Milan Design Week 2021: Inspiring talks with the brands
One of the highlights of Milan Design Week for the Italian Atelier team is the insightful interviews we had with the brands we represent who either attended Supersalone or had a showroom to welcome visitors. Due to the situation in the last two years, we only had the opportunity to talk with them through video calls so the chance to have a direct interaction was great.
Before the event, we were curious to hear the brands’ opinions on Supersalone and how it’s different from its predecessors, how COVID-19 affected the company, and their future plan going forward. As soon as we got permission to hold an interview with them, we had to satisfy our curiosity. In total, we arranged a short interview with 13 brands: Agape, Paola Lenti, Rossana, Olev, Karpeta, Meroni & Colzani, Faram, SLIDE, Gurian, Riva 1920, Wiener GTV Design, Chateau d’Ax, and Frigerio. Here is a summary of their answers to our questions.
This year, we have six companies that decided to make an appearance at Salone del Mobile 2021: SLIDE, Gurian, Riva 1920, Wiener GTV Design, Chateau d’Ax, and Frigerio.
A major difference about Supersalone this year is it is relatively smaller than the previous Salones. While Salone 2019 for example had over 20 halls, the number was reduced to four in 2021. Because the number of halls was decreased, not only the organizers but also the attendees had to be more receptive, creative, and adaptive to the situation in order to make the most out of the space they were given, as well as rearranging their priority of products to show.
Mentioning this matter, Mrs. Angelica Cossu of SLIDE’s Sales Department shared:
“It’s very small. It’s very limited, but the important thing is making ourselves visible and having people coming to our stand.”
Mrs. Lisa Biasetto, Export Sales Deputy of Gurian agreed:
“It’s very small. I think it’s for sure a disadvantage because if the fair had been bigger, there’d be more people coming in. But we have to take advantage of what we have because, amidst the pandemic, the exhibition is an additional tool to increase sales and promote the products. It’s a starting point to begin again.”
Mr. Cristiano Gozzi, the Sales Manager of Wiener GTV Design had the same idea and added his belief for future Salones:
“It’s difficult to create an environment that presents a whole set in this condition. We thought of doing installation and simply communicating about the brand. So just a simple message with a bit of color that is attractive to visitors. We are happy because the exhibition is crowded. A lot of people passed by and took pictures. Of course, we are looking forward to returning to previous formulas. Who knows, maybe the next time it’s going to be a combination of focusing on products and an installation that gives us the chance to receive customers.”
Mr. Gilberto Frigerio, the CEO of Frigerio believed that this change had pushed brands to show and implement their creativity and artistic side so they could put on the best presentation for the visitors.
The CEO of Chateau d’Ax, Mr. Maurizio Pietro Motta, was particularly fond of the result that the size decrease brought about:
“I guess that this is a new concept of Salone del Mobile. It’s more interesting in terms of people since this year it is open to the public. Apart from going to the store, customers have to have the chance to sit down and feel the brand. I don’t think we will come back to the old situation. Every year it has enlarged and changed. You will never be able to see the same Salone again.”
Wall&decò’s International Sales Director Michele Crociani specifically expressed how the narrow space was a disadvantage for this particular brand: “For us, we use very high installation. It’s a disadvantage because we have to stick to the measurement but still have to adjust to the allowed space. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll go back to the usual size.”
On the global pandemic
Talking about the impact COVID-19 had on the business, all the brands agreed that the luxury furniture industry is one of the few lucky ones that were not heavily and negatively influenced by the pandemic. The quarantine and social distancing that drove people to stay inside 24/7 and pushed working from home to become the norm have created a great growing opportunity for companies that design and sell high-quality and stylish items for interior design.
SLIDE’s CEO, Mr. Marco Colonna Romano pronounced:
“For us, it is fine to say that COVID has had a positive impact on the whole industry because people are discovering the value of their home, garden, and living in a nice environment. So of course when you speak about outdoor furniture and lighting, you think about SLIDE. We have had a lot of increase in sales. For the moment we have great online distribution, and it has been increased during COVID. Overall I am satisfied with it.”
Paola Lenti’s Export Sales Manager, Mr. Gian Rizzi made a similar remark:
“It has been a difficult time for everybody but it has been to our advantage. Besides the very first months when everybody was respecting the rules strictly, we didn’t suffer at all, business-wise. We would say that in 2021, even during the second and third wave of COVID-19, the company has been very successful. We have made plus compared to 2019. We have increased in retail and contract. We would say for Paola Lenti many projects were in stand by with our dealers.”
