Creating a City: Milan Design Week 2017

Milan Design Week, which ran from April 4-7 this year, invites people from all over the world to participate, and it has overtaken Fashion Week in popularity and prestige. With 343,000 people visiting Salone del Mobile’s fair (the iconic Made in Italy design fair) and more than 500,000 exploring beautiful courtyards and exclusive venues in neighborhoods like Tortona, Brera and Lambrate, the week has become a real stage for creatives, who in turn inject a vibrant energy into the city by ideating one-of-a-kind events, exhibitions and installations. But Milan is the real star of the show.

By engaging all stakeholders, Milan ensures that everyone from its citizens, to the design community, to the government and its leaders are involved in putting on a spectacle that blends architecture, art, fashion and design in a way that no other city can. The event was originally called “Fuorisalone,” which, literally translated, means “outside the salon,” referring to its status as an unofficial event during Salone del Mobile. A few years before Expo 2015, Fuorisalone started to grow exponentially in scope and esteem as an international “must visit” on the annual circuit, leading to its being renamed Milan Design Week, reflecting its global and aspirational status. Milan Design Week continues to be an opportunity for the city to build its reputation, and it does this by bringing together the best it has to offer.

So it is not surprising that many brands have taken advantage of Milan as the place from which to create media moments. Just this year, HP* executed an event to promote the launch of the HP Sprocket Photo Printer. For this, the company planned a guerrilla campaign to collect selfie stickers around the city and developed a strategic partnership with the publishing house Zero, which has for decades created the free Salone events guide.

Another unique aspect of this year’s event was the announcement of the city’s new Innovation Design District (IDD), a newly developed area in the heart of Milan. IDD was conceived and promoted by the Mondadori Group and Mediamond with the goal of creating connections and helping to promote Milan’s creative heritage from every angle — from architecture and design, to culinary excellence and gastronomic trends, to the world of technology, fashion and cinema. This new district concept was inaugurated with the launch of the first edition of Icon Design Talks, a project led by Icon Design Magazine featuring key players who are reshaping the city.

“IDD means creating a network and facilitating dialogue among some of the biggest brands in technology, finance, food and design in an initiative that puts Milan at the center of the international stage,” said Davide Mondo, CEO of Mediamond. “In fact, the creation of the district has two meanings: to amplify all of the initiatives that companies want to develop and to organize a program of quality events.” The IDD is located in an area surrounding the new Feltrinelli Foundationheadquarters, which—when it was inaugurated in December 2016 — was hailed as an exemplary piece of architecture and a symbol of its rebirth, and described as a new and permanent cultural landmark for the city, together with the buildings of Microsoft, Eataly, Unicredit and Samsung*.

And finally, as an ode to the great city of Milan, a striking photography exhibit was on view to accompany the launch of the book “Entryways of Milan,” authored by Berlin-based Karl Kolbitz. Indeed, the ex-model deems this art book as a love letter to the city, underscoring the beauty of Milan by photographing what’s hidden behind the porticos of its magnificent ancient palazzos.

“As a kid growing up in reunited Berlin, surrounded by socialist housing blocks and unkind reconstruction efforts, Milan felt like a place where the 20th century had grown both effortlessly and elegantly,” Kolbitz notes. In fact, Karl felt a need to help in eradicating the negative perception of Milan as being grey and dreary city, a reputation it got only in part because it is so different from other Italian cities. Changing this perception has taken almost a full century, but the process was most recently catapulted with Expo 2015, when Milan was given a restyling and a creativity recharge — not only with the creation of futuristic buildings like the Bosco Verticale, but more importantly with the license for the city to elevate its place as an engaged and immersive global creative epicenter.

Fiorella Passoni is general manager, Edelman Italy.

*Edelman client