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Designers’ Experience of Milan: Lanzavecchia + Wai

Lanzavecchia + Wai provides an account of their experience visiting and exhibiting at the recent Milan Design Week 2015.

Designers’ Experience of Milan: Lanzavecchia + Wai

Top Photo: Lanzavecchia + Wai

How would you describe the 2015 Milan Design Fair?

Energetic, positive, fun, critical and conceptual. For us, it was a time of catching up with heads of brands and companies, gallerists and curators, as well as old and new friends to get a good overview and feel of the international design climate.

lanzavecchia+wai, Fools gold, the alchemists
Fool’s Gold for The Alchemists by Lanzavecchia + WaiPhoto: The Primary Studio

Can you tell us more about Lanzavecchia + Wai’s involvement in the fair this year?

We had four events going on this year, a proud launch of our first pieces: mobile side-tables for urban domestic living, PLUG / TACO, for Cappellini; two new limited edition carpets for the renowned NODUS High Design Rugs; a radical experiential stand design at the main Fiera for the internationally esteemed marble producer and brand Antolini and last but not least, new edition cabinets for The Alchemists, co-curated by Patrick Chia and Stefano Casciani, and amazingly produced by Yoichi Nakamuta of INDUSTRY+.

Dutch Invertuals
Dutch Invertuals, Milan 2015. Photo: Dutch Invertuals

Which exhibitions did you enjoy?

We simply adore the Dutch Invertuals group show and made it a point as a must-see for ourselves and anyone who asked, ‘what is a must-see?’. The work was provocative. They suggested and proposed new meanings and palettes of design expression in terms of materiality, archetypes and conceptual thinking.

The Garden of Winiders installation Adriano Brusaferri
The Garden of Wonders. A Journey Through Scents – by the BE OPEN Foundation Installation. Photo: Adriano Brusaferri

The other exhibition which absolutely enthralled us was The Garden of Wonders. A Journey Through Scents – by the BE OPEN Foundation. It was a beautifully poetic exhibition on the history and providence, the typologies and manufacturing methods of perfumes. And of course they had exquisite glass vessels filled with perfumes with names like ‘Mystery of the Pyramids’ – where one could detect scents of papyrus, incense of pharaohs and rituals, to ‘Eternal Beauty Elixir’ – linking to a 14th Century Queen Consort of Hungary, Elizabeth, who not only used the perfume for her skin but also drank it. She attributed her beauty to this Eau de la Reine de Hongrie [currently known us Eau de toilette]. The perfume was even referenced in Charles Perrault’s famous Sleeping Beauty, as a means to wake the princess, but to no avail.

The Garden of Wonders. A Journey Through Scents – by the BE OPEN Foundation historical Pavilion. Photo: Adriano Brusaferri

And your favourite exhibitor stand?

Cappellini’s definitely. Because Cappellini shows how they retain their standing as an internationally renowned company by proposing visions of how we can live in our spaces. Under the leadership of Giulio Cappellini, a great supporter of our work and philosophy, it is evident from their stand that the company challenges conventions and pushes the status quo of interior object archetypes and their relationship with us, over different eras since its founding to create products that are relevant, thoughtful and poetic.

Cappellini stand
The Cappellini Stand at Milan Design Week 2015. Photo: Cappellini

There were many great examples of that ethos in the many next-wave designers’ work produced and shown under this brand at this year’s stand. We must say working with such a beautiful and forward-looking company is an honour and acknowledgement of the quality of thinking and design from our studio.

The Cappellini Stand at Milan Design Week 2015. Photo: Cappellini

Which event did you enjoy the most?

The event after the events: drinking many Negronis at Bar Basso, the go-to establishment for the whole international design scene during the week. This year we were one of twenty design studios to design drink tokens for the design week, others being Konstantin Grcic, Formafantasma and Claesson Koivisto Rune – we used the tokens we received as remuneration. It is always a madly packed situation, spilling drinks and pushing through tired Salone bodies, but you could be chatting up to an aspiring young designer from Stockholm or the group CEO of a furniture consortium. But at the end of it, it is about renewing and strengthening bonds with old friends and contacts, until Maurizio, the owner whose family ran the place since 1967, comes around to chase us away so he can close.

Much in the spirit of the legendary designers like the late James Irvine, Jasper Morrison and Marc Newson, who started this whole Milan Design Week tradition – they met at Bar Basso in the eighties religiously after the day’s events.

TACO for Cappellini by Lanzavecchia + Wai. Photo: Cappellini

Sounds like fun. Did you notice a recurring pattern across this year’s fair? 

The design industry is serving an increasingly educated, aware and pluralistic market. It would be futile and irrelevant to reduce this diversity in broad strokes. It might sound like a cop-out answer, but the Salone is so immense that there is something for everyone. From mass retailers, contract specifiers to design-art enthusiasts, to conceptual and academia-driven speculative design connoisseurs.

Plug Table
From left: Hunn Wai, Giulio Cappellini and Francesca Lanzavecchia with PLUG Table for Cappellini by Lanzavecchia + Wai. Photo: Lanzavecchia + Wai

What was your biggest takeaway?

The furniture industry is becoming too flat, and it is ripe for disruptive design. We are referring to Smart Furniture, new thinking on how furniture can really support our contemporary and emerging lifestyles; what is a sofa and what new functions must it have in the context of increasingly smaller apartment units? How can technology be a new palette for domestic lifestyle objects? There needs to be re-thinking towards how these domestic objects can really support our lives and new rituals. These are some of the questions that we are looking into.

MUTAZIONI 2.0 for NODUS High Design Rugs by Lanzavecchia + Wai. Photo: Lanzavecchia + Wai

Having visited Milan this year, what do you think the local industry is lacking?

The term is not so much “lacking” and more of encouraging the mindset that Singapore is the capital of South-East Asia, and that we are an amazing platform for test-bedding new ways of urban living in our very fertile and opportunity-laden new formats of living spaces. Our markets can be all our neighbours, where our soft-power has weight and our design thinking processes can create new solutions and values for their burgeoning urban situations. Good Singapore design and thinking deserve to be designed for, enjoyed and consumed beyond our shores.


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