Milan Design Week 2018

I believe this is the 8th time that I am going to visit MDW (Milan Design Week). I skipped one year because I had travelled extensively and seen so much already that I thought to myself; “I can skip a year.” That was the worst decision I EVER made 😉.

Whether you’re a professional in the design industry or a trend watcher like I am, there is no excuse for not going to Milan and attending the MDW. Even though I make at least 2,000 pictures, talk to dozens of designers and students, and walk many kilometers a day, I still find the MDW is a great place full of inspiration. It has special encounters and locations, good food and drinks, and it is a reunion of passionate and professional colleagues. All located in the beautiful Italian city of Milan during spring.

The theme Nature, or rather New Nature, seems to be important in this edition. This is an addition to the social aspect that is given an increasingly larger role in design.

Zona Tortona

Zona Tortona was our base camp. After a few years of being more commercial with regard to exhibitions, you will see the rediscovery and the return to this fashion district. Zona Tortona is still full of nice eateries and bars, which is great to come back to after a long day of wandering. You can settle down at one of the restaurants or terraces along the water (Naviglio Grande) and end the evening (or night) with one last drink (or 2) at one of the best cocktail bars of Milan; Rita. The next morning you will depart from Porta Genova with the Ligna Verde (a green metro line) towards one of the other neighborhoods.

Many Dutch designers are represented in Zona Tortona and because we ‘live’ here we end the day with a piece of design from our own neighborhood. Think of Moooi on Via Savona 56. Megan Grehl and Concrete Architectural Associates designed the Museum of extinct animals. This resulted in two totally different interiors in which the “Moooi” collections are presented in a surprisingly new way. Something, which they accomplish year in and year out!

The exhibition of Envisons is only a few doors away from number 35, which is a collaboration between young designers on the one hand and Spanish Finsa on the other. Finsa is responsible for the production of veneer (wood). The exhibition of Envisions applies this in an innovative way. Together they conclude that the industry and the designers cannot live without each other.

Nendo – Forms of Movement (Via Tortona 27)

Last year I wanted to visit the installations of Japanese designer Nendo at Jill Sanders just before my departure on Saturday. A queue of 1.5 hours was the result. It was long, however I knew it would be worth the wait and I certainly do not regret it. TIP: visit these kind of famous places at the beginning of the week and at the beginning of the day. The chance of entering without a queue is greater than right before or during the weekend. The Milanese and ‘regular’ tourists, who happen to be in Milan during the design week, will also visit the exhibitions in Tortona and Brera (the center). (This actually applies to all places that the media writes a lot about).

This year, Nendo and 10 Japanese producers explore the different ways to achieve movement by bringing people in contact with technology and material through interaction with the objects around us; consciously or unconsciously. “A chair was there so we sat”: an automatic movement. The 10 designers asked us how the world of design objects manipulates us without us being aware of it.

Other places to visit when you’re in Tortona: The German start-up Containerwerk x Friends with micro living in containers (Via Tortona 31), Nhow Hotel (Via Tortona 35), Sony Design (Via Savona 56A), MINI Living (Via Tortona 32).

Ventura Centrale

In 2017 Ventura Centrale was the new location discovery established by Maarten Baas and Lee Broom. Beautiful presentations took place at the abandoned warehouses under the railway, and because of the astounding environment, it seemed to be surrounded by more magic. This year, America’s leading design magazine magazine Surface is celebrating its 25th anniversary with architect David Rockwell  and with designstudio 2×4. They celebrated to give an ode to the Diner in which a coast-to-coast American design party is celebrated in 4 different settings. The pop-up restaurant is fully operational; you can go there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can book here; reserveren pop-up restaurant.

Places to visit if you are in Ventura Centrale; Nitto, Asahi GLass, EIleen Fisher with DesignWork with Lidewij Edelkoort acting as curator.

Ventura Lambrate

Before Ventura Centrale was discovered, Ventura Lambrate was the dilapidated industrial area where young designers presented themselves during the Salone di Mobile. Now, you see many Scandinavian universities and academics that have their top talents exhibited. Sometimes, I enjoy engaging in their concepts and stories. If you have the opportunity, take the time. You will come across the most wonderful stories of student designers who come up with great ideas to tackle global problems such as the exorbitant clothing surplus or high depression rates among young people. Unfortunately, you will also see that commercialization has struck and the raw and innovative character shifted to other areas.


