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Milano Design Week 2023: a fair’n’festival of all things inclusive

With Milano Design Week 2023, the best national and international design brands landed in the city, bringing more innovation and creativity to Milan. With ‘Future laboratory’ as the theme of this Fuorisalone edition, today’s challenges became tomorrow’s opportunities. 

Fuorisalone 2023 manifesto 

Fuorisalone 2023 manifesto

As well as Fashion Week, Design Week increasingly focuses on being adaptive and inclusive, giving centre stage to the person. Whoever they are, without distinction of race or gender. A new way of engaging the public is taking shape, allowing (almost) everyone to experience life without limitations and, when it comes to fashion, translating the words of Hubert de Givenchy: “The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”

Founded in 2018, Alcova is an itinerant platform for independent design. With its fifth edition, Alcova continued its exploration of the city of Milan with a new location - the former Porta Vittoria abattoir © Fuorisalone 2023, photo: Agnese Bedini, Piercarlo Quecchia, DSL Studio 

Founded in 2018, Alcova is an itinerant platform for independent design. With its fifth edition, Alcova continued its exploration of the city of Milan with a new location - the former Porta Vittoria abattoir © Fuorisalone 2023, photo: Agnese Bedini, Piercarlo Quecchia, DSL Studio

A city that aspires to be the capital of fashion and design, Milan educates to respect everyone’s rights, and it does business out of it, as these sectors cover a market segment with high spending power. Diversity must be an opportunity to develop a more inclusive vision of the world around us: innovation and the new should not intimidate us but allow us to overcome conformism and act as a stimulus for creativity that works for the well-being of one and all.

 

How the spirit of inclusive design took to the streets with Milano Design Week 2023

In the Porta Venezia Design District 2023, Leroy Merlin presented OPEN HOUSE. The home, seen as the engine of life, became more efficient and inclusive, thanks to installations realised in collaboration with Politecnico di Milano © Fuorisalone 2023

In the Porta Venezia Design District 2023, Leroy Merlin presented OPEN HOUSE. The home, seen as the engine of life, became more efficient and inclusive, thanks to installations realised in collaboration with Politecnico di Milano © Fuorisalone 2023

The latest edition of Milano Design Week, on 17-23 April, literally embraced this approach, seeking to bring a climate of harmony through installations, events and projects around themes such as circularity, inclusivity, promotion of young talent, environmental commitment and creativity. Running parallel to the Salone del Mobile.Milano at Rho Fiera, this year’s Fuorisalone was a record-breaking one. Over 1,000 engaging events captured the present and imagined the future, focusing on relevant issues such as the reuse and sustainability of processes and materials. With such a packed calendar, it would be impossible to mention them all, so I have selected a few worth mentioning.

 

We Will Design: We have an I.D.E.A. as a manifesto of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility

LOCALLY GROWN by designer and researcher Sanne Visser at BASE for Milano Design Week 2023 as part of Temporary Home Design Residency. This design research project explored human hair as a material resource, by working closely with hairdressers to rethink and reimagine the system of hair recycling © Fuorisalone 2023

LOCALLY GROWN by designer and researcher Sanne Visser at BASE for Milano Design Week 2023 as part of Temporary Home Design Residency. This design research project explored human hair as a material resource, by working closely with hairdressers to rethink and reimagine the system of hair recycling © Fuorisalone 2023

Inclusion. Diversity. Equity. Accessibility. These are concepts embraced by the acronym I.D.E.A. at the centre of Milano Design Week at BASE, a creative hub and community on 34 Via Bergognone. This was the third edition of an experimental path that brought together designers from all over the world, universities, international institutes and other exponents reflecting on the concept of plural and inclusive design in Milan.

At BASE, four designers from the Far East, layers of the Newcomer Society, from the Design Academy of Eindhoven, exhibited four projects ranging from digital mediums to material mediums, mapping a socio-cultural scenario of consumerist attitude, through their nomadic perspective in the Netherlands © Fuorisalone 2023

At BASE, four designers from the Far East, layers of the Newcomer Society, from the Design Academy of Eindhoven, exhibited four projects ranging from digital mediums to material mediums, mapping a socio-cultural scenario of consumerist attitude, through their nomadic perspective in the Netherlands © Fuorisalone 2023

 

Vanity Fair Social Garden promoted active change: We Can Be Heroes 

This year’s Vanity Fair Social Garden theme was Active Change: We Can Be Heroes. With a strong message, Vanity Fair made it clear that we can all build a better future together, with everyone playing their part to the best of their abilities. The Social Garden served as a meeting place to gather ideas and practical actions to demonstrate how things can change by small acts: consuming less energy, respecting the work of others, and even reusing waste materials. But that’s not all. The Vanity Fair Social Garden was also a virtual garden, with geolocalised AR elements created by the Visual Design students from the Istituto Marangoni Milano School of Design in collaboration with Snapchat. All that visitors had to do was scan the Snapcodes to find themselves in a paradise-like, dream-like oasis.

 

Tortona or 5Vie district, that is the question

Tortona Design Week at Fuorisalone 2023 © Fuorisalone 2023, photo: Vincenzo Campisi

Tortona Design Week at Fuorisalone 2023 © Fuorisalone 2023, photo: Vincenzo Campisi

If you might think the Tortona District was the one that enjoyed the most initiatives because it is considered the youngest and trendiest, you might be wrong because even the 5Vie district, which runs between Cordusio and Sant’Ambrogio, offered attractions related to design d’auteur and the impact of art and fine craftsmanship on furniture.

