Act IV: The Beginning (and the End)

Sad to leave, we follow the new moon,
Out of Milan
-adapted from the Noh play 海人 (Ama), author unknown

Our time here in Milan has reached its end, but the journey isn’t over yet – our final day was full of gems!

Our first conversation was with Michele De Lucchi, architect and founder of architecture firm AMDL CIRCLE. We met him in his studio, a charmed space where shade and daylight rippled across roughhewn timber. Above his desk, square wooden window shades sloped up along the ceiling, clambering after each other like little ideas on some improbable adventure.

‘Creativity doesn’t come from the mind, but from play,’ Michele said. ‘Never give the client something they asked for – give them something they never could have imagined.’ He was attentive and engaging, including everyone present in the conversation as he danced from topic to topic – lingering whenever there was an opportunity for a joke.  

Michele exuded joy – and it caught. The team shared a collective smile session at lunch – none happier than our lead interviewer for Michele, Haworth Europe designer Victor Bourdariat, who studied under De Lucchi fourteen years ago here in Milan.

The sky went dark as Milan considered letting out a little rain. We took advantage of the pause to catch up with Nicolaj Czumaj-Bront, manager of Haworth’s International Design Studio. Nicolaj, philosophical as always, captured a thought that has been playing across our minds all week. It seems that the design world in general is struggling with an impulse to jump toward what’s next, trying to seize answers when, really, what we need to do is sit with the questions for a little while. Nicolaj sees this moment as one for reflection.

‘Let’s take some time and listen,’ Nicolaj said. ‘Let’s listen first.’  

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Our next interview was with Tommaso Baldini, the CEO and Managing Director of BuzziSpace. Tommaso never misses a chance to make someone laugh; when we asked him to describe BuzziSpace in one soundbite, he smiled and said, ‘Shhh.’

Tommaso said that all the collaborations between fashion and design brands was a pleasant surprise this year. ‘This is something that we really like, because BuzziSpace is all about Expect the Unexpected,’ Tommaso said. He followed that up with a teaser: ‘We also have some beautiful collaborations that we’ll be releasing over the course of the year…’  

For our last conversation, we connected with Jakub Zak of Studio Urquiola. Patricia Urquiola is the name we’ve seen and heard most often in Milan; her designs and projects seem to cover all imaginable categories. Jakub manages many of Patricia’s projects with Haworth. Jakub keeps everything running smoothly with admirable aplomb – and even in the chaos of design week, he always has a warm welcome and a smile at the ready.

Jakub gave us a glimpse behind the scenes at Studio Urquiola – including a sneak peak of a new upcoming product. Like Haworth Cardigan lounge, it uses a 3D knit, zero-waste fabric. And he shared just how important colour is to every Urquiola project.

‘Colour is so fundamental in all the work that Patricia does,’ Jakub said. ‘It’s not just that the object or the form or what we’ve been working on is refined, is pushing the boundaries – it also must be colour cohesive, it must look good in every aspect. When we’re doing a product review, you have to show up and make sure everything, including the colour, is just right – or it can derail the whole project!’

And just like that, after a tour through our second legendary studio of the day, our time here in Milan has reached its end. (We’ll have one more interview with Patricia Urquiola, but you’ll have to wait for the final recap video to see that one!)

Among many takeaways, three shine brightest.

First, we reshaped our definition of ‘trends’ as fresh takes on the timeless, rather than flashes-in-the-pan that are considered done in a few months. Understood in this sense, trends are not unsustainable – and they’re infinitely more interesting, because they can thrive alongside trends from any other design week – or era.

Our second is hope – we leave Milan feeling hopeful that what we’ve seen here is not exclusively for here. This is a celebration of design, and design at its best is for everyone. These ideas are meant to be spread.

Our final takeaway is that big ideas are built from small moments. (As we learned in Act II, big ecosystems depend on little bees!) Every trend we saw here began somewhere small – a sketch on a notepad, a crazy idea told to a friend, a dream in a quiet moment. Everything that made it to Milan’s grand stage went through months or years of failed trials, false starts, and unexpected detours.

For all those creatives who have read these posts and followed our recaps: what you’re doing matters. That is true no matter the creative project you’re pursuing. Beauty might shine brightest in things that seem small. Whatever Milan might be to you is never far away.