june 2021

Design (and) Thinking #1 - Salone del Mobile 2021 or Supersalone Year Zero?

cover mini saga Salone del Mobile chapter 1

The first article in our series dedicated to several big themes inspired by the recent controversy about the 2021 edition of the Salone del Mobile.

When talking about the excellence of Made in Italy, it is impossible not to mention design. Likewise, when talking about Italian design, it is impossible not to mention the Salone del Mobile: the event which has been putting Milan under the spotlight of style since 1961. Hundreds of thousands of visitors reach the city every year; they look with competence, curiosity and awe at the latest creations by the most renowned interior designers; and storm the coolest locations in town to experience the innovation and beauty of the Fuorisalone.


Salone del Mobile pavilion


This is a crucial event, not only for the most important players in the field of design (and some of the not-so-important as well), but also and especially for the city of Milan, which benefits every year from a gain of hundreds of thousands of Euros, much of which pertaining to hospitality, restaurants and transportation.


As for all big events, however, Covid-19 has forced the Salone del Mobile to stop as well. Its pavilions never opened in 2020, and in 2021 a reschedule has moved the exhibition from spring to September: also, suspense struck last April, when some of the most important interior design brands (such as Poliform, Molteni, Poltrona Frau and B&B) withdrew their participation and, indirectly, challenged the feasibility of the whole event altogether. A true “earthquake” leading Mr. Claudio Luti, president of the Salone, to resign and compelling Beppe Sala, the Mayor of Milan, to join the debate, voicing the concerns for an event deprived of its bigger players or, even worse, for its cancellation.


Milan Navigli by night


Why did some of the best-known brands of Italian design take such a stance? The reasons put forward by the involved companies concern the lack of time to guarantee high-quality instalments as well as the fear that the event might turn out a failure, with only a few visitors because of the pandemic’s restrictions. Yet, according to apparently well-founded rumors, there could be more: the year 2020, without the Salone, turned out to be quite profitable for furniture brands, thanks to e-commerce and to the immortal worldwide appeal of Made in Italy. Furthermore, joining the Salone every year means for design entrepreneurs to invest huge sums to launch new products which in the end do not necessarily prove successful enough to actually enter the production pipeline, causing economic inefficiencies.


Facing this stance of the so-called “Brianza rebels” (from the area near Milan where the majority of the “rebel” brands are located), promptly came Milan’s reaction, as skipping the event for two years in a row would have been simply unthinkable. Here comes the event’s repositioning: the Salone del Mobile will take place, from September 5th to 10th, but it will transform into a “Supersalone”, under the direction of Stefano Boeri, architect and president of Triennale di Milano. Among the main changes, the general public will be welcome throughout the whole duration of the event, the featured products will be pre-orderable online, and the exhibition itself will be quite unusual: the traditional booths will be replaced by vertical walls. A remarkable change, which will certainly deprive brands of their individual standout, forcing their cohabitation in an overview celebrating Italian design rather than its specific players. Quite probably, this choice will result in the greater relevance of brand showrooms in the city of Milan as beacons for business.


The evolution of this complex matter brings many interesting observations to our attention, even beyond the event itself. Beginning from the rising tensions (e.g. between center and periphery), through the defining features which the world of design shares with fashion and culture (both very important for Made in Italy as well), to the thoughts on how events can and will become more phygital, of course. Here on our blog, we will be writing about these and further topics revolving around the Salone del Mobile controversy, from now until September.


Follow us here and on LinkedIn to embark with us on this journey inside, but especially around the Salone del Mobile 2021 affair.