Austerity struck at the heart of Milan Design Week this year, which created an overall more subdued event. That is not to say that there weren’t some excellent products on display, just that there were fewer of them, with less of the glitz that the hosting city does so well. With finances under a microscope the big manufacturers had to choose smaller exhibitions and have fewer new product launches. Some manufacturers simply re-released old iconic products with simply a colour or finish update. This was exemplified by Kartell’s ‘Mademoiselle’ chairs, originally designed by Philippe Starck but given a 2012 make-over by musician Lenny Kravitz, you can make up your own mind about the result.
It is therefore not surprising that we saw many of last year’s trends reappearing across the exhibits. From the use of marble, interesting joinery details to gradients and yellow, the aesthetic development from last year was slow, with many of the trends remaining dominant across the furniture design scene. However, we did find many new things that were both culturally interesting and visually exciting. We will be sharing these with you over the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here is a selection of some of the prominent trends for 2012.
GOTTA HAVE A MACHINE
Last year we saw a lot of prototypes on display, helping designers to communicate the heritage and visual history of their products. This was taken a step further this year with the appearance of manufacturing and machinary on the exhibition stands. Not only a magnetic force to bring inquisitive people into a stand it really brought to life the way products come into existence.
While some say there are no new forms to be discovered, the same may not be said for materials. A surge of material composistes flooded the show, creating some intereings forms and patternation. Many designers explored the re-use of plastics, coffee and even hair, but not with an overtly ‘eco’ ambition, simply the desire to expand visual aesthetic.
ROUGH AND RAW
A development of our Unfinished Finishes trend last year, it was interesting to see how much super raw wood finishes there were. Most surprisingly was its use by high end kitchen producers (such as Boffi and Bulthaup), who typically favour glossy finishes, instead their highly engineered appliance sat on rugged wooden planks.
A more subtler and softer cousin of gold and silver, copper was seen happily dotted around Milan offering a warm and natural colouration to a variety of different wares.
We saw a large amount of sheet metal about Milan this year. Two distinct ways of forming metal were apparent – through simple sheet bending, to make shelves and seat bases, such as Tom Dixon’s Stamp chair, to more complex, innovative, use of the material, as was evident with DaDriade’s Sunrise chair and Molteni’s Sol chair. Could this be part of the continuing trend to produce products and furniture from material that visually communicate their suitability for dissably and reycling?
Blimey, there were a lot of bicycles this year! Not usually favoured by the Milanese, it seems that bike-fever has hit the city and with it has come a flood of high end, bright coloured and super-accessorised cycles. What was so interesting was that brands who had no heritage in bike building were displaying bikes, such as kitchen manufacturers like Scic and bag makers MH Way! Is this a coded way of communicating some kind of ‘eco’ values or another example of brand extension?