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Milan Design Week: At the Half-Century Mark

WWD caught up with Carlo Guglielmi, president of Cosmit, the association that organizes the trade show, to take stock of this milestone event.

Carlo Guglielmi
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Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 04/06/2011

As Milan’s international Salone del Mobile turns 50 this year, WWD caught up with Carlo Guglielmi, president of Cosmit, the association that organizes the trade show, to take stock of this milestone event.

This story first appeared in the April 6, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

WWD: What makes the Salone stand out and enjoy such long-lasting success?
Carlo Guglielmi:
The most striking evolution of the Salone took place 10 years ago, when it changed from a business trade show to a moment of analysis and reflection on design, furniture, lighting and kitchen, sealing an increasingly stronger connection between culture and industrial products.

This is not only a trade show but a cultural event. That’s why we’ve also organized cultural exhibits outside of Italy, to bring our image abroad, as we did in New York between November and December with Peter Greenaway’s [revisitation of Leonardo’s] “Last Supper” or the performance of “Perchance to Dream” by Robert Wilson and Roberto Bolle.

A more cohesive federation with strong and precise views set the path for the Salone’s new course 10 years ago, versus a more casual organization before then. We can still see the results of this turnaround.

WWD: The fashion industry has been looking at the Salone to re-create its open, friendly atmosphere. The Camera della Moda has been involved, and many fashion brands have either been expanding their home collections or actively participating at the design week. How do you feel about all this?
C.G.:
Fashion and interiors are two very different sectors, with a different presence and different ways to communicate. We greet 340,000 people and have 5,700 shows, we count 2,500 exhibitors and draw 6,000 journalists. Fashion shows can accommodate 800 guests at the most, who are generally the same every season. What the fashion industry is doing is praiseworthy…to hold a series of events in the city, so that this is like a festival that reaches out to everyone.

WWD: What special events are organized during the upcoming Salone?
C.G.:
In Piazza Duomo [the city’s cathedral], artists will reinterpret a number of relevant scientific discoveries, and in the central Piazza San Fedele we will create a virtual forest, with sounds and even fog, paying tribute to light, given it’s the year of Euroluce [the Salone’s biennial show dedicated to lighting]. There will also be an exhibition of young designers with Citroën, which will present its new cars on Via Montenapoleone.

WWD: How does Cosmit feel about its 50th anniversary?
C.G.:
We don’t want this to be an edition of self-celebration. We are trying to look at the future, but it will also be a moment to remember Rosario Messina [former influential Cosmit president in the 1999-2008 period who died suddenly in March], continuing to work and to reinterpret his views.