May 8, 2018
Handmade Highlights Milan 2018
Sustainable Trailblazers, High-End Handmade and New Nostalgia
Visiting Milan Design Week is an excellent way to assess the ‘state’ of handmade and sustainable design. Craftscurator is happy to see the handmade is still very visible and tangible in collections, and sustainable innovation is driven by designers. But isn’t it high time the leading brands and manufacturers make a move? Craftscurator hand-picked the main trends, and highlights the best handmade products, most innovative brands and market developments.
Party like it’s 1999
At this years Salone, brands were partying like it’s 1999. There was a lot to be cheerful about: the interior industry is doing very well and the fair had a record number of visitors. A lot of brands and designers celebrated this by creating nightclubs, disco-influenced interiors and even raves.
The return of bold and expressive use of colour was remarkable, both brights and rich tones. Many presentations referred to the 20th century – by using style elements from the twenties and thirties, but also embracing the look of the seventies: lots of brown, ocre and orange tones, changeant fabrics and corduroy, and bold, sometimes psychedelic patterns. This resulted in a lot of eye candy – and plenty of Instagrammable presentations.
I could not help thinking the partying mood is also some sort of escapism. Very few designers or brands directly addressed the pressing issues of our time. The interior sector has not yet fully embraced sustainable or circular design.
While there are many young creatives working with scientists and researchers in developing innovative materials and processes, were few of those practices are being picked up by the manufacturing industry. My Milan highlights therefore do not come from unexpected sources, but from brands and designers who have been trailblazing in the last couple of years. Their perseverance is remarkable, and I believe they are not only setting a new standard, but also creating a new aesthetic.
It was good to see there is still a lot of attention to the handmade; furniture brands are increasingly using craft techniques in their new pieces. Textiles, but also rope, fibres and wire are woven, knotted and integrated in pieces of furniture. Manufacturers of wooden products are now embracing CNC technology to create joints and details previously made by hand. This allows them to manufacture at a reasonable price point. Some brands adopt a historical style, new nostalgia, and play around with style elements of the early 20th century.
I believe that most of the handmade and sustainable design in Milan that was particularly new or inventive, is tailored to a high end market segment – often even being positioned as collectible design. That is great, as it creates exposure and revenue for the designers and craftsmen who are pioneering in what I call ‘boutique manufacturing’.
At the same time, it is a shame these inventive products do not find their way to the mid-high market segment. By applying new environmentally friendly processes, good working conditions and great aesthetics to the manufacturing industry, more impact could be created. A larger group of conscious consumers would have access to these products, and small and medium sized producers could grow their business. This provides opportunities for both European brands and importers, as well as crafts exporters from all over the world.
For Stylink, Craftscurator wrote a report on Milan 2018 in Dutch