or red pony skin seats give a nod to this leather good's expertise in exotic skins.
Brunello Cucinelli may be the current cashmere king of Italian fashion, but his homeware line is only just getting off the ground now. After dabbling in cashmere blankets and candles, the brand's lifestyle collection officially launched during the Salone in its Via della Spiga store. New products include linen cushions, stamped leather frames, leather jewellery boxes, stackable candles and washcloth boxes crafted from waterproof walnut that are made expressly for one's sauna (assuming one owns a sauna, of course).
The Italian fashion giant unveiled the ‘Palazzo’ sofa – the first in a new family of furniture by creative director Donatella Versace – inspired by the brand’s bag of the same name. Rendered in luxurious eggshell-grey Nubuck leather, the sofa is upholstered entirely by hand. Its sloping arms, containing cleverly concealed drawers, are embellished with golden Medusa heads, a nod to the house’s insignia.
Teaming up with Vionnet for the second year running, gallerist Rosanna Orlandi once again commandeered the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi during the Salone, for a show titled 'Untold', setting contemporary design in a historic framework. In addition to several chairs and chandeliers, designer Jacopo Foggini devised the exhibition's centrepiece (pictured) especially for Vionnet: a large lighting installation comprising blue-violet tinted bases and with fine stems sprouting from it, inspired by the fashion house's penchant for pleating.
Elsewhere in the museum, Wonmin Park's resin furniture added a jolt of colour to the armour gallery.Photography: Jessica Klingelfuss
Pieces from Nacho Carbonell, Fornasetti, Marcel Wanders and more were also on show.
Fashion designer Reed Krakoff and his interior designer wife Delphine are known as design-philes in their hometown of New York. But this is the first time they’ve participated in Milan’s Salone del Mobile. For their debut, the couple collaborated on a furniture collection with English company Established & Sons, dubbed 'The Felt Series'. Using the same razor sharp lines that characterise Krakoff’s minimalist-inclined fashion designs, the five-piece collection is reductionist at heart, but shielded in a practical, almost cosy layer of grey mover’s felt. The focused, freshman effort paid off: this collection was not only Established & Son’s first foray with a fashion designer, but it proved to be the highlight of its whole presentation at this year’s Salone.Photography: Jessica Klingelfuss
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