On 24 September 1961, Emilio Colombo, then the Italian minister for industry, officially opened what we know today as the Salone del Mobile in Milan. The presence of such an important figure at this event was significant – a dedicated trade fair for furniture manufacturing held in the postwar revitalisation of Italian industry. Furthermore, it secured Milan’s position as Europe’s economic and manufacturing hub. Fifty-five years later, the event has grown to host more than 2500 brands, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all corners of the globe. Designers, manufacturers, architects and distributors all cross paths and swap business cards over 10 intense days of networking at an event that has grown to electrify the entire city. Design in 2016 is big business and the Salone is clearly an annual marker of global cultural and economic change.
Cities across the world have picked up on the success of this event, curating a take on local and international design culture through the focused lens of their own architectural and design heritage. Here in Australia, we are no different, though there is something happening locally that transcends the parties and paparazzi for which these design events have become known, harking back to the precise reason ‘Milan’ became the world’s most successful design event.
As the prototypes launched two months ago in Milan become reality and make their way to showrooms and homes across the globe, Australian designers and manufacturers have been working frantically in preparation for our own product-focused event – Melbourne’s DENFAIR.
What is special about this event, the focus of our fourth issue of MEZZANINE, is the convergence of creativity and industry. The connection is global, but more importantly it exists on a local, independent level also. It is a connection that drives this magazine and we are proud to have found a partner that shares the same values and commitment to Australian design as we do at MEZZANINE.
Having spoken to many of the exhibitors, whose work and process we explore in the pages to come, we understand the knock-on effect of such an event is enormous. Beyond the image of gentlemen and gentlewomen in suits – happy to be launching new product to an extremely receptive market – and the guys and girls in black t-shirts, thrilled at the potential of being part of a thriving Australian design scene – it is the real, everyday effects on those behind the scenes that generates the same connection felt back in 1960s Italy. Behind every product launched this June there are everyday Australians whose skills and expertise are soon to be lost through a lack of local manufacturing. Though it would be a stretch to say design is the saviour of Australian manufacturing, we can see it is certainly making a difference and the feeling is that we are on the tip of an iceberg.
If we think back to our friend, Emilio Colombo, who went on to become prime minister of Italy not too long after launching the Salone, his role, like any head of state, was to generate employment in driving economic stability. This is where we see design holding a very important place in the future of Australia, as it did in the future of Milan more than half a century ago.
With that, we are confident to say that the pages of this magazine, and the hallways of DENFAIR, both represent the serious talent that exists in this country, in design and manufacturing. As a young magazine, MEZZANINE is presenting the voice of this maturing industry and exploring the value that authentic, locally designed and manufactured objects can bring to everyday Australian life.
– Marcus Piper