Belgium is definitely among those countries presenting during Milan Design Week strong showcases of new designers and products. As in 2016, this year the regional Belgian institutions Flanders DC (formerly Design Flanders), MAD Brussels and Wallonie- Bruxelles Design Mode (WBDM), came together for Belgium Is Design (on until today).
Starting in the courtyard of the spectacular Palazzo Litta with an installation by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the event revolves around one main theme - "Linking Minds" - the main point of the exhibition is indeed matching a designer and a manufacturer and exploring the creative process behind their products.
The Palazzo hosts on the first floor "Belgitude", a display bravely celebrating not the affinities, but the differences - historical roots, backgrounds, languages and so on - between ten different teams of designers.
The results vary and include different interior design pieces and objects. Jan & Randoald and Labt present for example their stackable "Rontgen Rack" series of modules.
Based on the idea of repetition, but capable of changing function in accordance with the need, the piece moves from the "Oblique Strategies" deck of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975 and featuring challenging constraints that, encouraging lateral thinking, can help artists break creative blocks.
In the same way, the three bronze soldered chairs (bronze was chosen as a reference to art and sculptures in particular) forming a complex cast piece by Atelier Lachaert Dhanis (Sofie Lachaert and Lux d'Hanis) in collaboration with Art Casting, challenges domestic conventions prompting visitors to rethink familiar memories and materials.
References to industries linked with fashion are not missing: Xavier Lust collaborated with luxury weaving leather workshop Charles Schambourg by Nacarat to create a prototype chair called "Bee".
Inspire by the natural world and in particular by the bee, the symbol of supreme social organisation, the chair features a light conical shell supported by thin aluminium legs and leather upholstery woven in a honeycomb-like hexagonal pattern.
While Lust's piece could inspire some fashion designers to integrate in their collections woven leather elements, other objects on display may prompt textile designers to ponder more about experimenting with new techniques or finding innovative ways to reinvent traditional ones.
LAEND, that is Diane Steverlynck and Chevalier Masson (Eric Chevalier & Anne Masson) in collaboration with Veer le Wenes, founder of the valerie_traan gallery in Antwerp, developed for example a collection of carpets.
The "Echo" rugs are the result of a long-standing research by LAEND: the knitted surface features indeed different patterns depending on the observation point of the viewer. To achieve this variation the design team employed an experimental thread, collaborating with the specialist spinning mill of Diese Wolle, and with Limited Edition, a Belgian editor and producer of carpets.
There is also another Belgian designer who experimented with textiles as part of the WBDM's "Belgium Is Design: The New Belgians" showcase at the Salone Satellite, the platform within the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan that is exclusively dedicated to young designers aged 35 and under.
Textile designer Coralie Miessen launched at this event the "Smock" collection: inspired by traditional smocking - an old embroidery technique in which a system of gathers and pulled threads transforms a flat surface and gives it volume and elasticity, Miessen created double-sided textiles with a great elasticity and with the thickness of a mesh fabric.
The pieces are ideal for upholstery purposes or as blankets, but the most intriguing thing about Miessen and LAEND's projects remains the technology and techniques employed: applied to different fashion products, they could indeed offer new and exciting possibilities to those creative minds willing to experiment.
Image credits for this post
Images 1, 2, 4 and 5 by Laetitia Bica