Virtual Design Festival

Alcova shares eight conversations with independent designers as part of VDF

Milan design platform Alcova is taking over VDF today to present a programme of interviews with eight international studios whose work could guide us into a better post-pandemic future.

The designers and their projects, which range from fashion and furniture to lighting and large-scale installations, were originally intended to be showcased as part of Alcova's exhibition during Salone del Mobile in April.

But with the fair postponed until next year due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Alcova is instead highlighting some of the studios, whose work is most relevant to the current moment, as part of this Virtual Design Festival presentation.

"Since we’re all starved of moments of physical sociality right now, we decided to structure our contributions to VDF as conversations – the kind we look forward to having once again in Milan once this is over," said the team behind Alcova.

"These times have forced us to rethink many things – our relationships with our homes, the configuration of our workspaces, the supply chains that underpin production and the relationship between our species and the natural environment," they continued.

"In our interviews, you’ll find new approaches and strategies that attempt to tackle some of these questions, such as Studio Plastique’s research into immateriality, Spread’s experiments in collective therapy, the resilience of Kalon’s business model or the use of new materials in Lukas Wegwerth’s systems."

"You’ll also read about Qwstion's infiltration of the mainstream industry with sustainable material strategies, Trame’s collaborations on the theme of borders and cultural exchange, Sammlung Walter’s iterations in the art of fabrication, and From Lighting’s production at the intersection of craftsmanship and technology."

Alcova's programme foregrounds young and independent designers, as it has since the platform was founded by Genoa design practice Space Caviar and Milan's Studio Vedèt three years ago.

"When we started Alcova, it was born from the need to find spaces of research and experimentation in a Fuorisalone that was increasingly saturated by big money, in which independent designers, brands, institutions, and collectives were struggling to be heard by the vast crowds converging on Milan," said the team.

"At the time, we never considered what it would mean to try to do the same thing in an online space. So we would like to look at current conditions as the perfect opportunity for an experiment – a stage for research into an entirely virtual sphere of representation and one which we all hope can converge again in the very near future with the physical one."

Below, Alcova introduces the eight studios featured as part of VDF x Alcova and shares a preview of what to expect in the interviews.

Alcova shares 8 conversations with independent designers as part of VDF

Kalon Studios

"Kalon was founded by Michaele Simmering and Johannes Pauwen in Los Angeles, California in 2007.

"Their furniture is rooted in natural materiality, design integrity and emotive quality, exploring the resources of the North American and European ecologies where their work is produced and sold. At the same time, they consider their pieces through long timelines of function and adaptation based on the user’s changing needs.

"We interviewed Michaele Simmering and Johannes Pauwen about the challenges and opportunities of moments of crisis and how design is evolving to embrace slow, local production and online-first launches."

Alcova shares 8 conversations with independent designers as part of VDF


"Material innovation, environmental responsibility and Swiss modernist design principles meet in the everyday bags by Qwstion. The team behind Qwstion go far beyond product design – they also source and process their own organic textiles and they even invented a technical fabric made from banana plants called Bananatex.

"According to creative director Christian Kaegi, a similar level of dedicated care and bold experimentation is needed at all levels, from customer experience in retail spaces to strategic partnerships with larger brands.

"We spoke with Christian Kaegi about brand strategies for larger ecological impacts and a circular economy using new plastic-free textiles."

Alcova shares 8 conversations with independent designers as part of VDF


"Founded by Ismail and Adnane Tazi, the homeware brand Trame was unveiled just a few weeks before the lockdown started in France.

"The Paris-based start-up promotes 'new domestic landscapes' across the Mediterranean and creates design collections through encounters between designers and craftsmen from one end of the sea to the other. In light of the pandemic, they are even more determined to respond with constructive energy to a history of painful struggle and rich artistic crossings over the Mediterranean.

"We interviewed co-founders Ismail and Adnane Tazi on what it means to launch a new business venture in the midst of a crisis, as well as what it means to explore cross-border cultures during and after lockdown."

Sammlung Walter

"Sammlung Walter was founded in 2018 by siblings Merle and Till Richter, bringing together product and fashion design into a studio structure that explores the art of fabrication.

"They investigate the notion of value within design – the careful study of materials by artists and craftsmen, the efficiency of collaboration and mechanisation in industry, the collective learning through making via the free distribution of DIY blueprints. Working between Berlin and Hamburg, they conceive of their studio practice as an inclusive network that spans both physical and digital meeting points.

"We spoke to Merle and Till Richter on their three-pronged approach to design that embraces DIY, industry and craftsmanship as well as independent research."


"Spread was founded in 2004 by Haruna Yamada and Hirokazu Kobayashi, bringing their respective experiences in landscape and graphic design together into a new creative practice.

Their projects use bright colours as large-scale elements in space, generating a playful social atmosphere or conveying complex archives of information for broad public audiences. Spread uses colour as a form of abstract sensory communication that cuts across cultural and language barriers as well as international borders.

"We interviewed Haruna Yamada and Hirokazu Kobayashi on the importance of creativity and self-reflection as key to imagine a personal and collective future in this moment of immobility."

Lukas Wegwerth

"Lukas Wegwerth brings together a team of collaborators to work on evolving systems as the framework for furniture making. His experiments begin with the smallest generative element – a connective joint, a structural principle, a material dimension – and expand into larger assemblies, from simple chairs to architectural constructions.

"Wegwerth’s design process is further informed by careful consideration of structural details and their implicit consequences for cycles of re-use, disassembly and strategic material sourcing.

"We spoke to Lukas Wegwerth about what he’s learned from leaving the city and how his range of designs is evolving to embrace new materials."

From Lighting

"From Lighting is an independent lighting brand founded by Cesare Bizzotto and Tobias Nitsche. Working with a local network of industrial workshops in northern Italy, they produce their lamps with a keen eye for form and detail, a thoughtful integration of cutting-edge technology and an ethical commitment to local manufacture and collaborative teamwork.

"As designers and entrepreneurs, they take an innovative and flexible approach towards business development, using their full range of acquired technical knowledge and creative insight to adapt to a quickly changing market for design goods and services.

"We interviewed Cesare Bizzotto and Tobias Nitsche on the value of local production and business strategy development during lockdown, as well as new needs for design when working from home."

Studio Plastique

"Theresa Bastek and Archibald Godts founded Studio Plastique in 2017 in Brussels after graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven. Their work combines imaginative scenarios and critical reflections with in-depth investigations of complex material supply chains and technological infrastructures, thus pushing the boundaries of what design aims to achieve.

"Studio Plastique builds up networks of collaboration around significant themes for contemporary society, strategically positioning the role of the designer in an evolving landscape of industry, culture, and human experience."

"We spoke to Theresa Bastek and Archibald Godts about how they nourish their future-oriented vision on design through a process of ongoing research and collaboration—even in moments of upheaval such as the present."

About Virtual Design Festival

Virtual Design Festival is the world's first online design festival, taking place on Dezeen from 15 April to 10 July 2020.

About Alcova

Alcova is a Milan-based platform established by Space Caviar and Studio Vedèt, which champions independent design through a programme of exhibitions. The team consists of
Valentina Ciuffi, Joseph Grima, Martina Muzi, Tamar Shafrir and Marco De Amicis.

The VDF x Alcova collaboration presents interviews with eight studios that were set to be featured at the platform's presentation during Salone del Mobile this year.