Design Week, creativity is woman: here are the protagonists

In the Milanese Design Week that has just ended, women have conquered special places, designing fountains, painting murals, creating kaleidoscopic spaces. Gisella Borioli, founder of Superstudio but also mind and heart of the Fuorisalone, this year dedicated a space to female creativity.

Here are the protagonists.


My practical philosophy in the project has always had to do with empathy. I believe in the empathy between objects and people ». Patricia Urquiola was born in Oviedo, Spain, she studied architecture and design at the Polytechnic of Madrid and then in that of Milan. Since 2015 she has been the creative director of Cassina and collaborates with large Italian and international design companies. It is super productive, for her every encounter, inspiration, life experience become ideas that are then transformed into new tables, chairs, armchairs, accessories. “I think I can say that everything I do is a form of research, useful and continuous, for my work,” she said. The challenge is «to continue experimenting without setting limits, if not to recognize and overcome them. Today everything has already been done and everything still needs to be done. There are constant functions, but they are constantly evolving. For example, the way we use a sofa: it is a social gathering tool for families and friends, but we can also use it to work, study, eat, read ». For Aspesi, during the Salone del Mobile, you created the “Hand Written Stories” installation, a meditative space and a place for reflection where guests are invited to stop and rest from the frenzy of the design week by sitting on the carpets that you have signed. Scattered on the tables of Glas Italia (another of his productions), visitors found little books dedicated to the project by Hans Ulrich Obrist, legendary curator of contemporary art: sheets with flash thoughts to read and also to take home. For Cassina Urquiola she has recently launched the Sengu Bold collection of modular sofas and the contemporary interpretation of Murano vases.


Multifaceted, ironic, free thinker. Citizen of the world, as she likes to define herself, Paola Navone creates works ranging from architecture to interior design, to furniture and fabrics, working with big brands such as Alessi, Cappellini and Swarovski. She was born in Turin, where she studies architecture at the Polytechnic, then she begins to work as a designer and she never stops, collaborating with prestigious names such as Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass and Andrea Branzi in the Alchimia group. Paola Navone explores cultures without setting boundaries, from Africa to Asia: «Everything comes from travel, a total experience, where I accumulate images that end up in my head. And from there, all of a sudden, I pull something out, ”she explained. Her design concept is always in motion: «I often have the feeling that an object is perceived as definitive. Instead, the “decorative” action is a great power: we can embroider simple cushions and these would totally change the entire sofa ». As objects change, the figure of the designer is also different: «What it once was no longer exists. To work in this world, however, as always, initiative, curiosity and commitment are necessary ». Paola Navone was among the protagonists of the Superdesign Show with the installation “Poetry House”, which summarizes her eclectic and dreamlike vision: a house dotted in the air, from which you can look at the world and the future with a sense of wonder. For Midj, one of her latest productions, the Bolle outdoor collection: enveloping shells in colored macro-perforated metal and an imagery that recalls the Mediterranean.


Kateryna Sokolova is 28 years old, she was born in 1984, she graduated from the Kharkiv Academy of Design and Arts, where in 2017 she founded Noom with Arkady Vartanov, a place where design meets art. A young and fast growing company that produces limited edition metal lighting, furniture and home accessories made with traditional and modern production technologies, such as oxidation and patina on metals that creates new unique effects and colors . But for Kateryna Sokolova, recently a mother and a rising designer, everything changed with the war. She arrives in Milan for the Design Week with her child, her partner and a burden on her heart: her company was destroyed in the Russian occupation, «but I want to give a sign of domestic warmth, of positivity. A sense of rebirth after the war ». Noom has fortunately managed to complete the production of a symbolic living room designed by Kateryna. And also the installation conceived for the Barcelona Design Week: his chair transformed with a camouflage net. «Design is a method of solving certain problems – she says in a post next to the photo – Design finds its place in war, for example with the creation of camouflage nets. The net with which the Gropius chair is upholstered is woven with an original technique developed by volunteers from the Vinnytsia VinnSolard Center ». It is made up of more than 4,000 knots and multicolored strips of fabric, all that was left in Noom’s warehouses. “Our installation is a manifesto, an attempt to draw attention to the fact that the war is not over, the battle continues – says Kateryna – By combining the shape of the chair developed in peacetime with a camouflage net of wartime we aimed to convey our feelings. For every Ukrainian, regardless of his age and profession, the world is divided into “before” and “after”. And design has acquired new meanings and functions ».


When something strikes me, and can do it for various reasons, I always try to draw it – he told Caleido – A bit like we did as children to learn the lesson well, we rewrote it and this helped us to memorize it better, to make it our own. In my opinion, only “doing” allows us to really understand things thoroughly. It is a way to overcome that huge gap that exists between theory and practice. My “doing” is drawing and many of these sketches are tools of the trade that I am fond of and jealous of ». Product designer, artist and illustrator, Elena Salmistraro founded her studio in Milan in 2009, with the architect Angelo Stoli. Her expressive language is energetic, the space is imaginative, art mixes with design, the search for harmony of forms a constant. Like the use of color: «It’s a component of the project itself. It serves to underline, it is a bearer of emotions ». For LITHEA Elena Salmistraro has designed Pantelleria thoughts, shown here as a decorative panel in stone and marble.


Lightweight and versatile, but also architectural and plastic. Almost sculptures. They are the jewels of the Gallo sisters: Valentina, graduated from the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, and her sister Camilla, who is also a voice actress and starred in the “Centovetrine” series. In 2012 they decided to merge their passions, taste and complementary skills in a single project and founded the contemporary jewelery laboratory “Jamais Sans Toi”, developing collections inspired by the sphere. Their works are complex modular compositions, handmade with the method of artistic ceramics: the material, clay, is the terrain of evolution and continuous research from which ever new forms emerge. Chosen for its powerful energy charge, white earthenware (free of zinc oxide) is the element of the Gallo sisters. Which, as Camilla explains, complement each other perfectly: «The raw material, the clay, the ability to model, the enthusiasm and the practical sense are Valentina’s competence, I add passion and creativity. She happened more and more often that people stopped us on the street to ask us where we had bought that necklace or that ring. So we decided to buy the oven and set up our first laboratory ». The hollow spheres of their jewels, light and very resistant, are baked at 980 degrees and become terracotta, then glazed and put back in the oven at around 930 degrees. At this point they are ready to be assembled. The result: modular pieces, which the wearer can interpret in different ways. “For us, design is the essentiality of form that expresses function to the maximum”, is the inspiring concept of Valentina and Camilla. At the SuperDesign Show they presented the “Style Icons” exhibition, with the most significant pieces of ten years of work. © REPRODUCTION RESERVED

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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