Milan's Torre Velasca

"I want to apologise to our Italian friends"

Last week, we announced plans for an online design week called Virtual Milan. Dezeen's founder and editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs explains why this was the wrong thing to do, and what we intend to do about it.

I want to apologise to our Italian friends. On Thursday last week, we announced an idea for a digital design week. We chose to call it Virtual Milan.

We never for one minute intended it to be disrespectful to the city of Milan, its community and its current suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic. We didn't think of it as a competitive move against Salone del Mobile or any of the other Milanese design platforms, but rather as something to support the global design community at this difficult time.

But while the vast majority of the responses we got were positive and supportive, many people in Milan were deeply offended. It quickly became clear that we had got it wrong. We're genuinely sorry about that.

It quickly became clear that we had got it wrong

We are learning the hard way as coronavirus rips its way around the world. London right now is where Italy was a couple of weeks ago and where China was in the weeks before that: poised on the edge of darkness.

Having closed the Dezeen offices in both London and New York for the immediate future, and with both cities on the brink of lockdown, we now have a terrible inkling of how Milan has been suffering in recent weeks.

We also feel an even keener responsibility to be an honest and trusted voice for our international audience while helping design businesses everywhere amid this global crisis. The virus has no mercy and no favourites. It cares not for Wuhan, Milan, London or anywhere else.

Having made a mistake, we want to put it right. We think that some kind of Virtual Design Festival (as we hastily renamed the project on Friday, before putting it on hold) could offer a new way of bringing people together and provide a new platform for businesses. It could be something positive to come out of this crisis.

We'd like to extend a hand of friendship to Italy

We're still formulating ideas for how such an online design festival could work. We had imagined something like the online equivalent of a music festival, offering a mixture of videos, talks, live streams, video conferences and more about the culture and commerce of design.

Whatever we do, we want it to be inclusive. We'd like first and foremost to extend a hand of friendship and an offer of help to designers, brands and organisations in Italy. Please let us know how we can help you.

But we also want this to be something for the entire global design community. If you have any suggestions, please let us know via the comments section below, or by emailing me at marcus@dezeen.com.

Meanwhile, our thoughts are with everyone during this terrible time. Please stay safe and let's all stay connected.