Beyond Milan Design Week 2022: a chat with Gabriele Salvatori
June is just around the corner and with it comes Milan Design Week, temporarily pushed back this year from its usual April slot in the calendar. As usual, we preview it with our CEO Gabriele Salvatori to get the lowdown and find out a little more about what’s in store for visitors to our Brera showroom.
Salvatori Brand Ambassador Alessandro Azzalin sat down to interview him for us, and as always, the conversation was lively and varied. Let’s take a look at some of the topics they covered.
It’s another edition of Milan Design Week, and as always, we will be presenting new products, and that includes the results of experiments with new materials and concepts. Is it fair to say that as a company we are moving in new directions?
Absolutely. This year we have experimented with new types of wood, leather and many other materials.
You know how I like to use musical metaphors, so it’s like writing tunes that we like and not necessarily those that follow the formula of a commercial hit. It’s fair to say that we let our heart guide us. Up to now, the numbers seem to suggest that this approach has paid off, and so we just keep on trying things with worlds that we’d previously had nothing to do with, for example leather. And, our passion, curiosity and the sense of fun that is part of who we are all seem to work together to ensure that our creations do pretty well.
That leads on neatly to the second question I wanted to ask you, because we’re obviously talking about trends. What will be the predominant trends of this Design Week? Although, given that you’ve already said that we are not ruled by them, I don’t know if it’s a relevant question!
Exactly, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you what the trends are right now. Mainly because we don’t follow fashions, in fact we sometimes come out with products that have nothing to do with a particular period, but the reality is that if something is truly beautiful it is beautiful full stop, and it becomes timeless.
But, if I had to come up with a trend, at least one that perhaps defines our approach, that would be frugality, or thrift to give it another name. Only yesterday I was with the R&D team and we were looking at the batons of wood that are the basis of our collection with Kengo Kuma. They are in oak, and oak often tends to have quite distinctive veining. If we had to reject all the pieces with marked veining, we would end up with a load of discards that would probably become firewood. I made a decision that we would use them regardless, even though the market might question our judgement. But I think all those pieces of oak deserve to be treated with dignity.
After all, we have built our business around natural stone and we understand that when you use a material that is not manmade there will always be “imperfections”. But that doesn’t mean that it should automatically be deemed second rate. We need to embrace these imperfections. Whether it’s stone or wood, simply throwing a natural material away is not thrifty. And now, more than ever when the world is realising just how important and scares some resources are, we need to change the way we think and behave. I hope that at least some parts of the market and some consumers appreciate this cultural shift and join the sea change.
And so, we are happy to do things our way and explain the rationale behind our choices. Those who “get” what we’re about will come on board. It’s not just about a production approach, but a way of living that we cannot ignore or get away from. Sustainability is no longer just a choice. It’s become a must.
Returning to Salone del Mobile, this year is the sixtieth edition and there is even more of a buzz leading up to it than usual, especially because of the particular period we’ve all lived through. But, that aside, how will Milan Design Week 2022 be remembered?
First of all, I think it will be about the desire to meet up with each other once again. We saw that to a certain extent at the streamlined Design Week last September, when we could actually see people in person instead of through a screen. It finally seems that we have a respite from the pandemic and companies are looking forward to showcase their ideas and the products they’ve been working on. That said, however, the world has received another devastating blow and I foresee a bittersweet week because I am sure it will be a topic that will come up again and again. However, life, must go on, and we need to also respect the people who design, create and continue to come up with brilliant new ideas and products.
This year’s Fuorisalone theme is “Between Space and Time”. How have you interpreted it?
The phrase borrows variables from physics, but they also make us stop and consider the impact of the decisions we make today on the future. The events of the past few months have illustrated the consequences of dwindling resources. And here, design can make a difference. Whether we are talking about small artisanal activities or industrial manufacturing, the design of a product cannot fail to have an impact that goes beyond its immediate usage today.
And that’s why we asked our designers to take a thrifty approach in their choice of material and the way it would be used, so that we if their products become commercially successful, we are already in control of their impact on the planet.
So, adjusting the way we design is not an end in itself, but is something that will play out in years to come. In short, I see “Space and Time” as an invitation to address sustainability. And yes, the world has been talking about this theme for years now, but I feel that now it has become something more personal and has entered into people’s hearts.
As you know, it’s something we’ve been committed to for many years, partly because I feel very strongly about it personally and also because the material we work with is not unlimited, so it makes us be frugal with it. We are very aware of the responsibility that goes with natural stone so we don’t want to use more than is strictly necessary.
And so, this year’s theme definitely resonates with me.
If you could choose a soundtrack or theme song for this year’s Design Week, what would it be?
“Imagine” by John Lennon.
And on that note, I would like to invite you to visit our showroom during Milan Design Week and see the fruits of the imagination of our designers.
The dates are 7 to 12 June and we highly recommend that you pre-register for a visit. You will not only skip the queues, but also receive a digital leaflet with the stunning images designed by Maria Jesus Contreras to celebrate our new collections.