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Interview with Marco Sabetta, General Director of Salone del Mobile Milano

Salone del Mobile: “a dress rehearsal for Expo 2015”

The timing could not be better: Just before World Expo in Milan opens its doors next year, the international furniture fair Salone del Mobile takes the stage. Managing Director of Salone del Mobile, Marco Sabetta, talked to International Trade News about everything that Milan will present to the world in 2015.

ITN: Mr. Sabetta, let’s begin with a metaphorical thought. If the Milan World’s Fair Expo Milano 2015 were an opera that had its premiere in Milan’s famous opera house La Scala, what would the title and the story be about?

Marco Sabetta: Aida by Giuseppe Verdi for the grandeur of its scenery. The Expo will be like a huge stage with a lot of actors, with many countries represented and millions of visitors coming to see it.

ITN: What can you tell us about the importance of the Expo for Milan, the Italian economy as a whole and the Salone del Mobile?

Marco Sabetta: The Expo will be a great opportunity for Milan in terms of economy as well as prestige. Milan is undertaking a lot of public works right now – from new roads, new subway lines and new buildings to new areas. So, the Salone del Mobile, which takes place before Expo, will take a great advantage of this urban renewal.

ITN: Your home furnishing trade show Salone del Mobile will surely be one of the highlights in Milan in the year to come. Can you give us some ideas on how you plan to impress and surprise the global audience?

Marco Sabetta: The Salone del Mobile will be a sort of dress rehearsal for the Expo because it opens on 14 April, just two weeks before Expo. We will do our best as usual. As in the previous years, we are planning to organize an event with an international architect like it has been the case before. This year, for example, we had an event with eight stars – Zaha Hadid, Shigeru Ban, who has just won the 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize, Mario Bellini, David Chipperfield, Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, Marcio Kogan, Daniel Libeskind and Studio Mumbai/Bijoy Jain. And in 2013 we had a great installation of the vision of the French architect Jean Nouvel concerning the office environments of the future.

ITN: What else will you do to attract the world audience?

Marco Sabetta: Well, we have already been involved in the preparations for some time. Bolstering its international role, the Salone del Mobile launched its first Welcome Project last year, organized in collaboration with the Municipality of Milan and the city’s Department of Fashion and Design, with input from the major Milan design schools. In partnership with the Milan Fairgrounds, the Airport Authority (SEA) and Milan’s Transport Agency (ATM), posts were set up at focal points throughout the city where 100 students were deployed, armed with tablets uploaded with the Salone del Mobile.Milano 2014 App and links to the ATM website. They provided visitors with useful information on moving around the city, accessing the fairgrounds and all the initiatives forming part of the Palimpsest of events in Milan organized by the Department of Fashion and Design. This year, we would like to improve this service since it was highly appreciated by the thousands of visitors we had.

ITN: What do you expect to be the landmark interior design trends next year?

Marco Sabetta: It is difficult for us to know what next year’s trends will be because companies are working on what they will bring to the Salone del Mobile right now, and they are very ‘protective’ of their work, which they will unveil only at the Salone del Mobile. I imagine they will put a lot of attention on new materials and sustainability.

ITN: Do you see a link between the motto of the Expo Milano – “Feed the planet, energy for life” – and your home design exhibition?

Marco Sabetta: Yes, of course. Energy for life comes not only from food but also from creativity, whose goal is to supply the best way of life, the most comfortable way of life with particular attention to sustainability. The Salone is synonymous with energy, new life, new food for the mind and for everyday life.

ITN: Is the Salone del Mobile still about exhibiting mostly Italian-designed furniture?

Marco Sabetta: No, Salone del Mobile, being recognized as the most important international showcase, has around 30% non-Italian companies. All the major non-Italian brands are well represented here in all sectors – furniture, kitchen, bathroom and office. This year, for example, we had 476 non-Italian exhibitors and 1,517 Italians. In 2013 it was 586 and 1,498 Italians.

ITN: Last but not least: We are searching for the perfect words to characterize the spirit that will fill the air and streets of Milan next year. Any suggestions?

Marco Sabetta: I can sum up all possible words together in this one: unforgettable!

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