11 December 2019
The Salone del Mobile.Milano Shanghai has just drawn to a close, its resounding success confirmation of just how much (and in what way) China – and especially its younger generations – is redefining the way in which domestic spaces are interpreted and lived, both private and public. This cultural shift has clearly also been influenced by contact and interface with the West, and its design and creativity. Mindful of the increasingly pivotal role China will be playing in the future, the brands that enlivened the Shanghai edition of the Milanese event were keen to cater to this shift, with pieces combining originality, quality, craftsmanship and innovation, tailored to the tastes and tradition of Chinese furnishing.
Now that Chinese consumers – young, technologically savvy and cosmopolitan – are on the lookout for design objects that best reflect their own personalities and their own spaces, Made in Italy seems to be not only the order of the day but the key driver of market demand. Italian style and savoir-faire serve as guarantees of excellence and distinction in the country’s collective imagination, with the choice and use of materials in prime position. In Shanghai, material, in its widest sense, seems to be the great protagonist. When colour fades to almost completely neutral to respond to the tastes of another culture, when lines become rounded and simplified and shapes become enticing, materials become the star of the show, appealing not just to the eyes but also to all the senses of the viewer.
Noble, algid marble, new materials capable of replicating even more faithfully natural stone, coloured, hi-tech ceramics, ancient and contemporary wood, metal conspicuous for its flexibility, brightly coloured plastic, glass that exalts the purity of lights and shapes, precious, unique and deep-coloured fabric and latest generation leather for timeless decor. Design in Shanghai is expressed through its materials, which make up a very real narrative language.
Latest-generation agglomerates were proposed for kitchens, devised to look like marble and natural stone, but more robust and easier to maintain (Veneta Cucine, Scavolini, Aran).
In living rooms, marble, inherently ancestral yet with a contemporary vibe, is deployed in codes and styles that set it off to very best advantage (Citco).
Wood was also used in a number of different spaces, channelling its eco-friendly values and the retrieval of craftsmanship, in pursuit of a harmonious blend of creativity and nature with added value in the form of intriguing colour variations, from sandy hues to dark brown by way of unusual shades of grey and green. (Binova, Cesar, Ernestomeda, Flou, Lema, Molteni e Dada, Porro, Poliform, Riva1920). It was also used as a wallpaper (Tabu).
Ceramics took on a new look – in terms of scale, texture and colour – for the Chinese market. They were deployed creatively and experimentally for use in almost every domestic space, from accessories to decorative objects, focusing on the sense of wonder that they manage to arouse. (Antonio Lupi, Richard Ginori, SigmaL2, Villari).
With the emphasis on processes blending craftsmanship and industrial manufacturing, many brands left metal to speak for itself: the design and forging, oxidising and anodising processes allowed it to achieve its greatest powers of expression. Here, elementary, geometric shapes seemed to have been chosen precisely to put the spotlight on the processing of the material (Paolo Castelli, Vittoria Frigerio, Longhi, Officine Gullo, Turri, Visionnaire).
The good and beautiful qualities of plastic, allowed to give rein to its own free and playful spirit here too, were reflected in furnishings, hard-wearing, lightweight, coloured or see-through objects and accessories that spoke to the energising power of this material. It was easy to pick up on the promise of freedom and innovation that modern and contemporary design first fell in love with (Kartell).
Glass and its versatility. In Shanghai the qualities of this material were harnessed more formally, graphically and technically or more poetically and theatrically at every step. Glass sparked essential, geometric and highly contemporary light forms, as well as models with the emphasis on the traditional, often reinterpreted almost subversively with regard to classic canons. But it was more than just lighting. (Artemide, Barovier&Toso, Foscarini, Gallotti&Radice, Patrizia Garganti, Nemo, Oluce, Penta).
Fabrics and wallpapers channelled natural materials, creating fresh moods and employing masculine colours, while circularity, transparency of manufacturing process, responsible innovation and transcultural approach were also evidenced. Velvet, found almost everywhere on chairs and upholstereds, was notable for its own added value of sensual tactility, conferring depth even to the most minimal nuances. There was also wool, jacquard, brocades, cotton, viscose and silk. (Amini, Edra, Living, MissoniHome, Moroso, Rubelli, Sahrai, Somma1867).
Leather also made its presence felt. Its tactile and visual qualities are also synonymous with luxury and exclusivity in China. Tailored and handmade, leather upholstereds (and others) are an evergreen taste interpreted in a design key, taking centre stage with its quality, made-to-measure comfort and sartorial attention to detail (Giorgetti, Flexform, Minotti, Ceccotti, Natuzzi).