Back in August, my mom asked me to tag along on a business trip to Milan and I thought to myself, “Okay, I guess it’s about time I go there and check it out.”
Being the NY snob that I am, it had certainly taken a long time for me to want to go to Italy. I didn’t really have any expectation, to tell you the truth. Prior to this, all I knew was that the term “Made in Italy” is usually something that sales people at high-end department stores love to brag about when they are trying to hawk bags, belts and shoes; boasting about “real Italian leather” and “genuine Italian craftsmanship”. And then for many years I’ve also heard about The Milan Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano), so I loosely associated Italy in general with high quality furniture design – strictly from a design perspective. Of course when it comes to food, Italy to me is synonymous with pasta and pizza – not exactly high on my foodie hitlist. As for fashion, again I honestly hardly paid much attention as my curiosity has always been skewed mainly towards the French and American fashion designers. (But yes, I do know of Milan Fashion Week.)
So, you can say that me going to Milan was one of those “go with the flow” trips and I had no preset itinerary in mind of what I would want to be doing when I was there. I did, however, had a hunch that the highlight of this trip for me would somehow involve design… in one way or the other.
When I mentioned to friends I would be making a trip to Milan, my good friend Kelvin wasted no time in lending me all the necessary guidebooks, common Italian phrases handbook, city maps etc. He had lived in Milan for a year as a post-grad student. But I left all that travel reading homework material sitting by my bedside until like, two hours prior to my flight. That was how “go with the flow” state of mind I was in. I didn’t even book the hotel until almost at the last minute either. I was neither excited about nor dreading the trip, I was just … meh, going with the flow.
According to my pal Kelvin, the main tourist attractions I must not miss in Milan are the Grand Cathedral Duomo, the famous Galleria shopping arcade and if really I was to be bored out of my mind, then the La Rinascente department store. And they are all within walking distance from one another, so in theory I could kill these off easily within a day. (This was, after all, a business trip therefore business had to be attended to first, the touristy stuff were secondary.)
Kelvin warned me before I went on the trip, he said I ought to be careful because I’d be seeing a lot of nice things there. Heh, he knew that I am a total sucker for nice things. (I, of course, prefer to use the term “purveyor of chic living”.) His warning was a bit ambiguous though. What kind of nice things was he talking about? Did he mean clothes? Gourmet food items? Because there’s a high likelihood that I would splurge on those, especially gourmet food items. Well, continue reading…. you’ll soon find out what these “nice things” I saw were while at Milan.
But first, some photos of the Grand Cathedral of Milan = The Duomo. I can’t say I’ve been to Milan unless I’ve taken at least a few snapshots in front of this incredible structure right?
Hee. I thought my Virgin Mary dress was rather appropriate for this religious venue. Meanwhile my mom was embracing her inner Versace by wearing this loud fuschia number. To match her ultra bright reddish-purple hair. :X
She has had this hair color for over two decades now, if memory serves me correctly. That’s my mom for you, she’s a trendsetter in her own right. Her sense of style has always been LOUD and she loves bright bold colors. Over the years, people would frown upon her choices and whisper behind her back all the time but she never gave a flying f*ck and continued dressing the way she loves to dress. As for me, I too often get my fair share of conservative folks who think that I dress loud and too daring, too sexy, too revealing, blablabla, until they see my mom and then a bright lightbulb of realization go off in their heads. “Ohhh, no wonder!”… that’s when they all silently conclude that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We are bold women and we stick by our personal choices of fancy regardless of what other people think.
It’d been a couple of days now for us in Milan and I still didn’t encounter any of those so-called “nice things” that Kelvin had cautioned me about. We went to the Galleria but mom and I weren’t hot on the fashion houses like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. Borr-r-r-r-ringggg. Predictable. Nothing new or exciting. We randomly went inside some boutique store and I tried on a pair of neon yellow heels. I loved them to bits, they made my legs look supermodel-long, they were also quite cheap (only 69 Euros plus 50% off) and comfortable, except that they didn’t have them in my size. *gwa gwa gwaaaaa~*
Haiz… back to being bored. Not buying anything while shopping can be quite a killjoy and so not gratifying. At this time, mom and I decided to separate and roam around individually. Divide and conquer. So I went next door to La Rinascente department store, bought a crapload of Dyptique candles (my fave is Baies fragrance and I had to stock up on those). And then I went downstairs to the basement AND ZOMGGGGG I DISCOVERED WONDERLAND!!!
2000 MQ. 200 BRANDS. 100% DESIGN
Designed by 1+1=1 Claudio Silvestrin Giuliana Salmaso architects, the Design Supermarket at La Rinascente Milan has an international flair and is continuously evolving: it is home to the new trends and the best of creativity and innovation.
It is a space to be explored, where you can have the opportunity to create your own itinerary as you are looking for the perfect object, or to multiply your ideas about living and life style. To buy design objects here is as natural as going to the supermarket and shopping is an ever-changing, amazing experience.
