Eight trends to look out for at Milan design week 2017

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Eight trends to look out for at Milan design week

Milan design week is a few days from kick-off, but a number of trends are already emerging from the world's biggest and most important design fair.

Milan design week takes over the Italian city in April each year – and Dezeen has already selected 15 must-see exhibitions and installations to see.

Politics, technology and the environment are the drivers for a lot of this year's trends, which are seeing designers working with recycled materials, ancient crafts and new processes.

If you're visiting in 2017, tag your Instagram pictures with the #milanogram2017 hashtag for a chance to win £500 to spend at Dezeen Watch Store.

Read on for our trends forecast for this year's event:


Designers get political

Inspired by Brexit, Trump and the rise of right-wing populism around the world, we expect this year's Milan design week to be rippling with strong political undercurrents.

Atelier Biagetti's God installation looks at the "all-consuming" powers of today's society and how they govern the way we live our lives, while another exhibition curated by Raumplan is described as a farewell party for capitalism.


Invisible tech

It seems that while technology may be ubiquitous in our lives, we don't want to feel surrounded by it.

Last year Samsung's designer collaboration with the Bouroullec brothers yielded a true statement TV, but this year, the electronics brand has taken the opposite tack with The Frame, its new TV created together with Yves Béhar. Designed to "disappear into the decor", The Frame is indistinguishable from a framed artwork when hung on the wall. While it launched earlier this month, it will be showcased in Milan.

Similarly, Bang & Olufsen will launch a new audio product with a non-techie appearance at an event called A New Way to Live with Sound.

See more recent technology ›


Recycled materials

Brands have been touting their sustainable credentials for years, but lately several are attempting to further the discussion, by interrogating how we can help the environment when we work in an industry that revolves around making ever more stuff.

One result of this is a trend for new recycled materials, particularly plastics, that have their own strong aesthetic and character. This year, Kvadrat is bringing its newly acquired sustainability start-up, Really, to Milan design week. It will debut the company's Solid Textile Board – a high-density material made from textiles discarded by the fashion industry, households and Kvadrat itself – in a series of benches designed by Max Lamb.

Meanwhile, Ecopixel will be showing a number of products rendered in their new terrazzo-like recycled plastic, including a version of the Alex lounge chair by Alessandro Mendini.

See more recycled design ›


Modular furniture

Following on from last year's trend for compact living, modular furniture is back with a vengeance at this year's Milan design week. With furniture pieces designed to be long-lasting and flexible, it also taps into the sustainability discussion.

The highly talked-up release in this category is the Delaktig sofa and bed, designed by Tom Dixon and IKEA to explore "notions of adaptability and future-proofing". Some add-ons for the product will also be on display.

Other brands launching modular designs include Blå Station, Cassina and Sancal.

See more modular furniture ›


Confluence exhibition at Milan design week

Traditional regional crafts, rediscovered

The recent craft revival has led to interest in niche techniques specific to certain areas. Sometimes, these are presented in their traditional form, and at other times, given a contemporary interpretation.

This year's Milan design week will see South African designer Christopher Jenner launch Yixing, a ceramics collections made using the rare Zisha clay from Yixing in eastern China – a style of pottery that can be traced back to the North Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). Meanwhile, the Confluence: 20+ exhibition of Hong Kong design will showcase fresh takes on heritage textiles, porcelain and calligraphy.

See more design using craft ›


Airbnb experience at Milan design week

The festivalisation of Milan

At the end of last year's Milan design week, Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs wrote that Milan had "stopped being a furniture fair and become something more interesting", as tables and chairs came second to experiments and experiences. Later, Tom Dixon described Milan as the "Glastonbury of design" and suggested he might run bus tours rather than showing products this year.

He isn't, but Airbnb is. Its Passeggiata "experience of Milan" includes designer-led tours of their favourite locales, like bars, a dried fruit shop and the Last Supper. Meanwhile, IKEA is throwing the IKEA Festival, complete with music and other live acts, while Dixon has settled on a programme including talks and films within his Multiplex concept at 1950s cinema Teatro Manzoni.


Khora collection by Adrian Cheng and Shigeru Uchida

Bamboo furniture

Bamboo has risen in favour due to its eco credentials – its fast growth rate means it can be harvested more frequently than other trees and grasses, and it sends up new shoots without the need for replanting.

The material will be showcased by the Khora collection, a collaboration between Chinese designer Adrian Cheng and the recently deceased master Shigeru Uchida, as well as by Made in Ratio's Stellar Nova table, which will feature a bamboo tabletop.

See more bamboo projects ›


The future of food

With ever more reports highlighting the toll our meat consumption and intensive farming takes on the environment, discussion is increasingly turning towards alternative food futures.

At this year's Milan, there's an exhibition and taste testing dedicated to the topic. The Future Sausage will explore alternative recipes for your next barbecue, including bangers made with insects, fruit and offal. What will we be served at the week's raft of parties? One can only imagine.

See more food design ›