Find out how this international fair has succeeded in a hybrid format
Photo: courtesy of Salone del MobileMILAN, ITALY-It had been two and a half years since crowds gathered in the showrooms of Milan for the Salone del Mobile (also known as the Milan Furniture Fair), a trade fair that is held every year in April and features Italian furniture and accessories. With 423 exhibitors, about a quarter of the usual number, a special scaled-down edition of the annual event, called Supersalone, took place September 5-10 at the city’s Rho Exhibition Center.
Given the constraints of the pandemic, the organizers rethought their old ways by designing a trade show model for the post-COVID world. The curatorial team, led by architect Stefano Boeri, “took a very different approach to Supersalone compared to our typical annual exhibition,” said Marco Sabetta, Managing Director of Salone del Mobile.Milano.
“First of all, rather than segmenting the different sectors into their own pavilions, all types of brands have been blended to create a dynamic experience for the visitor. Rather than booths you walk into, exhibitors showcased the gallery style in long rows. He added that the new layout helps promote the flow of visitor traffic and encourages social distancing.
Exhibitor booths also used less support structures and were replaced with exhibit walls that hung products on, allowing air circulation. (The structures were dismantled and recycled or composted after the fair.) This design decision was also a testament to the event’s emphasis on sustainability and the emphasis on reuse, recycling and circularity.
More than 60,000 people attended the five-day event, 30% of whom were from outside Italy, visiting from 113 countries. It was also opened to the public for the first time, with many products available for purchase, another first. In light of the ongoing pandemic and fluctuating restrictions, the event’s global draw has proven to be one of its biggest challenges. “Salone del Mobile is known to be an international hub for innovation and global design thinking,” said Sabetta. “It was difficult to envision the changes in precautions and travel rules, both for our various guests and exhibitors, as they planned to attend. “
Regarding health and safety measures, participants had to scan their ‘green passes’ (Italian version of a digital health pass) or the EU’s COVID digital certificate which showed either a series complete vaccination, that is, a negative COVID-19 test result taken within the last 48 hours. For international visitors, substitutions such as the CDC white card used in the United States have been accepted. If a participant was unable to produce a green pass or equivalent, test centers were set up outside; Sabetta noted that all tests at the fairgrounds were negative. Once there, masks were mandatory in all interior spaces; staff were on hand to enforce this rule.
The event’s programming included conversations with designers, architects, artists, academics and managers, covering topics ranging from design, art, architecture, education, circular economy, environmental impact and more, as well as film screenings that have been screened in partnership with Milano Design Film Festival. The Lost Graduation Show featured 170 projects from graduate students from design schools around the world and The Makers Show, which is a space dedicated to self-produced designers, showcased the work of workshops, studios, laboratories and start-ups.
Of course, the updated fair was also designed for in-person and virtual attendees, thanks to the new digital platform Salone del Mobile.Milano. It allowed attendees in person to view products online by scanning QR codes displayed at the fair, while online users could virtually explore the exhibits, as well as watch live broadcasts of the event’s programming.
“Our digital platform was created to make people feel as close as possible to the live Supersalone,” said Sabetta, adding that 1.5 million web pages are viewed by 90,000 users on average per day. The new Salone del Mobile.Milano TikTok account recorded more than 630,000 total views, while Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter recorded 15 million impressions, 25,000 interactions and 50,000 video views.
The 60th edition of the Salone del Mobile is scheduled to take place April 5-10, 2022, with plans to keep some of the new “super” upgrades.
“We are delighted to return to our large format while examining ways to incorporate the dynamism of the Supersalone on a large scale,” said Sabetta. “One thing we will be focusing on at all shows going forward is incorporating more sustainable practices, just like we did at Supersalone. With Salone as a true industry leader, we hope to set an example for our partners and participants to support the earth through our own practices. “
See more of the interior of the Supersalone event.