"Salone cannot be stagnant and living on its past success" says Maria Porro
With Salone del Mobile returning to its April slot for the first time in four years next week, president Maria Porro tells Dezeen what to expect from the design mega-fair in this interview.
Porro says that the organisers have developed the 2023 edition to focus on a new role for Salone del Mobile, the trade centrepiece of Milan design week.
This year's programme includes the relaunch of lighting fair Euroluce, a refreshed supply chain, new custom installations and talks from international designers.
"Unthinkable" to ignore disruption
According to Porro, the aim is to ensure that the world's largest design fair is not "stagnant and living on its past success" following three years of disruption caused by covid.
"The idea of simply reverting to our traditional spot in April as if nothing had happened was unthinkable," said Porro, who became the first female Salone president when appointed in 2021.
"We worked on giving shape to the suggestions and visions that have emerged over the last few years, based on a couple of simple questions: what is the new role of the Salone? How and where to start redesigning its evolution?"
"Salone is not standing still: the new challenges lie in fleshing out a vision of the furnishing system that, of necessity, is more ethical and aware – design that besides being functional and good-looking is also capable of engendering conditions and spaces for wellness, refuge and inclusion," she added.
This year, Porro is prioritising environmental, economic and social responsibility.
Following the 2021 and 2022 editions of Salone, which focused on themes of sustainability, the fair has acquired an ISO 20121 certification and joined the UN Global Compact, a voluntary venture for organisations to commit to more sustainable practices.
"Salone is making efforts to identify suppliers of recycled, recyclable and/or reusable materials for building the common parts, and will endeavour to regenerate the resources consumed and absorb the waste produced," Porro claimed.
"We are also choosing institutional partners whose strategies are built around genuine concern for people and the planet, and fleshing out the guidelines for sustainable trade-fair installations circulated amongst the exhibiting companies last year."
Fair invites 2,000 exhibitors
Despite a proliferation of global design fairs in recent years, Salone remains the biggest event in the industry calendar. The fair expects 2,000 established and upcoming exhibitors to take part this year, 30 per cent of whom are international designers.
"Salone, being the international point of reference for the furnishing and design sector, leads the Milanese design week simply by being what it is," Porro said.
"Salone is not really responding or behaving in a certain way to compete with other fairs," she added. "Salone is one of the oldest ones and it cannot compete with younger ones which do not have behind it the same furnishing system and district, that is its history."
The biennial lighting exhibition Euroluce returns to Fiera Milano for 2023 under the theme "The City of Lights", promising to serve as a "positive hub of emotions and knowledge" with a new ring-shaped layout.
Alongside Euroluce, Salone presents four exhibitions curated by architect Massimo Curzi, interior stylist Martina Sanzarello and curators Matteo Pirola and Michele Calzavara, as well as installations at Salone Satellite and a series of talks presented in a plaza designed by Italian design studio Formafantasma.
Speakers at the fair include Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, New York-based designer Nao Tamura, Norwegian architecture practice Snohetta and Beijing firm MAD Architects.
"There has been much reflection"
Despite the continuing popularity of Salone, Porro believes change is necessary for all design fairs moving forward.
In addition to the cultural events and stated focus on sustainability, this year's show will have a different layout, with stands laid over the lower floor of the Rho Fiera Milano fairgrounds only Euroluce having a new "ring-shaped" setup.
"Salone cannot be stagnant and living on its past success," she said. "Salone has always been testament to an extraordinary curiosity, willingness and openness to comparison and a huge desire and ability to improve, innovating consolidated formulas."
"Over the last few difficult years, there has been much reflection, research and questioning around the future of trade fairs, leading to a concrete revision of the exhibition format – as this year for Euroluce and one-level fairground – in a bid to be able to continue to generate value for the entire design community."
Salone del Mobile is taking place in Milan from 18-23 April as part of Milan design week. See our Milan design week 2023 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.
The photography is courtesy of Salone del Mobile.