Byline: Courtney Colavita / Luisa Zarganiand Alessandra Ilari

MILAN — There’s no Gisele and no star-studded front rows, yet the Salone del Mobile, the world’s leading trade fair for interior design, manages to generate even more wattage than the fashion shows, with close to 200,000 people flocking from all corners of the world, giving the city an uncharacteristic buzz and raising its international profile.
So with all this hype, how could fashion designers not get involved?
Some are seasoned — Versace, Etro and Krizia lunged into the home and design area years ago — some are making their first foray, like Fusco and Paul Smith, and still others are introducing existing collections to new markets.
For the first time, Giorgio Armani hosted an exhibition open to the public in his Via Bergognone theater: a selection of photographs from Domus, the magazine created in 1928 by architect Gio Ponti.
At the same time, Armani presented his second Armani Casa collection, inspired by the Thirties and Forties, in a new, lighter-colored pear wood and leather, revved up with sparks of fuchsia, green and damask fabrics.
The highlight was a 50-piece limited edition silver tea and coffee set with ebony handles that rings in at $8,000.
“There is more love for the house now: it’s seen as a refuge even by younger people,” said Armani. “I prefer natural materials because they age better, and my motto is ‘less design and more comfort.’ “
Just as in fashion, Roberto Cavalli proved to be the antithesis of Armani’s no-fuss style. Cavalli himself could barely be spotted amidst the cacophony of zebra-striped cushions, blotched sheets, gold-trimmed crystal flutes and rose-patterned flatware.
“Doesn’t this perfectly reflect my world?” said the designer, pointing to the display. “A home collection is the natural evolution of a designer’s lifestyle and clothes.”
Carla Fendi, instead, is a seasoned collector of modern art. Not only did she translate her passion into Fendi Casa but also supported Philippe Starck’s new aluminum creations for Emeco, a chair manufacturer, and Marc Newson’s glass resin torches designed for Flos, a lamp specialist.
Krizia’s Mariuccia Mandelli has known for years what other designers are just starting to realize — being part of the Salone del Mobile is just as important as fashion week.
“It seems that furniture and design are becoming more important than fashion. It’s such a successful business and packed with young people,” said Mandelli.
The designer has had an eight-year relationship with lighting designer Ingo Maurer and every year hosts Maurer’s new ideas at her SpazioKrizia space on Via Manin. This time, Maurer took a trippy walk down the aisle by attaching moving light panels to a groom’s morning coat and a bride’s white gown. “It’s not really about disco,” Maurer said. “It’s a bit more poetic.”
Meanwhile, Maurer’s close friend, California designer David Best, who also showed at the Krizia space, took poetic license to the extreme by layering everything — including a kitchen sink — onto a futuristic, high-wheeling car.
Teacups, tiles, buttons, miniature shoes, strands of pearls and a Statue of Liberty replica were amassed on the car. “Many of the objects have a personal story,” Best said. “They once belonged to people that are no longer here and were given to me by their survivors.”
Fifty years, 50 projects and 50 designs were the ideas behind Moroso’s installation, Off Scale. The Italian furniture company celebrated its golden anniversary by commissioning 50 works by 50 significant figures in fashion and design. Tom Ford, Hedi Slimane, Stella McCartney, Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Antonio Berardi, Alberta Ferretti, Trussardi, Pucci, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier and Yohji Yamamoto were just a few of the fashion designers to pen their furniture concepts. Moroso then shrunk to scale models of the designers’ divans, chaises, beds and chairs for the presentation.
Calvin Klein is no stranger to home design, but last week he brought his simple, Zen-like collection to the Salone to introduce the line to the Italian market. Klein, along with Elle Decor, hosted a fete at his Milan showroom. Simple, elegant, cool and inviting were the hallmarks of Klein’s raised mesh bedding and criss-cross crystal flutes. Guests were also given fresh flower necklaces and bracelets, courtesy of a florist workstation in the showroom.
Another major player on the design scene is high-tech furniture maker Cappellini, which continued the joint effort with Pucci it started last year. It also ignited a relationship with Sir Paul Smith.
With Pucci, Cappellini celebrated the jet set outdoors joie de vivre with “Swimming Pool,” a collection of modular seats and backs, designed by Italian designer Piero Lissoni.
Pucci’s signature, colorful swirls are borrowed from the archives and crop up on cushions in cotton canvas, velvet and terry cloth.
According to Catherine Vautrin, who took the ceo reigns after LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought the house, it was important to delve into other sectors besides fashion when revitalizing the brand because it is constantly evolving.
“With furniture, we recouped something that was in the Pucci heritage,” said Laudomia Pucci, image director and daughter of the late Emilio Pucci. “This time, we focused on outdoor living even though this kind of furniture lends itself to different habitats, including lofts and hotels, thanks to its easy maintenance and pure shapes.”
The furniture will be sold in Cappellini’s 10 boutiques — 10 more are slated to open by the middle of 2003 — as well as in the company’s 400 other sales points worldwide.
With Smith, Cappellini created Mondo, a home collection that is just as fun-loving as his clothes. The seats of white cotton chair covers were painted with such real-life scenes as a fallen forkful of spaghetti with splattered sauce, a thrown set of keys, or an open handbag. A rock print covered box-shaped chairs, while piles of logs were painted on the facade of a cabinet.
Fusing today with yesterday, American designer John Hutton created a furniture and upholstery collection called “Mood” for Flexform, a furnishings company. Hutton was invited by fashion designer Antonio Fusco to show his wares under the sparkling crystal chandeliers and stuccoed ceilings of his 19th century Palazzo Saporiti, which is where Fusco’s showroom is located, in the heart of Milan.
Exte showcased Well-Tech, a collection of nature-friendly products that aims to improve the quality of life.
On display was a Ford electric car, an ultrasound washing machine that works without detergent and a hydropower system that drastically reduces gas consumption.
“The name Exte comes from extempore,” said a spokesman. “The company has always had a technological vocation blended with style.”
Philippe Starck tried his hand at designing a bed, complete with a headboard and accessories, plus bed linens. The project is in association with Descamps, the French luxe home linens manufacturer, owned by Zucchi. The result is a minimal structure made with matte steel bars, available with matching headboard and bed tables. The bed, which features a latex mattress, comes with selections of linen sheets and quilts with registered closures, lamps and frames.
“Let’s face it, nobody makes a bed quite like a woman,” noted the jovial French designer, “So I asked myself how could I design a bed that is elegant, intelligent and easy to make?”

HAIL MARY: “My main concern is saving people’s lives,” said singer and MAC spokeswoman Mary J. Blige at the Maison Blanche restaurant in Paris last Tuesday. More than 200 of the city’s fashion flock, including Phoebe Philo, Giambattista Valli, Gilles Dufour, Gaspard Yurkievich, Victoire de Castellane and her sister Mathilde Agostinelli turned up to support MAC AIDS Fund’s ongoing charity work. Through funds raised from sales of Viva Glam IV lipstick, MAC and Blige donated about $22,000 to the Paris-based Dessine Moi Un Mouton AIDS charity.

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