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Textiles Are Part of the Fabric of Milan Design Week

May 28, 2023May 28, 2023


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The annual festival of furnishings and household objects has several presentations involving cloth materials and techniques.

By The New York Times

This article is part of our Design special report previewing 2023 Milan Design Week.

If it’s denim you like, you can check out the decommissioned church where the Dutch fashion brand G-Star has invited the designer Maarten Baas to produce a full-size airplane from the material. If your tastes in textiles fly higher, Hermès is showing a carpet by the French designer Pierre Charpin made with the exquisite, labor-intensive cordélie technique.

Both exhibitions are part of the fabric of Milan Design Week, the annual festival of furnishings and household objects dominating the Italian city from April 18 through April 23.

Following are a few other textile-related presentations occurring throughout the week.

For their latest collaboration with the Italian carpet brand Nodus, Francesca Lanzavecchia and Hunn Wai of Lanzavecchia + Wai mined their fascination with nuclear fallout. Their Colomychus Chernobilis rug depicts a fictitious moth found in Ukraine’s Red Forest, whose DNA has mutated through exposure to radiation from the 1986 disaster at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant. “We struggle to define our relationship with radiation,” Ms. Lanzavecchia said. “It might be clean, but it creates these long-term effects.”

Colomychus Chernobilis is the third piece in their Mutazioni (Mutations) 1.0 series with Nodus. The first was realized in 2012 in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and portrayed a yellow-spotted beetle missing segments of its antennae. They revisited the theme in 2022 in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “When Nodus called and asked to work together again, it was the day that Russia was crossing the Red Forest with tanks,” Ms. Lanzavecchia recalled. “Again, something so terrible was happening to this land. It’s a way to pay homage.”

They were inspired by Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, a scientific illustrator whose vivid watercolors document the mutations found in insects in nuclear disaster zones. Working with Nodus’s artisans in Nepal, they developed a circular rug made of wool and glossy banana silk, with varying pile heights reflecting the detailed outline of the imagined insect.

The rug will be shown April 18-23 at the exhibition “Stars of Today” at the Superdesign Show at Superstudio Più, Via Tortona 27; — LAURA MAY TODD

It all began with the Hortensia armchair. In 2018, the Argentina-born digital designer Andrés Reisinger dreamed up the seemingly impossible chair, made of thousands of pink hydrangea petals, and it set the internet — and design world — spinning. Quickly, the 15 limited-edition pieces were snapped up. Mr. Reisinger wanted to make Hortensia more widely available; that sparked a connection with the Dutch design company Moooi, which worked out how to produce the armchair at scale.

Now, the collaborators have reunited to bring another one of Mr. Reisinger’s virtual pieces to physical life. The work, “Pollen,” is his first piece of recombinant art.

The designer said he had long been fascinated by DNA — his chemist parents would draw pictures of the double helix for him as a child — and, recently that got him thinking “about a way in which my artworks can be combined in order to create the best possible artwork out of them.”

Those thoughts spawned “Pollen,” a digital artwork Mr. Reisinger gave as a gift to each of his collectors. At a few designated times during the year, each recipient could choose to “pollinate” the virtual Hortensia they already owned, trading it in — along with their edition of “Pollen” — and receiving in exchange an entirely different Hortensia. The new digital artwork resulting from the “pollination” might be altered in size, shape or pattern according to the season.

Mr. Reisinger based the colors and expression of each iteration of “Pollen” not on scientific research, but on “a memory of a moment” in every season. “I just feel it,” he said. “For me, winter feels like that; it’s that kind of expression, and that’s how I express it at that moment.”

Moooi took one colorful, mesmerizing moment from each season (such as spring, shown) and captured it on low-pile polyamide carpeting. The rugs can be seen in the company’s “A Life Extraordinary” exhibit at Milan Design Week, alongside an experience in which artificial intelligence creates a personalized fragrance for each visitor. That setting represents “an exploration of the intersection between technology and humanity” through design, Robin Bevers, Moooi’s chief executive, wrote in an email.

A rectangular rug measures 200 by 300 centimeters (about 6.5 by 9.8 feet) and costs 2,149 euros (about $2,336). On view April 18-22 at Salone dei Tessuti, Via S. Gregorio 29; — MEGAN McCREA

For his new rugs, to be presented as part of the Hermès Maison collection during Milan Design Week, the French designer and visual artist Pierre Charpin was thinking about texture.

“My drawings are made of elementary shapes or arrangements of elementary shapes,” he said in an email. “In this type of drawing, the texture of the surface counts a lot, whether it is made with chalk, pencil, ink.”

Hermès proposed a method called cordélie, which the company has often used in the past, to translate his drawings into rugs, and he was game.

“It is a very beautiful craft technique and it creates a texture, very different from that obtained with the classic drawing techniques I mentioned, but which makes the surfaces come alive in another way,” he said.

With cordélie, fine cotton cord is fastened onto linen fabric using embroidery thread and an embroidery hook. The outline of each shape is drawn first, then the rest is filled in, in a tactile method much like coloring with a pencil or crayon. The handwork for each piece is finished in India; it takes thousands of hours to complete every two-by-three-meter rug (about 79 inches by 118 inches). The rugs are available in two colorways: wicker-terra cotta (shown) and chestnut-clementine.

On view April 19-23 at La Pelota, Via Palermo 10; — STEPHEN TREFFINGER

More or Less is a collaboration between the Dutch designer Maarten Baas and the Amsterdam-based clothing brand G-Star RAW. It is based on the conflict between desire (for more fashion, more technology) and need (for less consumption, less waste).

“It’s the everyday dilemma every fashion brand is struggling with,” said Gwenda van Vliet, G-Star’s chief marketing officer. The company has developed upcycled panels made from denim, from which Mr. Baas created three jeans-shaped cabinets and — more spectacularly — a private jet. Although the plane won’t fly, it is an accurate model, 13.5 meters (about 44 feet) long and 12.5 meters (about 41 feet) wide. The whole presentation will take place in San Paolo Converso, a deconsecrated Catholic church built over about three decades, from 1549 to 1580, and now used as an art space. The entry will contain two installations — one themed “More,” the other “Less” — made from neon screens with scrolling text, along with other elements.

Mr. Baas, who last showed in Milan in 2019, does not shy away from dishing out powerful statements to go with his designs. “Each year in Milan, I enjoy the tragicomic dialogue between green design and mass consumption,” he wrote in an email. “We are all a part of the puzzle as we enjoy our Prosecco next to this private jet of recycled materials. We are not saving the world, but are we making strides? More or less. …”

On view April 18-23 at Piazza Sant’Eufemia 1; — STEPHEN TREFFINGER

The Marimekko Artist Series will unveil its third installment in Milan: a 16-piece capsule collection of textiles and ceramic tableware by the Barcelona-based, German artist Sabine Finkenauer. According to Marimekko’s creative director, Rebekka Bay, this collection is the first in the series to feature home products. Ms. Finkenauer’s work, with its geometric forms and bright colors, “felt familiar,” Ms. Bay said. “She’s very concerned with the idea of everyday objects and the meeting between architecture and organic, geometric form with craft.”

Ms. Finkenauer said she was excited to collaborate with the company. “I knew Marimekko and love their designs,” she said. She noted a connection between the “simple, formal shapes” of her own work and Marimekko creations from the 1950s and ’60s, like those of the famed Finnish textile artist Maija Isola. Ms. Finkenauer’s artwork “Tomina,” a black, hourglass-shape form flanked by pink and red dots on a gridded background, was a natural candidate for conversion into textiles and dishware.

The installation will also feature Marimekko’s new glassware collection, designed by Matti Klenell, and lively three-dimensional surfaces made by the Finnish company Durat, which uses recycled plastic granules. On view from Monday through April 23 at Galleria Il Milione, Via Pietro Maroncelli 7; — PILAR VILADAS

“Fabric is the most important element in creating an atmosphere for a room,” Ronan Bouroullec said. When Bouroullec, a French designer, decided to convert some of his drawings (currently on view at the Hôtel des Arts in Toulon, France) into three-dimensional cloth, he turned to a familiar partner: Kvadrat, a Danish textile manufacturer. But the collaboration, though friendly, was far from easy. “Getting the drawings translated was like playing Ping-Pong with the company’s engineers,” he said.

The collection took almost four years to complete and will debut with three patterns: Alle, woven from premium-quality wool, has a raised organic stripe resembling tree bark; Tero is made of recycled polyester for outdoors but created without fluorocarbons, which are typically used in weatherproof textiles and have been linked to adverse effects on health and the environment; and Sone, an indoor version of Tero, offers the same subtle graphic patterns. The collection will be presented April 18-23 at Kvadrat’s Milanese showroom at Corso Monforte 15; — ARLENE HIRST