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Milan 101: A Furniture Fair Primer

Each spring, the design world descends like a flock of starlings (glossy, dressed in black) on the northern Italian city of Milan for a week of revelry in honor of the Milan Furniture Fair (which those with Continental pretensions prefer to call "I Saloni," "the event" in Italian.)

Each spring, the design world descends like a flock of starlings (glossy, dressed in black) on the northern Italian city of Milan for a week of revelry in honor of the Milan Furniture Fair (which those with Continental pretensions prefer to call “I Saloni,” “the event” in Italian.)

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Milan is where designers and upscale furniture manufacturers from around the globe debut their lines–a kind of city-wide fashion show for chairs, sofas, lighting fixtures, and all manner of accompanying doodads. While the most concentrated action is at the massive fairgrounds, just outside of town, in reality, the entire city is given over to design for the week, with parties in shops, palazzos, garages, and alleyways at all hours of the day and night.

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The trendier, cutting edge designers tend to prefer to show their wares in the slightly more bohemian district called Zona Tortona–think of it as the Soho of Milan. That’s where big design operations like Moooi, Tom Dixon, and Foscarini tend to congregate, at a large facility called Super Studio Piu, and where folks like Nadja Swarovski, the Austrian heiress, sets up her annual Crystal Palace.

There’s always a satellite show of young, up and comers and students, at the fairgrounds, where you can see such tastemakers as Murray Moss and Li Edelkoort, roaming the aisles, scouting talent.

Just as shows in Paris and New York set the trends for fashion, the fair in Milan sets the agenda for furniture. It’s why, even in an era of austerity, we’ll be devoting a substantial amount of the Design Channel to covering the event.

We have several writers, armed with cameras, haunting the streets, the aisles of the convention center, and, of course, the parties, to make sure you’ll get to see the color and personalities that animate the show. And we have a dedicated team here in the U.S., monitoring reports from designers and manufacturers about what they’re about to unveil, and putting it all in context. Mike Cannell’s excellent post, on the future of design is a good place to start, and Cliff Kuang’s post on how designers are reusing and recycling gives you an idea of how a rotten economy is finding expression even in Milan.

So, keep an eye on the Design Channel this week for news, trend analysis, and party pix. We’ve got you, and Saloni, covered. Ciao!

About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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