Dezeen and MINI World Tour: designers including Marcel Wanders, Yves Behar, Tom Dixon and Konstantin Grcic discuss the importance of Milan design week, which ended in the city yesterday.
Each April, the world's leading designers descend on the city for the fair still regarded as the most important in the world. "I come to Milan every year," says Yves Behar. "It's the obligatory stop."
"It's a moment I can't miss," agrees Stephen Burks. "It's the most important week in the design calendar."
They are joined by hundreds of thousands of international visitors including students, journalists, buyers and younger designers trying to get their work noticed.
"It gives lots of young designers a great thrill to come here and get discovered," says Ron Arad. "My entire design team comes here to suck up new ideas and ensure they're seeing the latest and the greatest," says Anders Warming, head of design at MINI.
The fair owes its importance to the emergence of Milan as the world's key centre for the design and manufacture of both furniture and products after the devastation of the Second World War, playing a key role in Italy's economic recovery. "All of the important history of post-war furniture design happened here," says Konstantin Grcic.
The official fair, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, as well as the Fuori Salone events around the city, grew over the years into the sprawling citywide festival is is today. "There was a lot of excitement around [the fair], starting in the early eighties with Memphis and [Studio] Alchimia," says Arad, citing two of the most influential Milanese design studios of the last century.
However the economic crisis of recent years and the emergence of rival design centres combined to make this year's fair a more sober affair than recent years. "I feel like there's a return to the reason why we are all here, which is the actual commerce of the fair," says Johanna Agerman Ross, editor-in-chief of Disegno magazine.
"It's certainly got much, much more competition these days," says journalist and curator Henrietta Thompson. "The London Design Festival is fantastic these days but also Stockholm and Paris."
Milan-based designer Fabio Novembre touches on the reasons why the city might be losing its edge: "It's hard to take a group of Italians and make them all go in one direction," he says. "That explains why we're in a big crisis and why we are almost losing the importance of Salone del Mobile."
Joseph Grima, editor-in-chief of Milanese design magazine Domus, agrees. "The city is really in need of someone who's going to have a vision for the future," he says.
"Milan remains the only place where you can still see everybody in one go," says Tom Dixon. "Whether it can maintain that top spot … is hard to tell. It becomes impossible to navigate the city, you can't get a taxi, you can't get a hotel room and you can't afford space to show your goods."
Look out for more reports from Milan as part of our Dezeen and MINI World Tour in the coming days. The car featured in the movie is the MINI Paceman.
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