So this is where one would get their Alessi, Fritz Hansen, Bodum, Kartell, Arne Jacobsen, B&B Italia, Georg Jensen fixes! In a supermarket setting too, no less. No stuffy sales people harassing you! *hyperventilating* I had a brief blackout moment from the analysis paralysis because I had no idea where to begin browsing. (Let’s just say I was back here three times during the entire trip.) A major amusement park for the design-oriented like myself.
EVERYTHING WAS SO NICE AND FUCKING GORGEOUS!!!!!! Arggghhhhh.
I love white porcelain home decor and I spied so many beautiful items here. (Let me apologize beforehand that I didn’t note down the designers for the items you’ll be seeing below; if anyone knows who these are made by please leave a comment and I’ll be delighted to add the information in.)
Teaware with silicone coasters fashioned after Japanese rock garden sand formation.
Hourglass in unusual shapes.
Porcelain skull, gun and trio of paper bateaus.
Water pitcher and an adorable honey pot. Niiiice.
Sea urchin lidded container.
Sharkfin soup bowl. I super duper love how witty and clever this is. *SPASMING*
Paperbag vases, coffee pots and egg trays.
Salt and Pepper shakers, sardine can and tin cans – in white porcelain.
Variety of vases and dome-shaped transparent belljars with porcelain animals in them.
More funky dome-shaped transparent belljars with dainty porcelain teaware in them.
Mao figurines and an oversized teacup with saucer.
I love these stools. Completely nail-less construction and put together by virtue of grid-locking. Details, people, details!
A very good-looking and perfectly functional grater in the shape of a paper plane.
This paper bateau motif is rather endearing to me as I associate it with child-like wonder and imagination. It’s such a sweet thing to look at, imo.
More side tables and stools. I stood in front of the stack of stools for a long time, contemplating how I would transport them back if I were to buy them. They gotta be kidding me, only 22 Euros!!!
Household electronic schtuff made in wood. I particularly love the fan, that’d look really handsome in my apartment.
Last but not least, silicone leaves for serving food. I also contemplated buying these but afterwards I thought serving food on real leaves would elevate the dining experience a lot more for me personally.
I was really very very psyched to have stumbled upon the Design Supermarket. I got to oggle and drool at all these objects of beauty in person, which made this Milan trip very worthwhile for me after all. No wonder Kelvin told me that there’d a lot of nice things in Milan. He’d know, especially because he’s also a designer himself. (But he didn’t tell me about the Design Supermarket; I think this was a new addition to the La Rinascente.)
Italy has succeeded in making a name for itself as the premier design and manufacturing country in the world since the end of the 2nd World War. Built on a foundation of traditional craftsmanship that goes back hundreds of years, the state was able to accelerate production through modern manufacturing techniques. Add to the mix the high level of Italian engineering, artistic flair, and openness to experimentation and innovation and you had the ‘perfect storm’ for the creation of a design ideal that was to become world famous.
The term ‘Made in Italy’ is traditionally associated with the “beautiful and well made” a fundamental characteristic of Italian products: product design and quality, high in creativity, innovation, originality, style and quality. Made in Italy also expressed that Italian flavour, the lifestyle that many in the world love, and even those abroad are trying to recreate, designing and making in Italy products to be distributed as a foreign brand.
I definitely gained a tremendous appreciation towards the product design in Italy. In particular, the home decor and tableware sections (a couple of my weaknesses, next to kitchenware). They are truly very creative and innovative in this area. The Design Supermarket was such a kickass place to shop at. If I could I’d have bought a lot of the things I saw there and have them shipped back. Especially because they were relatively so much cheaper too! I’m still in a state of disbelief that the mid-century side table cost only 22 Euros. WTF!!!
Sadly I didn’t get to buy the entire store but I did come home with a couple of items as design souveniers for myself: the white porcelain paper bateau trio and the sea urchin lidded container. They’re still nicely packed in the original boxes because even the damn packaging looked so cool that I couldn’t bring myself to open them. I need a bigger apartment so that I can buy the entire store next time and have the proper space to display them all. :P
Anyhoo, I’m concluding this post with a photo of an Italian family and me.
From what I understand, Italians have always embraced the idea of famiglia and the matriarch of the family has traditionally been the dominating respected figure. I thought this picture captures that notion perfectly. I also thought the grandmother (wearing red) is so cute in that she still bothered to doll herself up. Her white hair was bunned up in an intricate braid, she had her pearl necklace on and she put on perfume. Most women at that age usually don’t bother anymore. Oh, actually I happen to know someone who would still continue dolling up regardless of age. Yep, that’d be mi mama. ;P
Btw… M stands for Milan and M also stands for mosquitoes! There were loads of them all over the place and I should’ve brought mosquito patches or something had I known in advance. I was literally eaten alive in the evenings. Eeps. Next time I will be better prepared. I will pack mosquito patches as well as empty boxes to haul these gorgeous designer items back with me. Nice things, definitely many nice things. Tee hee.