At Milan’s design week, Salone del Mobile, we went into a maze of white industrial ribbons to meet COS and their design collaborators, Snarkitecture.
Salone del Mobile, Milan annual design festival, proves that the city more than the sum of its Renaissance history and fashion show parts. The city is buzzing with people hunting down the next great design ideas, and fashion brands including Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Bulgari are increasingly getting in on the action too, collaborating with designers, architects and artists who share their vision.
i-D went along to see the space created for COS by New York designers Snarkitecture (they've also worked with Calvin Klein, Public School and Kith). It's a modern maze and cave carved out of hanging white ribbons (about 100,000 metres of industrial fabric - the kind that covers your airplane pillows - was hung from the ceiling, then cut to create passageways).
One half of Snarkitecture, Alex Mustonen (his partner is Daniel Arsham), explained that the pair wanted to create an escape from the "frenzied" design lovers pound the pavements to see shows. It's a cool sanctuary, and one that you can pop along to until Sunday 19th April. We caught up with Alex and COS's head of menswear, Martin Andersson, to talk about the project, plus their favourite objects past, present and future.
Why do fashion brands want to do things here?
Martin: We've never really advertised, so we chose to speak to customers either directly through our magazines, in stores or through these events and collaborations at design fairs, art fairs and through galleries like the Serpentine. We see our customers as having a great interest in all areas of design and art. It's an honest way of sharing our inspiration, which comes from worlds of art, design and architecture.
What else will you be checking out?
Martin: Lambrate, where we did our first two years here. It's up and coming. There are lot of design schools exhibiting and new young studios starting out. It's super fresh and inspiring and condensed, so not as sprawling as Brera. I've only been to the main fair out of town once. For me, that's more for decorating a hotel and finding a new lighting fixture, whereas the things outside that are more for inspiration and taking in newness.
Alex: I like the fact that you can discover something new, and Milan is a city that lends itself to that. You can be walking down the street and there's an incredible courtyard and then there's some installation there.
Is there much difference between the European and American design approach?
Martin: I don't think there's any difference. At COS, we love new and inventive designers, but we keep coming back to the great modernists. I think good design exists everywhere.
Alex: I think there are differences working in Europe and the US from a production or technical standpoint. This is a generalisation, but I do think that Europe supports its design more than the US does. There's more of a tradition in engaging with things that are challenging, especially with fabrication and construction.
What were your favourite objects from childhood?
Alex: My grandmother lived in the mid-west but she was always into very modern design. It was all white carpet, mirrors and stainless steel everywhere, but she had these chrome wire side tables, which are now at my parents' house. I also remember as a child going to visit my grandparents, on my father's side, in Finland. and my grandfather was a woodworker, so there's this one stool that he would sit on as he sat by the fire carving.
Martin: I grew up in Sweden, where I come from is the centre for glass-making, and very close to my house there's a small independent glass-maker. My grandmother had a vase from there that I always liked growing up. It's bright orange and an organic shape. She passed away last year, so now I have it.
Do you have a current favourite object?
Alex: My phone is the object is the thing I'm closest too, but the one I like the least, because I'm dependent on it. So it's definitely not my phone.
Martin: Mine is my bed. It's just right and you sleep better. It's quite soft and it's a true luxury for me being able to spend time in my bed when there's all this travel.
Alex: I try not to get too attached to objects, but the one that I think about the most because I sit next to it at the studio - it's is a ping pong table we made.
What items do you have your eye on for the future?
Alex: My apartment is quite empty but I keep it that way on purpose because I can imagine these pieces, so there are many pieces that we're working on and I'm waiting for the moment when they'll occupy these places!
Martin: I'm slightly obsessed with the Danish designer Poul Kjaerlholm, the mid-century modern Danish designer. He's got this chair, which is my all-time favourite object in the world, which is the PK22 chair. I've aspired to acquire this chair for a long time. I'm not too far off!
COS x Snarkitecture is on at the Spazio Erbe, 2 Via dell'Erbe, Brera, Milan until Sunday 19th April.