Drugs and design don’t often go hand in hand. So when Maurizio Ribotti, who ran Zona Tortona (the unofficial design hub during Salone) was arrested on suspicion of cocaine trafficking last November, everyone was shocked. It was hoped that Ribotti’s removal might herald a new era for the Tortona district, which has become increasingly dull over the last few years. But sadly this hasn’t been the case.
Small spaces up and down Via Tortona and Via Savona that once opened their doors to house fresh, young brands from all over the world now have signs in their windows telling passers by “We are not part of the Fuori Salone”. The focal point of the district – Superstudio Più – is no longer home to niche brands and, instead, corporate sponsorships abound. Every car, technology and drinks brand wants a piece of the Salone action, and you can’t move for sponsored events. Their support is welcome, but it’s just a shame they all chose the same area to host their tie-ins: one whose cult appeal is on the wane.
Good news happens here in pockets. Tom Dixon has teamed up with BlackBerry (debuting their PlayBook) to launch a village space, housing new and old collections together with a small restaurant. The idea here is to use the furniture he has designed – not look at it on a pedestal.
The Poltrona Frau group has a similar approach in the Milano Design Village space, which it has inhabited for the last three years. A sofa version of Jean-Marie Massaud’s Archibald chair had people queuing to rest their feet, while the Bouroullecs’ Basket sofa for Cappellini drew much attention and many orders on its first day. Using furniture, not just looking at it, is a popular tactic this year. But these brands are beginning to look out of place in the corporate mash-up that Tortona has become.
Tomorrow: Monocle reports from the Rho Fairgrounds
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