It is notoriously difficult to find much in the way of sustainable design at the Milan Furniture Fair
Truth be told, unsurprisingly the game in Milan is all about aesthetics. That said, SaloneSatelite, the area of the fair devoted to emerging designers, was marked by a keen use of upcycled materials.
Many of the SaloneSatelite exhibitors are still at university, or have only just started producing work, and so even recycled material can be an expensive investment. However, collecting old pieces of furniture, plastic bags, milk crates and discarded textiles offers a cheap way of harvesting material for use in new products.
Ideun is a South Korean company which upcycles wood from old furniture to create new, handmade products, including candlesticks, room dividers, clocks and even a sound amplifier for iphones.
Egyptian company Design for Humanity use plastic bags to create upholstery for wooden stools. The plastic bags are shredded into ribbons, before being passed through a textile loom to create a sheet of fabric for the stools. As the plastic bags come in all colours, the seats end up being multi-coloured, and each one is unique. Most importantly, as plastic bags last virtually forever, the shelf life of the stools is guaranteed.
Combo Colab is a US-based company which upcycles milk crates to create stools of various sizes. The form and colours of the milk crates are left untouched and add to the character of the stools.
Addy Putra of Tanggam, a design collective supported by the Malaysian Timber Industry Board, created a cabinet using metal sheets harvested from discarded lockers found in scrapyards and reject shops.
Finally, Hillsideout upcycles only the best wood for their contemporary wooden furniture, creating sought after, some would say ‘luxury’ products from discarded timber.
All in all, the small hall given to emerging designers showed more creative use of old materials than the many saloni devoted to the big brands. Perhaps some of the more established companies could learn a little something from these emerging designers?