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MILAN —Design week is the hottest week of the year,” said Gildo Zegna, chief executive officer of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, at the brand’s sleek Via Montenapoleone store during Milan’s Salone del Mobile international design and furniture show, which closed Sunday. “There is even more commercial traffic than during fashion week.”

This story first appeared in the April 19, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Zegna presented its new line of lamps and iPad supports by Philippe Starck and Antonio Citterio for Flos, which also designed the store’s lighting.

The Salone posted a 2 percent increase in visitors to 321,320. Carlo Guglielmi, president of Cosmit, which organizes the show, noted how “the bond between the exhibition, mainly dedicated to business, and cultural events organized in the city and for the city was strengthened over the years. Our goal for the immediate future is to take further steps in this direction.”

Developing a real, substantial business remained a priority outside the Salone, too, and even more so for the Italian fashion brands that showcased their home collections.

“We really do sell furniture,” said Giorgio Armani at his Casa store, one of 67 in 45 countries. “I almost didn’t expect it.”

The Casa business posted 10 percent growth in 2010 (the company did not provide a sales figure). Armani, who just completed renovations on his latest purchase — an 18th century house in Saint Moritz — this year expanded the Casa Collection to offer items for a second home at the beach or in the mountains. “There is so much potential when you think of second homes, they are so diversified. Just imagine the range, from the Hamptons to the Riviera,” said Armani.

Among the highlights were a linear, wooden cabinet inspired by a Japanese, 18th century version used to store kimonos and a modern version of a 1934 armchair in white leather. “There is a ferocious need to have new things, but one must also stay true to one’s design concept,” said the designer, whose second hotel is expected to open in November in Milan, with 80 rooms and located in the same building that houses the Via Manzoni Emporio Armani megastore.

In just two years, Diesel has reached sales of 20 million euros, or $28.8 million at current exchange, with its home collection, said owner and founder Renzo Rosso. “I started the line because I wanted to do business, and the right partners give us credibility,” said Rosso. Diesel furniture and lamps are licensed to Italian companies Moroso and Foscarini, respectively, and textiles to Zucchi Group. Standouts were an armchair made with washed fabrics and linen, cinched by a belt and with feet reminiscent of shoe heels, and the brand’s first sofa bed made with layered mattresses, belted down and zipped in.

Diesel’s parent company Only the Brave also controls the Martin Margiela brand, which teamed once again with designer Nino Cerruti’s Cerruti Baleri furniture line. “The collection has a very strong cohesive concept, it’s surreal yet practical,” said Cerruti, pointing to the “undersize” sofas, which refer to Margiela’s oversize and undersize shoes and fashions on the runway, and tables with asymmetric legs, leveled by a drawer.

Rosso, who has decorated a guest room in his own home with the designer’s line, said the Margiela-designed La Maison Champs-Elysées hotel in Paris will open in June.

Donatella Versace also highlighted the strong ties between her fashion and her home collection, showcased at Versace’s Via Gesù palazzo. “I want the home to be like the Versace dress: Just as I cleaned my fashion and evolved it with less ornaments, focusing on cuts and fabrics, I did the same with my home line,” said the designer. The brand’s staple Greek frieze embellished vases and consoles, and the Herald armchair in bright lacquered red patent shows a golden metal band reminiscent of the asymmetric cuts of her dresses. Also of note were comfy circular seats with fluffy alpaca fur, and blue or orange round coffee tables. Versace explained her collection veered towards “curvier and softer shapes, more feminine.”

Likewise, Blumarine’s Anna Molinari said she “wanted the brand’s home collection to follow [her] personality and fashion.” Enter the Anna, a seat made with her rose-patterned fabrics, coated and hand-treated with a special resin. However, Molinari was adamant that what made the line successful was its “innovation and research, combined with artisanal techniques,” and the association with “solid” Italian companies for production, such as Idea and Compagnia del Cristallo. In addition to the trademarked treatment for the Anna seat, the company worked on giving wood a velour effect, with a special spray paint, so that mirror frames or the swirls on a chair have a softer edge and come in contrasting, colorful hues.

Missoni, a veteran in the home goods sector, added new items such as the Jellybean lounge in maple, covered with the brand’s staple colorful patterns. Hermès chose Milan to introduce its furniture line created by artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas in collaboration with top international designers including Enzo Mari, Antonio Citterio, Denis Montel and Eric Benqué.

Fendi’s traveling project, Fatto a Mano, also selected Milan design week for its latest leg, with designers creating pieces using the company’s scrap materials and working together with Fendi artisans in the brand’s stores.

During the Salone, the Alexander McQueen boutique near Via Montenapoleone showed off the late designer’s creations for The Rug Company — one of the last creative projects McQueen undertook before his death in 2010. The handmade rug that appears in the boutique’s window has a military brocade design, originally created in 2001 as embroidery for a coat. The rug features wreath and fern silhouettes, gold fringing, a curled oriental serpent and a skull at the center. The design — made from gold silk yarn — is set against a black wool background. There is another rug — and tapestry cushions — with a skull motif, and cushions covered with hummingbirds and plumes of smoke. During the Salone, Alexander McQueen and Wallpaper co-hosted an event at the store, with guests including Anna Dello Russo, Alasdhair Willis, and Shaun Leane.

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