How Swedish-born, Lon­don-based fash­ion la­bel COS staged the most mem­o­rable mo­ment of a Mi­lanese de­sign spec­tac­u­lar. By EL­IZA O’HARE

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Contents -

COS and de­signer home­wares at Mi­lan de­sign week.

THE ART AND DE­SIGN col­lab­o­ra­tions on show at Mi­lan de­sign week each year are prov­ing to be next-level. Salone del Mo­bile.mi­lano, the six-day show­case that once was de­sign week, is now just one el­e­ment of the mad­ness that takes over the en­tire city. It’s the world’s most in­flu­en­tial in­te­ri­ors fair; a global de­sign bench­mark. It’s where the trends we’ll be go­ing crazy over in two years’ time are re­vealed to a dis­cern­ing crowd of 400,000 buyers and me­dia, many of whom can be spot­ted each evening at Bar Basso, deep in de­brief over a ne­groni sbagliato (di­rect trans­la­tion: “ne­groni mis­taken” — when a Basso bar­tender ac­ci­den­tally added sparkling wine in­stead of gin, a new classic was born).

There are two main ar­eas of in­spi­ra­tion dur­ing de­sign week: Salone and the Fuorisa­lone, an event that arose spon­ta­neously from the Salone and is con­cen­trated within the charm­ing streets of the Br­era De­sign Dis­trict. It’s here that the cross­over of fash­ion, in­te­ri­ors, tech­nol­ogy, food and art is more ex­cit­ing than ever.the dif­fer­ence be­tween Mi­lan de­sign week and in­ter­na­tional fash­ion weeks is that most ex­hi­bi­tions here are open to the pub­lic, mak­ing for an in­spir­ing Ital­ian hol­i­day.this is ground zero for how to live your best life.

Es­teemed houses Her­mès, Bot­te­gaveneta, Louisvuit­ton, Loewe and Marni are just some of fash­ion’s hard-hit­ters turn­ing up for a week of truly ex­hil­a­rat­ing happenings: ex­hi­bi­tions, col­lab­o­ra­tions, pop-up restau­rants, col­lec­tion launches and parties (oh, the parties!). Swedish brand COS is a seven-year vet­eran of Salone, and each year the de­sign­ers work with in­no­va­tive artists to cre­ate some­thing spe­cial. COS has a quiet and con­sid­ered ap­proach to

de­sign — an aes­thetic that is time­less and al­most ar­chi­tec­tural — and it en­sures its brand values are shared by its artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tors.to date, the brand has teamed up with New York stu­dio Snarki­tec­ture (2015), Ja­panese ar­chi­tect Sou Fu­ji­moto (2016) and Lon­don-based artists Stu­dio Swine (2017). This year, the COS team de­cided to work with high-pro­file Palm Springs-based artist Phillip K. Smith III to cre­ate Open Sky, an im­mer­sive large-scale in­stal­la­tion in the court­yard of Palazzo Isim­bardi, a 16th-cen­tury villa lead­ing onto lush pri­vate gar­dens.

Walk­ing through the in­stal­la­tion is an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence — one that nearly 20,000 vis­i­tors lined up around the block to have.the sculp­ture — a cres­cent of mir­rors an­gled at a 43-de­gree up­ward slant — gives the ef­fect of the sky hav­ing been dragged down to earth. Smith ex­plains that the mir­rors them­selves have a rich his­tory and are “ac­ti­vated by the chang­ing po­si­tions of the sun.the sky is ac­ti­vated by the sun and clouds mov­ing or birds fly­ing through, so there’s al­ready this ac­tive, lit en­ergy that I am us­ing for the piece. Ul­ti­mately, I was in­ter­ested in re­flec­tion.”

Vis­i­tor re­sponses to the piece have been strong, with groups lin­ger­ing in the court­yard and the gar­dens, In­sta­gram­ming and re­flect­ing on the grounds — and them­selves. But with only 200 peo­ple al­lowed into the villa at any time, the big­gest is­sue has been get­ting the crowds through.the point is for vis­i­tors to con­nect and take their time, but it’s su­per-slow go­ing be­cause it’s such an ad­dic­tive, in­ter­ac­tive piece. “there’s this dy­namic shift that hap­pens,” Smith ex­plains. “You walk to­wards that cen­tre and very quickly the architecture peels away and it’s all sky. Walk­ing in, it’s like you’re breath­ing in your first breath. There’s a sense like you’re ready to take flight. that kind of emo­tional and phys­i­cal re­sponse is some­thing I did not an­tic­i­pate, but I am very ex­cited about.”

This con­cept of more than meets the eye aligns with COS’S cre­ative phi­los­o­phy. Cre­ative di­rec­tor Karin Gustafs­son ex­plains: “when we first did some­thing [at Salone], we didn’t have a store in Mi­lan, but our cre­ative teams had been [to de­sign week] many times for re­search and felt there was ob­vi­ously so much more go­ing on than fur­ni­ture de­sign.we wanted the dis­ci­plines to come to­gether; we love the cre­ativ­ity of that. Mi­lan is an amaz­ing city, the de­sign el­e­ments are amaz­ing and [Salone] is so in­ter­na­tional, bring­ing to­gether lots of dif­fer­ent back­grounds and cre­ativ­ity from all over the world.”

Smith ex­plains, “When we started, they gave me a very open brief:‘ we are COS, this is what we do, what we be­lieve in — time­less­ness, qual­ity, crafts­man­ship, a dis­til­la­tion of ideas … and here’s Palazzo Isim­bardi.’ The thought was to take that square of the sky and pull it down to the ground — let the sky ex­ist on the ground in front of you so you can have a con­ver­sa­tion with the sky just like we are hav­ing a con­ser­va­tion with each other right now.”

But not ev­ery­one can be in Mi­lan to ex­pe­ri­ence the ex­hi­bi­tion, so what does the COS cus­tomer get out of this? Gustafs­son says it’s all about con­nec­tion. “our cus­tomers share our mind­set and in­ter­est in architecture. they are cul­tur­ally aware, with a big-city mind­set, and like to know what is go­ing on. For us, we hope the cus­tomer finds this in­spir­ing.”

“Most ex­hi­bi­tions are open to the pub­lic … This is ground zero for how to live your best life.”

The in­stal­la­tion Open Sky, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Phillip K. Smith III and COS.

From top: Open Sky from above; Bar Basso; the launch for Open Sky at Palazzo Isim­bardi; COS cre­ative di­rec­tor Karin Gustafs­son with artist Phillip K. Smith III in front of an­other of his works, in the palazzo’s gar­den.

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