Textile Fashion Style File: The Milan Report 2017

From hand-made to mass production, textiles have the power to tell stories and increasingly furniture designers are finding opportunities to cross over into the fashion world. Penny Craswell explores new concepts and material qualities in textiles and fashion at Milan this year.

Shield by Wiki Somers for Kinnasand.
Shield by Weiki Somers for Kinnasand

In the flagship showroom of Swedish textile company Kinnasand at Corso Monforte, a series of kite-like shields fly overhead, an installation created by Studio Weiki Somers from Rotterdam. The installation is the material manifestation of a new research initiative called Kinnasand LAB in which design director Isa Glink collaborates with external designers to interpret existing textiles and innovate new products for the brand. The resulting product – Shield – consists of semi-transparent layers of embroidered fabric with wooden panels, like large ice-cream sticks, that can bring rigidity and weight to the fabric or be removed to increase flexibility and transparency. For Weiki Somers the experience of working with Kinnasand made her reflect on the qualities of textiles: “The qualities of a material can strengthen the connection between a person and an object. Especially textiles can stimulate our senses and more than other materials they can evoke memories and emotions, and make you feel at home,” she says. Read more

Highlights from Milan Design Week 2017

By Penny Craswell

This year, for me, Milan Design Week is all about The Milan Report 2017, a self-publishing venture that I’m launching along with the excellent Giovanna Dunmall (London design expert and writer) and Marcus Piper (multi-talented graphic designer, designer, typographer and writer).

We’re currently putting together a range of design week Q&As, themed features, diaries, picks, contributions from experts, as well as original photography, graphic design and typography – to see for yourself, pre-order here.

And, while I dedicate my time to that, check out a few highlights in picture form as follows – all photos taken by me.

A string quintet plays in the garden of Casa degli Atellani, where Da Vinci lived while painting the last supper – really! – thanks to AirBNB.

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Five designs from Milan (from afar)

By Penny Craswell

This year I’m reporting on the fair from home in Sydney, but thanks to email and social media (hello Instagram), there is plenty filtering through already from the world’s largest furniture design event, the Milan Furniture Fair. Here’s five designs that have instantly caught my attention, from designers near and afar, even before the fair begins.

1. Ross Gardam’s Polar Desk Lamp

Since launching his studio in Melbourne in 2007, Ross Gardam has launched several furniture and lighting pieces and his Polar desk lamp is being shown at Ventura Lambrate in Milan this year. These photos by Haydn Cattach show a variety of colours and backdrops – it will be interesting to see how these translate to different environments.

Polar desk lamp by Ross Gardam. Photo: Haydn Cattach
Polar desk lamp by Ross Gardam. Photo: Haydn Cattach

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Profile: Li Edelkoort and Fetishism in Fashion

By Penny Craswell

I wrote this article following an interview with Li Edelkoort, one of the world’s leading trend futurists. The interview was conducted over a garden breakfast during the Milan Furniture Fair 2014, was commissioned by Kobe Johns (now of JP Finsbury) and was first published in the DesignEX catalogue 2014.

Left: an image from Fetishism in Fashion exhibition, Right: Li Edelkoort
Left: an image from Fetishism in Fashion exhibition, Right: Li Edelkoort

“My job is to anticipate what will be coming.” Lidewij Edelkoort, or Li for short, is one of the best known and most respected trend forecasters in the world. The list of brands she has worked with reads like a who’s who, including Coca-Cola, Lacoste, Disney, Siemens, GAP, L’Oreal. She regularly releases trend books that are sold to top brands all over the world, she started a number of magazines, including Bloom, which presents fashion, design, perfume and more inspired by horticulture. She directed the Design Academy Eindhoven from 1998 to 2008 and established a new design school in Poland in 2011 that merges design with humanities subjects like psychology or anthropology called the School of Form. Read more

Video: Round-up of Ventura Lambrate at Milan Design Week

Video: Round-up of Ventura Lambrate at Milan Design Week

While everyone goes to Milan for the Salone del Mobile, it has become apparent in recent years that the best design, the cutting-edge work, the really innovative stuff, is not happening at the fairgrounds, but in town, at precincts like Brera, Zona Tortona and Ventura Lambrate.

Although Ventura Lambrate is the furthest away, and can often be hit and miss, there is a huge amount of design talent shown each year. This year more than 900 designers from around the world showed their work. Check out this great video summary of the event by the organisers.

View here.

Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter review lighting in Milan

This year, the Design Writer’s Milan coverage comes with a distinctly luminous quality – that’s because lighting designers Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter of McDermott Baxter have written up an exclusive review of the fair for us, with an eye on the best of lighting design during the Salone del Mobile, Euroluce and surrounding design events. Ruth and Ben were in Milan to show their Nimbus light, an innovative LED work inspired by Sydney’s dramatic storm clouds (sounds very familiar at the moment, doesn’t it Sydney-siders!).

Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter with Nimbus in Milan 2015
Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter with Nimbus in Milan 2015. All images: McDermott Baxter.


Ruth and Ben write: The main thing that struck us looking at the variety of light fittings in both Euroluce (the main fair attached to Salone del Mobile) and other locations such as Ventura Lambrate and Zona Tortona was the use of warmer toned and natural materials in lighting. The following is a small selection of lighting pieces that caught our eye. Read more

Alexander Lotersztain shows QTZ chair in Milan

Argentinian-born, Brisbane-based designer Alexander Lotersztain of Derlot is exhibiting the QTZ chair at Ventura Lambrate as part of the Milan Furniture Fair this week. With a focus on product design, as well as branding, interior design and art direction, Lotersztain is perhaps best known for high profile projects such as the Limes Hotel in Brisbane, creating work that is personal, branded and translates well internationally, following in the footsteps of designers such as Marc Newson. The QTZ chair is a limited edition collection inspired by the form and materiality of quartz.

