Feature: NEXT DESIGN PERSPECTIVES Inaugurated During Milan Triennale

“The debate around design has gained importance because, among the various fields of human endeavor, design represents a refined tool for interpreting the present. It is the discipline that best expresses the essence of our time: mirroring how aesthetics evolve, and the most influential social and cultural trends.”

-Altagamma, excerpt from NEXT DESIGN PERSPECTIVES conceptual statement

"Biofacturing" panel discussion between (from the left) Paola Antonelli, Natsai Audrey Chieza, Suzanne Lee, Koert van Mensvoort, and Maurizio Montalti. Image: Edelman

On October 30 2018, Italian luxury brand committee Altagamma, in partnership with Fiera Milano and the Italian Trade Agency, inaugurated NEXT DESIGN PERSPECTIVES during the 2018 Milan Triennale. The international forum focused on contemporary trends in the design industries—their socioeconomic, disciplinary, and environmental impacts—and encouraged the broader design community to consider how these changes might affect the future of our lifestyles and cities. 

Philippe Starck in conversation with Tony Chambers. Image: Edelman

Altagamma, founded in 1992, gathers Italian cultural and creative companies to stimulate domestic and international competition. Members operate in multiple sectors, ranging from architectural and industrial design to fashion and food. 

Andrea Illy inaugurates the forum. Image: Edelman

Triennale Design Museum.

Milan’s relationship to these globalizing industries, given its long history of artisanal and cultural production at all scales of economy, was central to NEXT DESIGN PERSPECTIVES’ discussions, and a deciding factor in the city’s selection as host of the event. Recent years have also seen a surge and expansion of Milan's design-related programming, from the Triennale to Milan Design Week.  

The forum’s participants included—among many—Andrea Illy, Chairman of both illycaffè and Altagamma, Marco Bizzarri of Gucci, designer Philippe Starck, and architect and Triennale President Stefano Boeri, as well as Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at the MoMA, and Tony Chambers, former Creative Director and Editor-in-Chief of Wallpaper*. Giuseppe Sala, the Mayor of Milan, contributed an opening speech mapping the relationship between the city’s design industries and the past, present, and future of its urbanization.

Architect and urbanist Stefano Boeri offers his thoughts on the necessity of publicly discussing design. Image: Edelman

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, during his address. Image: Edelman

“The presence of many guests—they are actually not only guests, but protagonists—is a sign of the importance Milan gives to dialogue with the world,” stated Sala. “Cities are the laboratories of future communities.”

The event was organized around the presentation of ten “Key Trends,” market projections produced by WGSN, a London-based analytics and forecasting company. These themes ranged from emergent consumer demographics and bio-technologies to the roles of emotional appeal and ethics in changing consumer markets.

Andrea Bell and Lisa White present WGSN Trends Report. Image: Edelman

A series of panel discussions engaging these themes followed, foregrounded by a keynote address on bio-fabrication by Suzanne Lee, Chief Creative Officer of the “biocouture” company Modern Meadow. Positioned at the intersection of technology, high fashion, and ecology, Lee presented a recent collaboration with Adidas, involving the production of trainers made of spider silk fiber—fiber produced not by spiders themselves, but through the implanting of an enzyme native to spiders in a bacterium that could be farmed. The resulting material, with its inherent tensile strength and ductility, was implied to have a wealth of potential applications (e.g. architectural) that went far beyond her immediate industry. 

Suzanne Lee provides a keynote address on bio-fabrication. Image: Edelman

Later in the evening, Paola Antonelli introduced works by Neri Oxman and her Material Ecology team at the MIT Media Lab. One such project was a prototype for melanin-impregnated materials, which could be acted upon by UV radiation and change through the chemical production of pigment. This property would allow for a resistance to UV damage that could find value in sustainable building construction.

Also present was Maurizio Montalti, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Mogu. Montalti demonstrated how fungal mycelium could be harvested using industrial substrates, like agricultural waste. Mogu processes this mycelium into alternative textiles for acoustic panels, flooring, and interior finishes, and is capable of quickly growing its strains in different conditions and configurations. 

Maurizio Montalti discusses his research at Mogu with (from the left) Paola Antonelli, Natsai Audrey Chieza, Suzanne Lee, and Koert van Mensvoort. Image: Edelman

The musings that took place during NEXT DESIGN PERSPECTIVES ended well into the evening, with the affirmation that these generative, cross-sectoral discussions should continue annually, given their progressive social, economic, and urban implications for the historic city.   

The forum can be watched in its entirety on Altagamma’s website.