To get an insight into the Milan Furniture Fair from a designer’s perspective, this year we spoke with a range of creatives about their experiences at the fair – one of our first chats in the series was with Mike LIm, Director, DP Design in Singapore…

What was the look and feel in the city this year, Milan is always so interesting and colourful with its mix of events throughout the industrial zones, the back lanes, the high fashion strips…

This year was great. I really enjoyed the light shows and the great ideas in lighting incorporating kinetic movement. Changes in furniture design, compared to last year, did not feel very significant and this year’s display felt like a continuation of last year. Bearing in mind the world economy, especially the Chinese economy, is slowing, I was hoping to see furniture design react to that – catering to smaller houses, less about luxury, more economical pieces and more ergonomic designs to suit changing economic trends.

Did you go to the fair with a particular mission, or come away with one?

I wanted to keep up with what is new, and the fair is a regular study trip for us. We are keen to look at what’s happening in the industry; the colour schemes and the textures. It’s an idea of what is to come. The trip for me only stretched three days – two days at the fair and one day outside the fairground. It was intense. I normally go through everything quickly and look at what the big boys are doing, and then check out the smaller companies to see if there are any new or great ideas.

What were the highlights at Zona Tortona and Ventura Lambrata, and any other areas you discovered that are worth a mention?

Interactive, kinetic movement has caught on in the lighting industry. Different shapes and formations of chandeliers synchronise with music and events. Lasvit was very interesting and at the forefront. Hyundai also showed a kinetic sculpture and that was amazing. Made of plywood, it was a modular system that moved, called ‘The Wind’ – it was fantastic. At nearly every show, light was no longer static but fragmented. It opened and closed and changed colour together with the music. Hyundai is a good example of the importance of collaboration and experimenting with ideas, possibilities and technology. It is not always about coming up with something concrete right away but being open to sowing the seeds of an idea and waiting.

Key directions you saw across furniture typologies and lighting.

Kinetic lighting.

What were some of the brand highlights for you?

I think Giorgetti released very nice things this year. They carry on the tradition of craftsmanship and attention to detail. The luxe feel of their products is superb – it’s not overpowering, just understated luxury and very sophisticated. They use very good materials and to a large extent the work is bespoke. I like that approach; they stand out from others. They are in a class of their own. It is a nice break from the other brands.

One piece, or several, that you don’t think you could live without.

The Giorgetti designer Chi Wing Lo has set up his own company. There was one piece I liked, because coming from Asia some pieces really remind me of the kind of imagery that you have brushed against growing up. The translations were fantastic. A Chinese food basket was interpreted into a side table. The craftsmanship was fantastic. It is very sophisticated and shows a deep understanding of the history of Chinese furniture. The subtlety is really sensitive.

Standout designers, your favourites as well as newcomers you discovered.

Chi Wing Lo and Lasvit were the highlights.

Key themes this year and how they might translate back in Singapore?

There were a lot more foldaway products this year. The smaller companies are faster in responding to the changing trends of consumers, and the younger consumers, so there’s a lot of multi-use pieces and smaller pieces for smaller apartments. People are still working with grey but what I noticed this year was quilting on leather, stitching and sewing of leather, it was more plush and puffed up. That has translated into patterns on fabrics and on armchairs. Instead of colour, you see grey patterning or black and white, or simply a dash of colour. This creates a retro feel but the overall trend is the move from colours to patterns.

How does visiting the Milan Furniture Fair help to inspire your day job as a designer?

With the pretext of having an open mind and eye you will be able to see the development of things and see where the trends are going, and the economy and world events that are driving that. What are the collaborations that are going on between different disciplines and designers and companies? It’s not just about the colours and textures and door knobs. To me, I think the fair showcases what design encompasses a wider spectrum. It’s more than just a fair for designers. For me, I want to see more than just products. You can see differences in ideas between what younger generations are doing and the bigger brands, so you can see design’s generation gap all in one place and that’s an interesting thing to observe. As a designer it is good to be aware of such differences. We don’t have to take sides or come to a conclusion, we just have to observe.

How would you describe the week in Milan to someone who has never been before?

To some people, Milan is a shopping haven but not really a place for tourists unless you are interested in fashion, furniture or interiors. So people are very surprised that during the design fair, the whole city is transformed into the design capital of the world. I don’t know how the city council gets everyone together but everywhere you turn, the city comes alive. That is what is nice about Milan, it’s the people who really make the city during that week.

Thank you.