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With the theme Design For Good, exhibitions and installations by 5VIE turned the spotlight on human connections in deep-rooted relationships. Relationships are often underrated, but a simple message is not enough; we should nurture them like plants. The themes presented were the relationship with nature and our roots, the tragedy of incommunicability and the miracle of connection. The focus was on enhancing design by connecting the aesthetic and ethical dimensions.

 

The Brera design district and the last goodbye: The historic tower in Largo Treves was dressed in Dry Days, Tropical Nights, an installation to reflect on climate change before its demolition

Brera Design District, a project by Studiolabo, presented the 14th edition of Brera Design Week © Brera Design Week 2023, photo: Chiara Venegoni, Monstera

Brera Design District, a project by Studiolabo, presented the 14th edition of Brera Design Week © Brera Design Week 2023, photo: Chiara Venegoni, Monstera

What about the Brera Design District, one of the oldest areas in Milan? The liveliest district, offering over 250 events, had one of MDW’s most significant events this year.

‘Dry Days, Tropical Nights’ by Agostino Iacurci

‘Dry Days, Tropical Nights’ by Agostino Iacurci 

In Largo Traves, Agostino Iacurci presented his pop oasis, ‘Dry Days, Tropical Nights’. The pop-coloured installation, with palm trees and lights reminiscent of tropical sunsets, made us reflect on how Italy could transform in the face of the climate changes we are experiencing. In adjacent Via Palermo, Grand Seiko’s Alive in Time brightened up the street with a Zen Garden, where anyone could participate in free workshops on Japanese culture, from the tea ceremony to origami. Sitting on cushions placed on the ground throughout the week, visitors could enjoy the unique experience of an artistic performance.

 

A glimpse of all the fashion that took over Milano Design Week 2023

At Fuorisalone 2023, consumers had the opportunity to understand how fashion and design are connected, with cross-industry projects ready to challenge the frontiers of creativity and environmental commitment. The fashion industry influences the world of industrial design with its fascinating language day after day.

Karl Lagerfeld Maison is the new chapter of the label exploring the Lagerfeld’s creative legacy through interior design collections, including a book lover’s sofa

Karl Lagerfeld Maison is the new chapter of the label exploring the Lagerfeld’s creative legacy through interior design collections, including a book lover’s sofa 

Exploring the city this week revealed how designer Karl Lagerfeld was not only fascinated by interior design throughout his life but was very much into it. Pier Paolo Righi, CEO at Karl Lagerfeld, said so when explaining the decision to expand the label’s lifestyle offering with the Maison collection. At 8 Via della Passione, visitors discovered the first Karl Lagerfeld furniture collection named after the Parisian quarters the designer loved, such as the Quai Voltaire kitchen or the Rue de l’Université lighting pieces. The Lagerfeld style can be felt through the black-and-white contrasts, reflective surfaces and soft shapes as if they were women’s figures. An iconic item in the range is the sofa that serves as a small library, another passion of Mr Lagerfeld’s, with its sides enclosing decorative shelves.

Mystery/Mastery, Matteo Cibic's artwork created for Xacus

Mystery/Mastery, Matteo Cibic's artwork created for Xacus

Artist and designer Matteo Cibic teamed up with Xacus to present the work Mystery/Mastery, which traced the shirt’s journey from the concept of elegance. Mystery/Mastery was created from a block of high-density polyurethane, milled with a robotic arm and then chiselled by hand. The work demonstrated how talents and brands from different fields can work together to create something unique and exclusive.

The most explicit demonstration of inclusivity through taboo-breaking was a project between The Complainers, a Milan-based communication agency, and the Drip Rugs creative team. Their idea was based on the desire to mix words and graphics to express the concept of F**k Work. As bold as it is curious, the rug bearing this provocative writing by Drip Rugs gave voice to the workers as, according to the team, all workers have uttered these words at least once in their life.

 

Is Milano Design Week more inclusive than Milan Fashion Week? Yes but no

People attending Brera Design Week © Brera Design Week 2023, photo: Chiara Venegoni, Monstera

People attending Brera Design Week © Brera Design Week 2023, photo: Chiara Venegoni, Monstera

The 2023 edition of the Salone del Mobile.Milano and Fuorisalone have left an indelible mark, both for the record numbers of visitors – despite the price increases – and for the strong messages that each event sent. Just think how much the theme of inclusiveness is a source of daily debate, even though diversity and inclusion are difficult to interpret. Milan hosts two weeks of global resonance: Milano Fashion Week and Milano Design Week. Both have the power to change things, and every year we witness a few little, positive steps towards a better future. The last edition of MFW made an effort to continue to bring models of different ethnicities and body shapes to the catwalk, demonstrating that roots and physical appearance don’t define or make a person more or less worthy of being represented. I think MDW was even more so by keeping the common thread of widespread diversity in areas beyond design in its calendar.

Ingo Maurer presented an open-air installation in Milan's Porta Nuova district to create reflection, dialogue and atmosphere from 18 to 23 April 2023

Ingo Maurer presented an open-air installation in Milan's Porta Nuova district to create reflection, dialogue and atmosphere from 18 to 23 April 2023

A remarkable openness toward people is also reflected in accreditation and access. No longer reserved for buyers, editors and industry insiders only, events and gatherings, as well as runway shows and presentations, are now open to influencers, artists and students, seen as today’s enthusiasts and tomorrow’s top professionals. The same goes for young talents, who are now given higher consideration and the opportunity to show what they can do in an institutional calendar of big names.

 

 

Agnese Pasquinelli
Fashion Business, Digital Communication & Media student, 2nd year, Milan
School
MILANO DESIGN
Course
Programme
postgraduate-Master's Degrees • Master's Courses