Star Quality

This past April marked the 47th anniversary of I Saloni, a. k. a. the world-renowned Milan Furniture Fair. Attracting 270,000 international visitors, this year’s edition featured 2,450 exhibitors within 22 buildings, spread out over an area the size of a small town. Several hundred “offsite events” camped out in every conceivable venue, from the Trienniale Design Museum to an auto repair shop (Dutch designer-artist Maarten Baas moved his collection into an actual garage – girly pin-up calendars and all).

“Doing the fair” is gruelling. No matter how organized you are, how early you wake up, how late you return to your hotel room and how many meals skipped in between, you always feel that you’ve missed something. It’s 2 a. m., say, and you’re at Bar Basso (a local middle-of-nowhere bar initially discovered about 10 years ago by British designer Jasper Morrison and friends as a getaway and now anything but). The talk turns to yet another fabulous installation that you still have not seen.

The surreal and the ethereal took main stage this year with installations by WOW, a hot Japanese multimedia firm; Tord Boontje’s “summer garden” for Moroso; and Mike Meire’s installation for Dornbracht, where one lay under a “sky” of digital psychadelia. Finnish manufacturer Artek celebrated its 75th anniversary with a tribute to Alvar Aalto – a winding wall made of 750 stools. And handcraftsmanship appeared in the most interesting of applications.

One of the most exciting aspects of the fair is its star appeal. Milan’s fairgrounds and streets are the equivalent of the Academy Awards’ red carpet for the design world. And just as the Oscars would lose their lustre without Brangelina and George Clooney, so too would the Milan fair without its design superstars and starchitects: Philippe Starck at the Driade shop on via Manzoni; Zaha Hadid eating lunch at the hip 10 Corso Como; Jean Nouvel coming out of a slick car; Tyler Brl rushing between appointments.

My favourite star sightings involved five designers. Jaime Hayon I initially bumped into at Galleria Rosana Orlandi, for the launch of his new book, Jaime Hayon: Works. Despite the fatigue, he was smiles as always. The first day of the fair, seemingly unaware of his impending fame, Tokujin Yoshioka peacefully sat in the Moroso booth in the Bouquet chair he designed for the company. As if literally bouncing off the walls, Marcel Wanders was everywhere you looked – kissing and hugging his way through Zona Tortona. More subdued, Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, the Studio Job pair, held court at their Farm installation.


Last year in Milan, Spanish-born artist and designer Jamie Hayon made waves with his colossal Pinocchio made from Bisazza glass tile. This year, with equal amounts of fantasy and humour, the 32-year old British resident did it again.

Q. What is the major influence on your design this year?

This year we’re presenting several projects, of very different character. The Jet Set installation we did for Bisazza was a dreamy one – an opportunity to flee from the restraints of the functional world and work out a setting based on elegance and playfulness.

The Elements for Moooi are very sculptural. The shapes were based originally in the cactus series from years back, but as the investigation on each module advanced, they turned out to be much more: organic, clean, and functional. At Rossana Orlandi’s gallery, I’m presenting personal work. My collection for the porcelain company Lladro was based entirely on my fantasy ideal world: personal, intuitive, funny and hopeful. The shoes for Camper were definitively very personal as well. I created a shoe I would love to wear, a traditional item with a breath of modern times. Finally, the book I’m launching – Jaime Hayon: Works – is a guided tour through the process of my entire works from the moment my independent career started.

In general, I must say the inspirations this year were mostly very personal and intuitive, although every single presentation had its own dynamic of inspiration behind it.

Q. How do you hope your work will affect people?

I would be very happy if my work is able to put a smile on people’s faces – seriously, that would really be the best.

Q. How would you describe your approach to design?

My approach is very spontaneous, personal and intuitive. It’s hard to label or define but most of it comes from fantasy and the way I would like to see the world. with the launch of his eponymous book. Displayed very simply, the playful collection filled the room with laughter.


Last December, Design Miami’s designer of the year created Tornado, a windswept-like installation. At I Saloni, it was more like a storm – of acclaim, greeting the designer. A quickly rising star, 41-year old Yoshioka is best known for his 20-year collaboration with Issey Miyake and for his experimentation with materials in unimaginable contexts.

Q. What was the major influence on your design this year?

Not only this year but in general, I am mostly inspired by the nature that exists in our daily life: wind, a blue sky, or blooming flowers. What I think is the most beautiful are the clouds I see from an airplane window – they always change their shape and will never look the same again.

