Once a year in April for around a week, the global furniture, home design and domestic goods community meet to make merry in an industrial zone just outside Milan. Consolidating its enviable position as the epicentre of the design world, Milan centre also comes to life with a series of launches, parties and networking events. Anyone with a product, idea or business to promote will be there.
Launched in 1961 as a showcase for Italian furniture design and manufacturing and to generate business for the local area, the Salone del Mobile (“Salone”) has grown to become a behemoth of a trade show, covering over 2.5 million square feet and a footfall of approaching 500,000 in 2018
Every other year a dedicated show of kitchenware and lighting alternate with each other alongside furniture and homewares
Year on year visitor numbers are growing, especially with the opening up of markets in the Far East with China as the epicentre. The value of attending the show is very clear, as many exhibitors and visitors will come from the other side of the world.
For a novice or first time attendee, Milan Salone is a mind boggling experience. Based around eight enormous hangar shaped buildings, within these vast spaces, further subdivisions create 24 loosely themed halls. Each hangar is approximately the size of Stanstead airport, and several have two floors. Running down the centre of the rectangular footprint of the site is a single walkway around a kilometre long. Negotiating one end of the show to the other in a straight line can easily take 30 minutes without even looking at any of the exhibitors.
Most visitors will spend three or more days at the fair, the occasional first timer arriving for a day visit, and realising that the scale of the show is impossible to negotiate in such a small amount of time.
Designers, retailers and journalists will have different agendas and methods of working, either focusing very clearly on who or what they want to see, or they may take the more organic approach, and wander without direction, finding inspiration at every turn.
At the same time as Salone, the centre of Milan comes to life with art galleries, fashion boutiques and retail outlets promoting amazing displays, parties and events, setting the city alight with an amazing buzz of creativity. It’s a very Italian experience, loud, passionate and terribly stylish. Bars are packed and restaurants are all fully booked.
Roberto Cavalli has exhibited for the last four years, each Salone becoming more exotic and more ambitious in conception. It also hosts a well received party at its Via Montenapoleone flagship store.
For anyone without a direct connection to the industry, a visit to Salone is still a must see (tickets must be purchased, it’s not free) as it is a unique phenomenon as cultural, social and aesthetic experience.