President's dispatch: Maria Porro elaborates the 'phygital' vision for Salone del Mobile

Salone del Mobile 2022 president Maria Porro speaks with STIR about the purpose and perspectives that pave the way for this year's edition.

by Salvatore PelusoPublished on : Jun 03, 2022

Expectations for the Salone del Mobile this year are at an all-time high. After a one-year break (2020) and a transition leg with the special (but scaled-down) Supersalone edition, the world's most important design fair is back to the standards of the pre-pandemic years. However, there are some trends and issues that can no longer be avoided, and many useful lessons have been learned over the past two years. Plus, in a significant milestone, the Salone celebrates 60 years since its inception. We discussed these and other perspectives with Maria Porro, marketing and communications director of the historic brand Porro, but above all, the young president of the Salone del Mobile.Milano.

  • Ribbon cutting  | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    Ribbon cutting Image: Francesco Rucci, Courtesy of FederlegnoArredo
  • ‘Join the design wave’, scenes from the entrance of Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    ‘Join the design wave’, scenes from the entrance of Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Alessandro Russotti, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

Salvatore Peluso: Let's start by talking about the 60th anniversary of the Salone del Mobile. Regardless of the historical moment, it is a circumstance to be celebrated. In general, from time to time it is important to be celebrated...

Maria Porro: I don't like self-celebration for its own sake. But, especially in a complex phase like this, it is right to gather around the Salone with all the people and organisations that have contributed to building its history and identity over these 60 years. This is why we have developed a series of initiatives to revisit its path.

Opening performance at Teatro Scala | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
Opening performance at Teatro Scala Image: Andrea Mariani, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

We will start with a show at La Scala, which will be held on Sunday evening and to which we have invited the exhibiting companies, which are the realities that every year build the show and fill it with content. At Palazzo Reale, the installation La Scatola Magica, designed by Davide Rampello, will narrate the 10 keywords of the Salone del Mobile manifesto through the eyes of 10 directors. We change vocabulary and use cinema to talk about design. Finally, we chose to welcome the Compasso D’Oro at the fair and portray these 60 years through the award-winning products, thus shaping the history of design.

Palazzo Reale, the installation La Scatola Magica, designed by Davide Rampello | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
Palazzo Reale, the installation La Scatola Magica, designed by Davide Rampello Image: Alessandro Russotti, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

Salvatore: The communication campaign, with illustrations by Emiliano Ponzi, was also very popular. Can you tell us about it?

Maria: We also chose a slightly different approach for communication. Ponzi designed six posters for us – one for each decade – in which he describes the city, its people, and its epochs, which Salone has been through and which he has helped to direct, capturing their trends and spirit. Together with the artist, we chose to do something that went beyond printed paper: through our app you can see the posters come alive with augmented reality, revealing a new layer of meaning. This is a lot of fun especially if you frame a poster in the middle of the city, because it creates a real interaction between real and virtual.

The communication campaign, with illustrations by Emiliano Ponzi presented at the Press Conference | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
The communication campaign, with illustrations by Emiliano Ponzi presented at the Press Conference Image: Andrea Mariani, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

Salvatore: There are two crucial issues that the pandemic has presented us and that have become key in the organisation of the last edition, that of the Supersalone: digital hybridisation and circularity. Regarding the first topic, Salone made a big effort last year with the launch of its online platform. Can you tell us how the work has continued?

Maria: For me, phygital (a contraction of the words "physical" and "digital") means: making the trade fair visit more efficient and service-rich, amplifying the voice of the Salone and the participating companies, becoming a collector of original content on topics addressed during the event.

This is why we are continuing to expand our offer and shape our digital identity. With the app, you can buy tickets, find your way around the pavilions, make appointments with companies in their stands, save and catalogue interesting products by scanning their QR code...

  • Antonio Lupi stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porroo
    Antonio Lupi stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Diego Ravier, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano
  • Edra stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    Edra stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Andrea Mariani, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

Participating brands will be able to create their own virtual showroom, including information about the products on display, which will remain visitable even after the event has ended. We have also developed a whole series of contents in the run-up to the fair: the Unboxing Salone project, created in cooperation with leading international magazines, features the best product previews and novelties that we will find at Rho Fiera from June 7.

In addition, for those who will not be able to be in Milan we will propose podcasts and live streaming to expand the live content created during the Design Week. (Stay tuned for more of this on STIR!)

  • Caimi stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    Caimi stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Diego Ravier, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano
  • Arper stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    Arper stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Andrea Mariani, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

Salvatore: Last year’s Supersalone stand was unique and small in size, and it was designed to be completely recyclable. This year we are going back to the traditional format where each company has its own stand. How will material flows be managed? Is it possible to think of the exhibition with a circular perspective?

Maria: We have collectively written guidelines to help companies and stand builders – the ones who build the stand – to reduce the environmental impact of their participation in the fair. These rules cover the entire management of the week: materials, logistics, lighting, catering...

Furthermore, we have chosen to invest in this topic by involving the architect Mario Cucinella, who has distinguished himself in recent years on the subject of sustainability. With his studio he will design a 1400 square metre area, a large installation that will be a meeting and information place. Here we will display, for example, a large material library with many innovative brands working with a sustainable perspective.

  • Italian architect Mario Cucinella and Maria Porro at the Design with Nature installation | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    Italian architect Mario Cucinella and Maria Porro at the Design with Nature installation Image: Diego Ravier, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano
  • View of the Design with Nature installation | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    View of the Design with Nature installation Image: Diego Ravier, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

This type of operation will hopefully allow an acceleration in the market entry of many new products. As we know, the time from concept to production is often too slow. The trade fair also has this task: to act as a chamber of resonance and a place for the circulation of ideas.

The fair is visited by thousands of people from all over the world, by the entire design and furniture community. If information is shared at the Salone, it really becomes the heritage of this entire community.

  • Philipp Plein stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    Philipp Plein stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Luca Fiammenghi, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano
  • Citco stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
    Citco stand at Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 Image: Alessandro Russotti, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

Salvatore: The last argument we would like to discuss with you concerns the statistics: of participations and visitors. At the Supersalone, we saw only 425 exhibitors and around 60,000 visitors. By contrast, 2019 was a record year, with around 2,400 exhibitors and 386,000 visitors from 181 countries (the 2020 event was skipped because of the pandemic). How many exhibitors will there be this year? Have you made any predictions?

Maria: There are about 2,000 exhibitors this year, the number is back to a good level. Another number that I really like and that I was given a few days ago is that about 29 per cent of the exhibitors are from abroad. This is a beautiful sign for us, confirming the international dimension of the event. 2019 was definitely the year of records, but this boom had also caused some management problems, especially for the companies, which had to close themselves inside their stands. This year we are expecting obviously lower volumes, but we are doing a quality-oriented job for visitors. We want international buyers to come to Milan and open relations – commercial and otherwise – with other countries. The role of the Salone is to pave the way for new markets, create new possibilities for companies, act as a catalyst and accelerator of processes.

The next Salone del Mobile.Milano will be held 18 - 23 April 2023 | Salone del Mobile.Milano | Maria Porro
Salone del Mobile.Milano 2023 will take place between 18 - 23 April Image: Diego Ravier, Courtesy of Salone del Mobile.Milano

STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts - 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini - with us. STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile - Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.

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