The first few years, the center of the city did not appeal to me. Big brands with Flagship stores dominated the area. They presented the commercial translation of what was shown as innovation a few years earlier. It is the translation by retail of what was happening at the exhibition complex, but that is by no means true. Palazzo’s and Piazza’s, like the deserted industrial areas, temporarily became the home and decor for everything that has to do with design. Three years ago, Maarten Baas set the example and moved from his garage in Zona Tortona to the center of the city to create a complete fairground. This year, even the square in front of the world-famous Palazzo Reale was occupied by a four-seasons presentation by design studio Carlo Ratti Associati, called Living Nature.

Masterly – The Dutch in Milano – Palazzo Francesco Turati (Via Meravigli, 7)

What is happening here is simply too much to mention. It almost feels like a personal party with good friends, famous brands like Edward van Vliet work together with our dear neighbors from our hometown Huizen BN Walls. I am incredibly proud of newbie Milla Novo who I recently welcomed in our studio. She makes the most beautiful tapestries and has developed new material specifically for Milan with her own producer to work with. The result is dazzling. Literally. Milla is not the only one who can knot nicely, Sandra de Groot of Atelier Chaos  also creates the most beautiful objects.

Cartoni Design is back with a circular style rooms after their entrance last year. In addition to Wisse Trooster designs, it is very nice that Sabine van der Ham has now designed lighting for Cartoni. During her training Sabine did an internship a few years ago at our design studio HEMELSby before she started her own agency. Like I said, there is too much to mention here. So, go see it and take your time.

AND further

The latest hotspot; Bar Anne

Anne van der Zwaag, curator of Object Rotterdam, celebrates her birthday in Milan every year. Remi Versteeg of buro Space Encounters a good friend, also thought it was the right time for Anne to get her own bar to celebrate this party. Together with Children of the light they are responsible for the project. Do not expect an average expo because Bar Anne is operational and all applied design is in use. The bar will stay open when other regular exhibition spaces close their doors. Bar Anne is located in Museo Diocesiano | Corso di Porta Ticinese, 95 | 20123 Milan (between Zona Tortona and the center)

Are you at Bar Anne? Please view the exhibition of Lensvelt; NOTHING NEW

With all the awards they have won, the expectations are obviously high, but I have all confidence that they will again have a good time with NOTHING NEW. The furniture brand that started in 1962 provides architects and interior designers tools to create better interiors. Their goal is to contribute to a greener, better, and more social world. This year they are doing it in a provoking way by buying back their own office furniture through websites such as Marktplaats and E-Bay. Stylist Maarten Spruyt was given the honor to evoke emotive reactions by making unexpected combinations.

Mutant Matter – Dutch Invertuals x Franklin Till (Via Pastrengo 12)

The creative outsiders who call themselves Dutch Invertuals have been one of my personal favorites since the last Dutch Design week. Count that to the London’s trend agency Franklin Till  (I’m a fan too!) and I’m convinced that something special awaits us.

Galleria Rossana Orlandi – (Via Matteo Bandello, 14,16)

Rossana is a good friend of Lidewij Edelkoort and has an equally good eye for design talent. During the last Design Week she spotted some of those talents at Piet Hein Eek and invited them to come and exhibit in her Gallery next week. In addition to familiar faces such as Piet Hein Eek, you will also find cover experts NLXL  and work by Diederick Kraaijeveld who makes wall sculptures from old wood. Do you like the atmosphere of the terrain at Piet Hein Eek? You should go there and have lunch while the petite Grande Dame Rossana sits at the head of the table. She would be in the shade with a cigarette while friends walk back and forth, sit down, chat and continue with what they came for.

When writing my blog I’m afraid I will not have enough time this year to look at everything properly. I did not even mention the convention! You may like to visit it. I’m definitely not telling you to skip it, but if your time is limited and you have to make choices, I would know…

Whenever you go and whatever you choose to do; take your time, observe, look, listen, take pictures and most importantly, ENJOY! Make sure you don’t forget to charge your portable charger and take it with you. Your heels? You can leave them at home.

Finally, some baggage tips:

Sunglasses, travel umbrella, sneakers, portable chargers and charging cables, a backpack or a handy bag to avoid shoulder pain after 1 or 2 days of walking, a few more sneakers, enough memory on your phone to take all the pictures you want, business cards (still working), a thin jacket or rain coat, and a water bottle to have with you during the day. Especially in new areas such as Ventura Centrale, toilets and catering are not always immediately within reach.

Traveling is best done underground (unless it stops just like last year), and renting a bike is the best alternative. During the day people usually don’t travel by cabs but at night it’s the most lovely way to be brought home.

Photo gif header: Kelsey McClellan.

This post is also available in: Dutch