How Milan Design Week got its start

Today two of the most important events in Milan are the “Fuorisalone” and the “Salone Internazionale del Mobile” or International Furniture Fair that are celebrated each year during the Design Week, now in its 58th edition. 

© Cristina Torriano

Every year, events take place all over Milan and design becames the main protagonist of the city, with visitors pouring in ftom all over the world. 

However, only a few people know the history of these events that started in the late 1960s.

At that time,  Italy’s economy was booming and Italian industries were riding the wave: it was in this economic scenario that the first Salone del Mobile took place. It was organized by Cosmit (the Italian Comitato Organizzatore del Salone del Mobile) in order to promote Italian furniture industry exports.

At the end of the 70s, Cassina – a well-known Italian design firm – was the first  company to use its own showroom for receiving its costumers, in order to provide them with a more informal location. 

In the following years, a lot of other companies decided to do the same thing as Cassina, creating events in their showrooms or in other uncommon locations: this could be considered the informal birth of today’s “Fuorisalone”.

In 1983, the magazine “Abitare” dedicated a full section to this new phenomenon and in 1991 the Cosmit decided to change the exposition, moving it from September to April.

Gilda Bojardi – director of the magazine “Interni”- organised the first Designer’s Week with events set up by all the showrooms in the heart of the city; and collected them in a complete and official guide. 

The event — which took place at the same time as the Salone – didn’t really have the same success. For this reason, they decided to connect the two occasions, marking the official birth of the “Fuorisalone”.

Little by little,  the “Salone”  was opened even to everyone and not only to the experts of the sector.

Since 2000, “ via Tortona” and its surroundings became another important design district.

Also, firms, companies and boutiques – both from inside and outside the design sector – started to organize parties and promotional events, where was easy to find famous designers, architects, journalists or industrialists, a part from the international jet set. 

Since 2006, the “Salone’s” trade fair has been moved outside the city centre, in a new area called “Fieramilano”, designed by the Italian architectural  firm Fuksas. 

Despite this change in the logistic organization of the Salone, the connection between the fair and the city remained unchanged. The Fuorisalone meanwhile has spread out across the city center. 

Today, Design Week has gained popularity all over the world and is considered internationally as the main exhibition for the design sector.  

The edition that just ended of the Fuorisalone hosted more than 1311 events, from  184 countries, 350,000 guests and 2350 industries, mainly concentrated in the areas of Brera, Tortona, Ventura Lambrate, San Babila, Isola e 5 vie.

Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave a speech at the opening cerimony this year, an edition that also celebrated 500 years of Leonardo da Vinci’s birth. 

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