A Short History of Milan Design Week
Salone del Mobile is the design world’s biggest event. Here’s how it started
Let’s put it simply: Salone del Mobile, also known as Milan Design Week, is the largest and most prestigious furniture and design fair in the world.
Held annually in Milan, it has been a significant event in the design industry for over five decades, showcasing the latest innovations and trends in furniture, lighting, textiles, and decorative items – and attracting design lovers, curators and sector insiders from all over the globe.
Besides its more formal trade show, Fuorisalone (literally, ‘outside design week’), a collection of interconnected events, takes over the entire city with installations, lectures, temporary exhibitions and pop-ups, which are held anywhere from showrooms and galleries to private palazzi and public spaces. Milan transforms during Salone, becoming a fully-fledged design playground.
But how did it all start? Well, we’re here to tell you exactly that.
Capital of design
The history of Salone del Mobile dates to 1961, when a group of Italian furniture manufacturers organised the first edition of the exhibition in Milan. The aim was to promote Italian furniture design and production, and to turn northern Italian city into an important design player.
The fair was an instant success, attracting over 12,000 visitors in its first iteration alone.
In the following years, Salone del Mobile grew rapidly in size and popularity, attracting more exhibitors and visitors from all over the world. The event became a platform for designers, manufacturers, architects, and interior decorators to present their latest creations, exchange ideas, and network with industry professionals.
In 1972, the fair moved to its current location, the Fiera Milano exhibition centre in Rho, a suburb of Milan. The new venue allowed for larger exhibition spaces, more exhibitors, and a wider range of products on display.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Salone del Mobile continued to grow in size and prestige, becoming a must-attend event for anyone involved in the design industry. The exhibition expanded to include not only furniture but also lighting, textiles, and other interior design products, officially establishing Milan as a global design capital.
Fuorisalone began taking shape in the same period, starting spontaneously in the early 80s to bring design in different areas of the city, from Brera to 5Vie, as well as explore crossovers between design and art, fashion, food and tech.
In more recent decades, both events have continued to adapt and evolve, introducing new sections and exhibitions, and giving more space to the work of young and emerging designers.
Five Tips to Do Salone Right
- Plan ahead: Before attending Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone, it’s important to research and plan your visit carefully. Make a list of the exhibitors and events you want to see and schedule your time accordingly. You can also use mobile apps and guides to help you navigate the event.
- Wear comfortable shoes: Both events involve a lot of walking and standing, so it’s important your feet are taken good care of. You may also want to bring a small bag or backpack to carry your essentials – a reusable water bottle, snacks, and a portable charger.
- Be prepared for crowds: Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone are popular events, and they can get very busy, especially during peak hours. Be prepared to navigate through people and wait in lines. To avoid the busiest times, consider visiting early in the morning or late in the day.
- Network and socialise: Milan Design Week is a great opportunity to meet other professionals in the design industry, make new friends, and join events you wouldn’t necessarily think of joining. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with fellow attendees, exhibitors, and speakers.
- Take notes and photos: You’ll be exposed to a lot of new ideas, designs, and products during the weeklong event. To make the most of your visit, jot down the things that inspire you – they might spur a few design ideas to bring into your home, too.