The home of architecture and design in Asia-Pacific

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Show, Don’t Tell: Cult Brands At Local Milan No. 4

Cult has shown Australia’s prowess in furniture design with brands Nau and Tait in the largest independent Australian design showcase at Milan Design Week 2019.

Show, Don’t Tell: Cult Brands At Local Milan No. 4

Tait (left) and Nau(right) at Local Milan No. 4. Photos by Emanuele Zamponi

How would you describe Australian design?

There isn’t one definitive answer. Australian design comprises many things and is better explained with showings rather than tellings. And that’s the beauty of it. Leading furniture retailer Cult understands this, having been at the business of furniture for over 20 years and witnessed the rise of local Australian talents. 

Leveraging on the industry knowledge and network forged over two decades, Cult cultivated a production arm and launched furniture label Nau in 2017 to bring the best of Australian furniture design to the world. Nau‘s latest international endeavour in championing Australian design was in Milan. Nau was one of the sponsors of Local Milan No. 4, a showcase of furniture pieces by Australian designers in Milan.

“With no design ancestry with which to adhere, our industry has historically looked to the European giants that can be seen all around during Milan Design Week,” says Richard Munao, Founder and Director at Cult. “Whilst we will continue to be inspired by iconic European brands, Local Milan makes it clear that Australia, too, has a design aesthetic to be inspired by. It is a necessary and important platform that puts Australian design on the global stage.”


Local Milan makes it clear that Australia, too, has a design aesthetic to be inspired by.”

Richard Munao, Cult. 


Local Milan is an initiative of Local Design, a multi-channel platform founded by Sydney-based cross-disciplinary designer Emma Elizabeth to promote Australian design during Milan Design Week, arguably the world’s biggest celebration of design. 

“It’s hard to describe Australian design as it draws from so many cultures and influences,” says Elizabeth. Rather than imposing a rigid definition of Australian design, Local Milan invites an international audience to form their own interpretation based on the showcased work. 

She elaborates, “The objective of Local Milan over the past four years has been to present a collective of Australian design that allows guests to start creating their own dialogue in regards to our design industry. In time heightening the global perspective of our Australian aesthetic and style, encouraging and supporting local designers to continue advancing and developing the industry.”

Local Milan curator Emma Elizabeth. Photo by Emanuele Zamponi

The first edition of Local Milan in 2016 showcased the work of 12 designers. The number has grown to 44 this year and included designers from New Zealand, making Local Milan No.4 the largest independent showcase of Australian (and New Zealand) furniture design in Milan. The exhibition was spread across a-ten-room and two-level palazzo in the 5 Vie district, Milan’s historic centre of art, design and culture. 

The ground level hosted the Nau cafe, a pop-up cafe offering an immersive Australian hospitality experience with quirky bites and refreshment in a beautiful setting populated by Nau pieces.

The Nau Cafe at Local Milan No. 4. Photo by Emanuele Zamponi. 

In one corner, Adam Goodrum’s supremely comfortable Fat Tulip sofa and handsome leather-clad Plum chair invited visitors to rest their weary feet while above them, the Jolly Double Rod pendant light by Kate Stokes provided a visual delight. 

Fat Tulip sofa by Adam Goodrum

Jolly pendant light by Kate Stokes and Nest table by Adam Goodrum.

Plum chairs and Nest table by Adam Goodrum

Elsewhere in the cafe, Goodrum’s Nest and Molloy tables, Adam Cornish’s Strand chair and Tom Fereday’s Sia chair painted a clear picture of Australia’s mastery in carpentry. 

Sia chairs by Tom Fereday, Molloy table by Adam Goodrum and Jolly Double Rod pendant light by Kate Stokes

Strand chairs by Adam Cornish

Also representing Cult at Local Milan No. 4 was Australian outdoor furniture brand Tait. On the second floor of the exhibition, Tait’s new Seam chair and dining table, designed by Adam Cornish, served as a stage for artist Shilo Engelbrecht and fashion designer Lydia Pearson’s collaborative piece titled The Stud Shirt, which was used as the uniform of Local Milan No. 4’s staff during the exhibition.

Seam dining chair and table designed by Adam Cornish for Tait and The Stud Shirt by Shilo x Lydia (with Crackle Lamp by ADesignStudio). Photo by Emanuele Zamponi.

The tableau, styled by Elizabeth, drew on the parallel between Seam and The Stud Shirt‘s design concepts. Seam ‘tailors’ sheet metal to timber structure like fabric to a dress form, while The Stud Shirt tailors Shilo’s collage artwork (featuring images of historical armours juxtaposed with that of female sculptures) to a plaid shirt like armour plates. 

“The pieces on display offered a strong representation of each brand and the way the products were curated effectively told each brand story,” says Munao of Elizabeth’s vision. He adds, “Nau and Tait represent a fresh-thinking, broad-spectrum approach to design.”

Emma Elizabeth with designers and collaborators of Local Milan No.4

Adding more layers to the diversity of Australian creativity were a bespoke soundscape by DJ Mason Mulholland, visual identity and graphics by Milan-based Australian creative director Bradley Seymour, and a breathtaking floral installation by Berlin-based Australian floral stylist Ruby Barber. 

The exhibition held its own amongst the industry titans in Milan, and the response from Australians was an encouraging indication of the country’s supportive design culture. 

“Local Milan made clear that Australia has its own design language, one that is different in many ways to the rest of the world but demands the same global recognition,” says Munao of the key takeaway of the exhibition. He adds, “The combination of brands and products on display showed that Australia has a resourceful, hands-on and open-minded design culture that was born out of necessity, and will endure for the same reason.”

This open-minded design culture is appealing in Asia too. In Singapore, Nau and Tait products are available from Cult Design Asia


INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed