Italian luxury labels dominate at Venice Biennale and Milan Design Week

16 April 2024 1729
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Italy is more than ever at the centre of attention this spring, hosting in April some of the most interesting events in the culture, art and design sectors. Starting with the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale, an international art exhibition held every two years, whose pre-opening, scheduled on April 17-19 and attracting plenty of media interest, is overlapping this year with another major event, the Milan Design Week, scheduled on April 15-21. Deciding which of the two events to feature in has proved to be quite a headache for many luxury labels.

This was notably the case for Dior and Louis Vuitton. The LVMH group’s two leading labels have opted not to appear in Milan this year, despite the fact that their installations are usually among the most popular at Design Week, and will instead unveil special projects at the Venice Biennale. Tod’s made the same choice. The Italian footwear label, a partner of the Italy pavilion at the Biennale, will organise an event in Venice dedicated to top-notch Italian craftsmanship, in parallel with the exhibition.

Chanel too will be present in Venice this year, via the Culture Fund it set up in 2021, which is supporting French-Caribbean artist Julien Creuzet. Creuzet is representing France at the Biennale, and will showcase his works at the exhibition’s French pavilion. Buccellati, a jewellery brand owned by Swiss group Richemont, will organise a retrospective exhibition in Venice during the Biennale, focused on its history and heritage, while the Buccellati store in Milan will showcase a selection of objects designed by architect Patricia Urquiola.

Meanwhile, Milan will not be watching from the sidelines. Far from it. Fashion and luxury labels will once again descend in numbers on the capital of Lombardy, which will be teeming with cultural happenings during Design Week. From Hermès to Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Elie Saab, Loewe, and Versace, as well as, for the first time, Saint Laurent, Yves Salomon and Irish label JW Anderson - to mention only the more renowned - a plethora of fashion names will compete for inventiveness, trying to catch the public's eye through a vast range of initiatives. Both the Italian Fashion Chamber (CNMI) and Altagamma, the association of Italy's top luxury labels, have drawn up their own event calendar!

The fashion-themed events planned for Milan Design Week include spectacular installations, like the one by Hermès, an extraordinary exhibition of giant pictures staged by Moncler at the city’s Central station, a series of avant-garde projects in various private venues, and multiple-event formats like the one chosen by Missoni, which will feature in various locations across the city, as well as in-store presentations of collaborations between fashion and object designers.

Plus product launches, of course: Thom Browne, for example, will launch a new home linen collection in collaboration with Frette inside a historic palazzo. Getting noticed is key. Roberto Cavalli will bedeck a city tram and a bistro, in collaboration with AD magazine, with its ‘ray of gold’ print, created for the label’s new home decoration collection.

Eager to join in, some labels have come to Milan ahead of time, staging their events before Design Week by taking advantage of Milan Art Week. From April 8 to 14, the city is in fact hosting the Miart modern and contemporary art exhibition, the MIA Photo photography show, and an array of other events in various locations. For example, in the last few days, the city's walls have been covered with large posters featuring original pictures created by 70 artists for the Trussardi Foundation.

Long-established menswear label Canali has invited artist Linda Carrara to unveil its new store concept; while Tivioli, a label founded in Turin in 1970, specialised in luxury leather and shearling coats hand-made by its 17 artisans, is presenting artworks by ceramist Jane Yang d’Haenne, selected for Tivioli’s Milan store by gallerists Raphaella Riboud Seydoux and Alessandro Pron.

The frenzy will reach its peak from Monday April 15, when Milan Design Week will officially open. The main event is the Furniture Fair (Salone del Mobile), held at the Rho Fiera exhibition centre on the outskirts of the city, showcasing nearly 2,000 exhibitors and featuring an installation by US director David Lynch. Alongside it, the FuoriSalone, a parallel calendar featuring over 1,000 initiatives scattered across Milan.

Guglielmo Miani, president of Montenapoleone District, the association of retailers operating in the city’s luxury shopping district, said that “Milan Design Week is a unique opportunity for the city in terms of footfall and revenue, and for promoting synergies between the luxury, retail and tourism sectors, notably within the via Montenapoleone area. Following the large numbers of visitors recorded in 2023, we are predicting a record attendance from all over the world.”

Next week, over 300,000 visitors are expected in Milan, notably from Europe and the U.S.