Milan Furniture Fair

by Kate Burnett in News & Noteworthy

It is hard to describe the sheer scale of the Milan Furniture Fair – but just knowing that nearly 300,000 visitors from all over the world will descend on the northern Italian city in the week of 8 April gives you some idea of its significance in the design calendar.

Now in its 52nd year, the Saloni as it is known in Italian, has aged remarkably well, and no other international event has yet matched it in terms of size, but also, importantly, influence. All the major international manufacturers are here, of course, with new products on show both at the Fiera showground (in Rho-Pero in the northwest suburbs of Milan) and also in their city-centre showrooms. But so is everyone else – the smaller manufacturers, the designer-makers just out of university, the Chinese buyers and the Russian retailers, Brazilian academics and Canadian collectors.

Key players from every level mix with design tourists lucky enough to afford the inflated prices of the hotels which are usually fully-booked some time in advance. Like Fashion Week, this is the time to come and see and be seen, to spot the established stars and discover the new ones-to-watch. Sharing the Fiera with the furniture companies this year is EuroLuce, the lighting design event. Lighting and kitchens take it in turn to exhibit every other year.

The lighting companies (as with furniture, all the big names are here – Flos, Artemide, Ingo Maurer, Louis Poulsen, Tom Dixon, Brand van Egmond, etc, etc) fill a handful of the 24 vast halls that make up the Fiera site. Their twinkling stands are dazzling and impressive, combining inventive design and technological advances.

Back in town, certain districts have established themselves as design hubs. Zona Tortona is perhaps the best known but others that have started to grow in recent years are Brera and Ventura-Lambrate. The atmosphere is buzzing day and night in these neighbourhoods.

Even for seasoned regulars, it is hard to cover it all (forget lazy long lunches with a glass of vino rosso, this is an endurance event, usually fuelled by strong espresso and a quick ham-and-cheese sandwich eaten on the go). But of course, you get to say you were there – you rubbed shoulders with Philippe Starck and spotted the new Patricia Urquiola – and you should be pretty much an expert by the time you leave. Take flat shoes and a good map. Happy hunting!

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