A moveable feast

Furniture, fickle, mobile and moveable are the same word in Italian (“mobile”), and in 1961, three years before  Ernest Hemingway’s book of memoirs “A Moveable Feast” was posthumously published, the first Milan Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile) opened. At the time nobody could have imagined what long-term effects it was going to produce.

The story actually began in the immediate post-war period: the homes that were being rebuilt needed to be furnished and to this purpose a group of visionary architects (who had thus far only a few contracts to their name) convinced a number of artisan cabinet-makers (these, in turn, would later go on to become industrialists) from northern Italy’s Brianza district to mass-produce furniture from their designs.

The functionality that characterised those projects soon became the stylistic code of what later came to be known as “Italian design”. A formula that evidently worked and that in 1972 led to “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape”, the famous exhibition at the MoMA in New York which consecrated the international success of our way of designing home space – and not only.

Everything has changed since then, but still today for Italians the profession of designer is by definition that of designing furniture… No doubt a matter of chronology or maybe just a synecdoche, a part made to represent the whole, but there it is!

Design is the most “adjectivized” of nouns in English, preceded by attributive nouns such as: industrial, fashion, car, graphic, product, service, food, sound etc., with Italian design being the leader in Europe when it comes to value-added and number of jobs.

An important achievement, which constitutes the backdrop for today’s opening of the 62nd Salone. The Fair takes up 210,000 square meters of the Rho Fairgrounds and, at the same time, the “Design Week” having begun yesterday, transforms all of Milan into a mega space event.

This is the “Moveable Feast” of an entire country which ideally celebrates its resurgence from the meagre conditions it was in when this story began: a tale of ‘rags to riches’, culminating in nothing less than European supremacy!

The times they are a-changing, as the song goes; however, as the famous Verdi aria goes,  it is no longer true that “la donna è mobile” (of course, the librettist here meant “woman is fickle” – though we could also read it, literally, as “woman is furniture”). No, indeed: Furniture is Woman! As from 2020, the President of the Furniture Fairis  Maria Porro who has breathed in wood since birth, her family business being almost 100 years old; in addition, she has also been a set designer for the theatre and for grand events.  Today, after the long period of the pandemic, this is Maria Porro’s  real first “Festa Mobile”…. Moveable Feast.

Congratulations and break a leg!