The 2009 Milan Furniture Fair was short on Big Bang moments, so it would be easy to overlook a lot of the doings--the preponderance of design made from repurposed scraps, the surge of handcrafted items, the out-of-the-blue fashion for trompe l'oeil, the offbeat marketing hoax with half a dozen big-name designers advertised for an event they had nothing to do with.
What could not be ignored at this year's fair, which ended today, was the ubiquitous Front Design, an all-female foursome from Sweden who presented work with Moroso, Porro and Moooi, and did a special installment for Veuve Clicquot. They were seemingly everywhere, even doing the obligatory celebrity deejay set at one of the hundreds of Milan parties.
Not to detract from their work, but Front got noticed in part because they know how to make an impact. They worked the town dressed more like fashion executives than designers, and they are assiduously media friendly. In Milan, brains and beauty are a potent pairing.
As usual, Front's work relied on a clever tweaking of tradition and technology. Until now, Front was best known for the life-size black polyester Horse Lamp they designed three years ago for Moooi, the Dutch design firm started by Marcel Wanders.
Patrizia Moroso, the creative director of a venerable family run furniture firm, has cultivated leading women designers, and this year she brought Front into the fold. One of Front's strengths is playing aesthetic tricks that are a felicitous balance of lighthearted and serious. Their couch for Moroso is photo-printed to look like a hardwood bench, but in reality is soft and comfortable. It's the kind of trick Front is known for.
To promote the launch of eco-friendly packaging called DesignBox, Veuve Clicquot invited a handful of designers to use their new boxes to create furniture. Front made a chaise lounge with a grid of boxes that adapt comfortably to a person's body.
For Moooi, the Front team digitized a Royal Delft vase with three-dimensional software and distorted it so that it looks like it's blowing away in a gust of wind.
Porro, the Italian manufacturer, played up a black-and-white theme this year, with this two-door bedroom cabinet from Front. Its white surface is scrawled with black lines that fan out the bottom, suggesting the swaying movement of a curtain.
See more pictures from Milan 2009.