Ten Top Take outs from Milan Design Week 2019
This year has been a busy one for the design studio. We caught up with head designer and creative director Lyzadie after her return from Milan Design Week and asked her for her top ten take outs from one of the world’s biggest and best design fair.
1. Let’s start at the beginning. How did you end up in Milan after only launching your first collection a year ago?
Honestly it still feels like a slightly surreal dream. One of those things you read about, or see in a movie and laugh at, knowing that it it’s too good to be true: I received the invite via Instagram! I thought it was a hoax at first, it’s always lovely to get messages on social media and we try and respond to all of them. But this one translated into an official invitation and then we were off.
2. Milan Design Week in Italy is defined by Salone Del Mobile and Fuorisalone. Can you sum up the scale of these events?
They’re life changing. Grand. Inspiring. Huge. More than 300,000 people, including interior designers, architects, designers, journalists, collectors and design enthusiasts, from over 160 countries, flock to the city of Milan each year. There are over 205,000 square meters of exhibition space and more than 2,350 exhibitors. The sheer size is incredible for someone from such a small country, and the quality of the designs and workmanship is breathtaking.
3. How do designers prepare for such a large, public event?
For us it was quite a whirlwind! It was only a matter of months to get things ready so we had to get organised very quickly. Designing our stand and marketing materials was top priority and our team were amazing, pulling together concept designs that highlighted our growing collections. Our makers were wonderful, as well as excited by the news of course. And before we knew it, we had a range of our products and gorgeous stand ready to ship.
4. It’s a big logistical effort to get a design collection to Italy from New Zealand. Any advice for other’s who might embark on this journey?
A few hours before we got on the plane on the way to Milan we received the devastating news that our cargo was going to be late for the fair. Not just a couple of days late but 2 weeks late arriving on the 24th of April instead of the 7th of April. It was a real body blow. I took a while to fully digest the news and I’m still not sure how to quite put into words how devasting the news was. A miscommunication between the Singapore and Auckland freight offices had meant no one knew anything of the delay in Auckland.
Getting on the plane with no plan on what we were going to do next was hard. I had to take more than a few deep breaths and remind myself that I was more than just my collection to get going again.
My advice therefore is to ask a LOT of questions of all parts of the logistical puzzle. Double check everything and don’t be afraid to question officials. It’s their job to make sure your process works.
5. You’re a mother of four. How do you go about making overseas travel work with the family?
I’m very lucky to have great support and a wonderfully encouraging family. They know how much this work means to me and get excited about my successes as much as I do. The key is trying to get a lot done in a short amount of time and making lots of lists! That doesn’t mean it’s always easy though. Our family suffers from all the same ups and downs as other families. I just have to trust that in the end everyone will look back on this time and remember how exciting it was that we all had a part to play in making the experience a success.
6. What was the reaction to your presence in Italy?
We were truly gratified by the reaction from our makers, customers and followers. It’s a wonderful experience to be able to share. Without the full design stand with us in Italy it was hard to showcase the breadth of our work, but we still managed to show our marketing materials with a huge number of people and it’s exciting to contemplate the opportunities that will spring from this one event.
7. How do you manage the event itself? Any advice for managing exhaustion and overwhelm for others?
Salone del Mobile is an amazing fair ground with hundreds and hundreds of design stands. It was wonderful to meet fellow New Zealand designers David Trubridge, Nina from Resident, Roderick Fry from the Moaroom and Simon James there. Yet the challenge with such a huge space is that it can be overwhelming and utterly exhausting! We walked kilometres and kilometres and still didn’t manage to see everything. My advice is to make a list of priorities before you go and allocate time to get to your must-see areas. I also allowed two extra days to explore without an agenda, including getting out into the streets of Milan. We spent an inspiring day exploring the old buildings such as the Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel’s II, Castello Sforzesco and another day going to Lake Como.
I also kept evenings primarily free to allow for networking. Milan Design Week is an extravaganza of exhibitions, special openings, DJ sets and cocktail parties. The highlight was the Walter and Knoll party at the Gattopardo Milano. Coming from New Zealand this kind of venue with old Italian architecture was pretty special.
8. The week boasts an awe-inspiring amount of design. What areas would you concentrate on next time?
The Carpenters Workshop Gallery in the Brera Design District was one of our favourite spaces. The architecture, furniture and lighting there was beyond design. A cross between art and functionality. I completely fell in love with Vincenza De Cotiis’ designs. To say that my soul was stirred isn’t an understatement. The perfect orchestration between raw materials and details was truly beautiful. The closest I can come to describing their integrity and glorious design is to compare them to works that have almost grown from nature. Truly an inspiration for me.
9. Did you meet any of your design heroes out there? How do you manage conversations with people who are at the top of their game?
I was able to meet Marcel Wanders from Moooi. It was an awe-inspiring moment to meet such an incredible designer, star and successful business entrepreneur. To talk to someone like this as a colleague was a dream come true. So too was seeing the products of Draga and Aurel. Being surrounded by my design heroes and being able to speak to them and show them our work was something I never dreamed would happen, certainly not this early in the studio’s history. I had to remind myself that we were in Milan on invitation, that people saw and cherished the heart of our work and that even though these people were some of my heroes, they are just people too. Allowing myself a moment to know what I wanted to ask them first was good for calming the nerves!
10. New Zealand is a long way from Italy. How do you think fellow New Zealand designers can break through into international markets like this one?
We’re quite active on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin and enjoy sharing our work with the world that way. In this case it was doing just that which enabled this invite to come about. I think there is a hunger for work with integrity and a rich story behind it no matter where you’re from. If you can harness that; the power of story, the emotional heart of an idea in a design, I believe there will always be a market for your work. Social media means we’re no longer an isolated island. Our work can be on show from where ever we are.