Every April, the European design elite descend on Milan for the annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile. This year, some of the hottest events during Milan Design Week were held in Zona Tortona, an area in the southeast part of the city that has become an alternative, more public-friendly venue.
This year, Zona Tortona received an extra boost of credibility as one of the giants of Italian furniture design, the Poltrona Frau group—made up of Cassina, Cappellini, Alias, Thonet and Gufram—took up residence on Via Savona. Meanwhile, events such as Craft Punk—Fendi’s collaboration with 13 industrial designers from around the world—proved there was plenty of room for fashion alongside all of the function.
Other favorites included Tokyo Fiber ’09 Senseware, an exhibition demonstrating the possibilities of new materials developed using Japanese synthetic fibre technology. Featuring biodegradable terramac, conductive textiles and high-strength concrete embedded with large numbers of opitical fibers, the exhibit attracted 32,000 people during the six-day event.
Among the highlights were a sculpture of a baby resting in a cradle by fashion designer Kosuke Tsumura and the shape-shifting Moshi Moshi sofa by architect Antonio Citterio, who stretched multi-layered jersey over a frame incorporating mechanisms that allow the sofa to change form. Japanese car maker Nissan created a “Smiling Vehicle,” a car with humanlike features, by using an elastic polyurethane fiber to give the cube-like car a soft exterior membrane, while architect Shigeru Ban designed “a chair so light that a child could pick it up with just her little finger” out of carbon fiber.
One of the most stunning elements of the Senseware exhibition was “blown fabric” by industrial design firm Nendo. Using “Smash,” a specialized long-fibre non-woven polyester that can be manipulated into different forms through hot press forming technology, they created lighting fixtures inspired by Japanese chochin paper lanterns. The thermoplastic material is light and rip-proof, but still glows beautifully when light passes through it. Smash’s properties allowed Nendo to shape it like blown glass into a seamless one-piece lantern—although each piece took on a life of its own during the design process itself.
While Senseware represented an artistic application of high-tech materials, another example of a smashing collaboration between a fashion brand and a furniture manufacturer was the Successful Living by Diesel collection. The exhibition at Diesel’s Milan flagship presented the denim label’s latest foray into furniture and lighting, in collaboration with Moroso and Foscarini, as well as its second textile collection with Zucchi.