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Milan Design Week 2008: Day One

by Brian Fichtner
on 16 April 2008

While today marks the official first day of the Salone del Mobile in Milan, the crowds were already chomping at the bit yesterday afternoon in the Zona Tortona, a satellite exhibition area that has taken on as much importance as the sprawling Fiera Milano designed by Massimiliano Fuksas. The weather on Tuesday was incredible, the sky an immaculate blue, and the press drifted in and out of exhibition spaces teeming with excitement, before vacuum cleaners and ladders were even put away. I wanted to take stock of some of the heavy hitters right off the bat.

Tom Dixon's sprawling display in Superstudio Piú was even bigger than last year's. The title this year was “A bit of Rough,” a British slang that characterizes a straight-talking, down to earth attitude. While I appreciate the sentiment, there was little roughness about his collection, which has evolved into a highly scripted narrative of products.


The clear stand out for me was the Slab Chair (above right), an addition to the product family of the same name. With a profile resembling a dancer entering a pirouette, it was one of the most dynamic pieces in his display. (See more images after the jump.)


The Moooi booth was a maze of rooms, each an eclectic clash of styles that has come to characterize their exuberant catalog. For the most part, I left the exhibition space in a daze, feeling as though I'd been smacked over the head by so many layers of ornament. Still, they came through with a few amazing products, most notably in the lighting arena.The Sofa Lamp by CuldeSac with Hector Serrano (not pictured), looks like a quilted leather blimp, or a black cellular blob expanding in the air overhead—oddly ominous. The Lolita Lamp by Nika Zupanc (left, click image for detail), was quite the opposite, its buttercup shaped shade referencing a field of flowers. (See more images after the jump.)

The talking point of the day was the Swarovski Crystal Palace exhibit. Set in a blackened space the size of an aircraft hanger, the new designs (and the displays for them) by the likes of Front, Zaha Hadid, Marcel Wanders and Fredrikson Stallard, oozed a theatricality that will likely be unrivaled in the fair this year. Set in the middle of this massive room, was the sensation of the show, a giant, rotating globe covered in 500,000 Swarovski crystals of varying colors. You might think it's a preposterous object, and it is. But I imagine that's the whole point. It's the ultimate trophy for a series of Swarovski exhibitions that have been dominated year after year by sensationalism and one-upmanship. (Click images for detail and see more after the jump.)

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