One of Meroni & Colzani’s owners, Mr. Mario Colzani also shared that: “Our brand is growing, even during the bad period. The revenue is very good. We didn’t get any bad feedback due to COVID-19. We are very optimistic about the future so we think that in the next year, the situation should be better and it could be a positive point to start again altogether.”
Karpeta’s Sales Manager, Lorenzo Giacopelli declared that the brand has been quite lucky during COVID-19:
“I’d say we have been quite lucky because our target client was primarily and is currently residential. So the commercial part is something we’re interested in and want to increase. In terms of turnover, most parts of our revenue come from residential projects. We saw an increase in the purchase from residences. Last year we had an increase of 30% and this year we are increasing 100% compared to last year.”
COVID-19 also made a few brands change their perspectives and strategic business approach.
For example, Mr. Niccolò Bignardi, Agape’s Export Manager said:
“As this situation no longer permits face-to-face interaction, we have adopted a more strategic point of view and we have time to reflect. We worked a lot on our collection as well as planning the strategy more individually with our customers. So listening to their needs and trying to respond to each of them. We also did a lot of online training that helps the staff to learn more about the collection.”
The CEO of Riva 1920, Mr. Maurizio Riva stated:
“During COVID-19, social media have become stronger and stronger. We have been implementing our social media strategy, in particular, we are working on an important project that is managed by two of our staff.”
For Sylcom, the company is bringing to the table a new lighting brand coming out of COVID-19: “This year we’ve created a new brand that is Gritti. Gritti will be a new start with different items than Sylcom” said Massimiliano Busolin, Sylcom’s Commercial Director.
Mr. Andrea Lanaro, the CEO and founder of Olev noted:
“COVID-19 caught us all off guard and stopped us for a month and a half, allowing us to reflect. From a business point of view, after a loss in turnover due to the stop, it has allowed us to slow down the frenetic pace of pre-COVID and to think about the future.”
Faram was a brand that thought a lot about how the pandemic has changed customers’ behaviors and intentions, as observed from Faram’s Marketing Manager, Irene Barbon’s words:
“2 years of COVID-19 have changed our point of view. We have designed a new product, the name is Isola, which means Island. It means an island of protection and you can put it at the entrance of a shop, the airport, or a company for example. This is a sort of pod with an entrance and exit and there’s an automatic scanner outside that works by AI that recognizes your face if you have the mask, your temperature. If you pass it will automatically open. There’s a specific technology called Plasma inside, it has been tested by a university and is 99% valid for COVID and it can destroy many kinds of viruses, COVID included. It’s a good way to enter a place cleanly.”
Whether there has been a change regarding price point, most brands reported that the industry has witnessed a growth in raw materials prices. While many are trying their best to not adjust the price, the others have increased their price by 5-10%. They all have expressed the desire for the situation to return to normal soon so these companies can operate well and serve the customers better.
On their plan
It is clear that in this industry, people deal with hardships and challenges by working harder, putting in more effort, and hoping for the best. All of the brands we interviewed gave us a sneak peek into their plan, be it a new collection and products or the scheduled appearance at international events.
At Agape, they are working on their collection, combination, and new products, as well as making improvements on some. Starting from September 5th, two new lines of tap, which is a very important investment for the company, as well as their new system were going to be promoted.
SLIDE has a pretty packed schedule as in 3 weeks, they’ll do another fair in Bologna, where the main fair for textile and materials will be held. Then they’ll attend a fair for hospitality in Milan in October. Salone del Mobile 2022 is in their plan, where they’ll be presenting a new collection designed by Marc Antonio.
Olev and Karpeta are planning for similar events as Olev intends to participate in Euroluce in Milan, the Light + Building in Frankfurt, and the Architect @ Work in Stuttgart; while Karpeta is going to attend Maison Objet in both 2022 and 2023.
Gurian has shared their intention to improve their latest models along with presenting a new collection at Salone del Mobile next April.
Riva 1920, Wiener GTV Design, Chateau d’Ax, Frigerio, and Faram are all working on their new collection and planning to release all of their new products in 2022.
Wall&decò’s enthusiasts have lots to enjoy at the moment as the brand has just revealed an exciting collaboration with Diesel Living and they are promoting a new WET system collection that will launch in October.
Paola Lenti and Rossana are going to invest more into their stores. According to Mr. Gian Rizzi of Paola Lenti, the company will develop a headquarter in Milan and welcome visitors soon. As for Rossana, they are directly managing their flagship store in London while working hard to open other stores all over the world.
© 2021 Italian Atelier. All rights reserved
Article written by Chau Trieu
Interviews conducted by Nhut Trieu, Matteo Caponi and Edoardo Caponi
Pictures taken by Nhut Trieu & Connie Nguyen
Read our after-event reflection here