Q. How do you hope your work will affect people?

I do not think a lot about its influence since it depends on the individual who sees the work. I don’t want to force people how to see, feel or think. The best thing for me is to see people enjoying my work. Design makes it possible to bring joy and surprise to many people of all ages, beyond languages, races and nationalities. It also could bring happiness, making one’s life change magically.

Q. There is often quite a bit of handcraftsmanship in your work. How do you see the role of handcraftsmanship vs. industrialization?

The reason I prefer to include handcraftsmanship is because it has some mysterious and wondrous power, which I cannot explain with words. The work completed by hand has warmth that we cannot create by cal-culation, and also it brings forth shapes that we have never expected.

I also feel some kind of aura from the craftsman’s work. On the other hand, industrialization made it possible to please many people at the same time. I think it brought us spiritual enrichment and also an affluent lifestyle.

Q. Where do you see yourself and your work in the next 10 years?

In the next 10 years, I have no idea where and how I will be. However, as I think the present situation is comfortable, I think there isn’t much difference between now and 10 years from now.


Forever the showman, Marcel Wanders parked his Antelope II auto, made from Bisazza tile, outside the hip Nhow Hotel. The Dutch designer is best known for the iconic Knotted Chair he created for Droog Design in 1996, and also for Moooi (the furniture company he co-owns and for which he acts as art director). Having designed for every major European furniture brand, Wanders is now about to launch four condo projects with YU, the international condo development and design company owned by Phillippe Starck.

Q. What was your major inspiration this year?

Two years ago, I started to look for a new building for my company. So I had to take off my binoculars – my world view is usually very international – and I had to look inside my own city and country. It turned out it was a lot more interesting than I had thought.

Q. How do you hope your work will affect people?

Design is a job I really like doing because it’s possible to help other people make masterpieces of their own lives. Design allows me to make other people’s days and lives more fabulous.

Q. What do you think the future of design is? How do you see the role of handcraftsmanship vs. industrialization?

In terms of interiors, industrialization will become more hidden and less visual. What will be visual will be more meaningful and less functional. Handcraftsmanship has always been there but now we can do it in more corporate structures. Before you couldn’t imagine it but now we’re expanding what design is and can be. It’s a different set of rules and we’re now able to move the ceiling of design.



Myto by Konstantin Grcic for Plank Inspired this year by sporting good equipment and their advanced technological development, Grcic developed a plastic cantilevered stackable chair. Made from BASF Ultradur High Speed plastic, Myto is available in a range of eight colours.

Rotterdam chair by Hella Jongerius for Vitra On closer observation, this seemingly ordinary wood stacking chair has a slight tapering of the front legs. Plus, a translucent coloured inlay in the back edge of the seat masks hardware and matches its feet.

Aguape by Humberto and Fernando Campana for Edra Known for their emphasis on handcraftsmanship, the Spanish brothers created Aguape (Spanish for “waterlily”), whose laser-cut leather petals are glued

Tricot by Dominique Perrault and Gaelle Lauriot-Prevost for Poltrona Frau A series of three different shaped cushions sit inside a leather net, creating a fluid seating structure.

My Beautiful Backside by Doshi Levien for Moroso In Milan last year, the Indian-British design couple Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien introduced the Charpoy daybed to much acclaim. This year, they follow up with another Indian/British fusion piece: My Beautiful Backside, a collection of seats and backrests in various colours and shapes. New wool fabric by Kvadrat is juxtaposed with felt. Each backside is individualized with a differ-ent oversized button.


Last year in Milan, Belgian design duo Studio Job – Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel – made a giant statement with gargantuan silverware for Bisazza. Last winter, they shocked the design world with their Robber Baron series for Moss, New York’s hot design gallery, and this year in Milan, they presented a collection that goes back to their roots and celebrates the simple life.

Q. What was the major influence on your work this year?

The work we make is not there to please or seduce the viewer. We feel pretty autonomous as we walk our own path in this world. The pieces we presented are all about a closed, self-supporting or a circular system.

Q. How do you hope your work will affect people?

We are not into entertaining people, but we hope that people understand that we wanted to present a very positive statement this year! For us the work is all about communication.

Q. How do you approach your work? I’ve heard you say that you are neither designers nor artists. How do you see yourselves?

Whether it’s design, art or kitsch – it’s not an issue. It’s probably all. And do we deserve more than kitsch?

Q. What do you think the future of design is? How do you see the role of handcraftsmanship vs. industrialization?

I don’t think that production methods are important to the creative values of an idea. Production methods are often an “easy” vehicle to try to explain – and frame – an abstract idea to the outside world. The only important pillar of any creative field is – and will always be – the mind and the idea.