QTZ by Derlot. Photography: Florian Groehn
QTZ by Derlot. Photography: Florian Groehn

“This limited edition collection of seating elements reflects the prismatic beauty and semi-precious qualities of what is amongst the Earth’s most abundant minerals,” says Lotersztain. Each QTZ element is available in a range of finishes and is manufactured in stainless steel. Read more

Australian lighting innovation in Milan

By Penny Craswell

It’s that time of the year again, when all the major designers and design brands turn their attention to Milan for the annual Furniture Fair, happening in the second week of April. While I won’t be heading there myself this year, Ben Baxter of McDermott Baxter will be writing up some of the innovative lighting designs he sees there, while showing the Nimbus light.

Nimbus by McDermott Baxter
Nimbus by McDermott Baxter

Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter will be showing Nimbus as part of Ventura Lambrate Station, one of four Australian studios showing work in this new part of the exhibition for emerging designers. Nimbus is a continuation of McDermott Baxter’s experiments into lighting, using new technology and a low energy philosophy to create innovation artworks and design pieces. Read more

Video: Future gazing automotive style

Video: Future gazing automotive style

Dominic Wilcox’s stained-glass car and Lucy McRae’s human vacuum-packing experiment are just two of the concepts of the future shared in this video of the Dezeen and MINI Frontiers collaboration during the London Design Festival last September.

BMW and MINI have enlisted Alfredo Häberli and Jaime Hayón to create mobility-themed installations for Milan design week next month – BMW will work with Swiss-Argentinian designer Alfredo Häberli to create an abstract artwork, while MINI – part of the BMW family – has asked Spanish designer Jaime Hayón to come up with his vision for the future of urban mobility.

More here

Design and the sea: Cousteau, Zissou, Studio Swine

By Penny Craswell

Design and the sea are two topics that are not often connected. However, they do overlap. Design has allowed us to explore the sea, through the development of scuba among other inventions. And thanks to some recent designs, it is possible to design while on the sea, as well as for design to evoke the sea. I don’t want to be morbid, but the history of scuba has more than a couple of corpses. People have been swimming in oceans, lakes and rivers to find food and bathe for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that French Naval Officer Jacques Cousteau patented the Aqua Lung, allowing divers to breathe under water.

Still from Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World) via glimmerglassfilmdays.org/silent-world/
Still from Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World) via glimmerglassfilmdays.org/silent-world/

Cousteau’s influence on our knowledge of the sea cannot be underestimated. As well as developing the first Aqua Lung, he was responsible for marketing this device and bringing the sport of underwater diving to thousands. His books and films also brought the underwater world into the homes of people who had never seen anything like it before. While underwater photography had existed for nearly thirty years (National Geographic was the first to publish an underwater colour photograph – an image of a hogfish off the Florida Keys in 1928), Cousteau’s 1953 book, The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure, and documentary film of the same name were hugely successful – the film won the Palme D’Or as well as the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Via Socks Studio
Via Socks Studio

Cousteau was the inspiration for the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in which, like all Wes Anderson films, each visual element is carefully designed. In this case, the ship itself is a major character in the film, especially during a scene which pans across a cut section of the ship displaying each room. This was achieved by purchasing two ships, World War II minesweepers repainted in bright colours, and actually cutting one of them lengthways down the middle. Likewise, the costumes, suits, breathing apparatus, helicopter and submarine all undergo Wes Anderson-ification resulting in beautiful redesigns. A particular personal favourite is the yellow submarine and matching helicopter.

One of the most exciting sea-related designs is not for breathing or floating on the sea, it is a system that allows anyone with a boat to create furniture using plastics found in the ocean. Japanese Architect Azusa Murakami and British Artist Alexander Groves of London-based Studio Swine are behind the Open Source Sea Chair project. The chair is created by firstly collecting plastic found in the sea (there’s plenty of it), grouping these pieces by colour, then heating them up and using special moulds and tools to create a stool seat and three legs. These are bolted together to create the stool (all of which can be done on the boat), creating a second income for those who fish for a living as well as reducing plastic pollution.  You can watch the process in action in a beautiful film they made here.

Sea Chair by Studio Swine
Sea Chair by Studio Swine

The quality of water is often an inspiration for designers and two particular products capture this extremely well, both shown at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during Milan Design Week 2014. The first is Bricola, created by Venice-based Andrea Forti and Eleonora Dal Farra of design studio Alcorol. This collection features repurposed timber from Venice’s canals, complete with holes from molluscs, that have been combined with a clear vegetable resin (clear like water) to make tables and a stool. The combination creates a sense that a sub-section of Venice’s canals, complete with historical poles and water – is made solid.

Bricola by Alcarol
Bricola by Alcarol

The other outstanding piece related to water is Ripple by London-based duo Hanhsi Chen and Shikai Tseng of Poetic Lab. This floor lamp is made of mouth blown glass which slowly rotates, casting shadows on the walls made by the imperfections in the glass, like ripples on water.

Ripple by Poetic Lab_01

Here it is not the object itself which is innovative, but the effect it creates, an effect which is as ephemeral and yet constant as the sea itself.

There is a certain circularity to the relationship between design and the sea. Design (of breathing equipment, submarines and so on) allows us to see under the sea in a way we never would have before. And this knowledge and understanding in turn inspires design. A nice loop.