The Milan Design Week

Milan. The name of the city alone conjures images of stunning design and high fashion. And perhaps nowhere is the city’s penchant for modern design as apparent as during the Milan Design Week, held this year between April 17–22. At its 57th edition, the Design Week remains one of the principal design events globally with more than 430,000 visitors and 1,800 exhibitors – including some of the brightest stars of Finnish design.

But how does Milan manage to maintain its importance among fierce competition? Perhaps the answer is a rather stereotypically Italian chaos that however ends up creating new surprises behind everyone corner. “There’s more to see and experience in a week than anyone could realistically take in,” says Kari Korkman, President of World Design Weeks, which brings together more than 30 design weeks from around the world.

“Milan is different from all other design weeks, since no one really owns the event. It’s an umbrella brand that everyone takes advantage of but is not controlled or monitored by any single organisation. As a result, the quality of displays and events varies greatly. Different venues and districts are locked in a heated competition for attention, brands, media and audience,” Korkman explains.

Number one in classic design

The Milan Design Week is a collection of objects and spaces like no other. Like every year, this year’s exhibition packed together everything from surreal furniture to exquisite vases and avantgarde lightning to minimalistic speakers.

But what is the role of Milan among all the design weeks around the world? “Milan and other design weeks are a unique platform, as no other event brings together such a vast number of important stakeholders. In the context of classic design, Milan is globally the place to be. No other event gathers so many manufacturers, retailers, designers and media from around the world,” Korkman responds.

How to make it in Milan?

As expected, with such a large event, standing out from the competition is no easy feat. According to Korkman, it requires careful, long-term planning and a good storytelling. “On a global scale, Finnish design brands are small and unknown. However, this isn’t a show-stopper. Finnish businesses can succeed, if they exhibit exceptional design thinking and invest in the resources necessary to bring their story and offering to the table.”“I wholeheartedly recommend that Finnish design business and entrepreneurs dare to interact with the international community even at the early stages of their business. Multinational cooperation and networking are exactly what the Design Weeks are for. “

Finnish design well-represented

Finland has a long-standing history with MDW dating back to the 1960’s. This year, 12 Finnish companies including Finarte, Hukka Design, Lovi and Soften exhibited their designs and thinking in this year’s exhibition.

Tranquil lamps made of soapstone. Photo by Hukka Design 
Handwoven rugs with Nordic design themes. Photo by Finarte
Charismatics soapstone plates and other cookingware. Photo by Hukka Design 

Finally, what was the big talking point during this year’s Design Week? “Every year, one of the gigantic global design brands splashes enourmous amounts of cash and resources to build something outstanding. This year it was Hermés,” Korkman concludes.

Perhaps in next year’s edition, we’ll see a Finnish design company match that display…

“In Milan, different venues and districts are locked in a heated competition for attention, brands, media and audience”