Internazionale del Mobile Salone, also known as Milan Design Week, lures artists and designers from all corners of the world with over 300,000 visitors from 160 countries. Since 1961, Cosmit, an organization created by Italian design trade association Federlegno-Arredo has hosted the show. “It is the place where the trend starts,” says Marco Sabetta, General Director of Cosmit.
As the largest designing trade show in the world, the 52nd International Furniture Fair didn’t fail to please as designers harnessed functionality and innovation between 9th and 14th of April in the Italian city. The Milan Furniture Fair not only gives artists and designers a chance to display their creativity, but a chance to network as a community in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.
Senior buying manager for Home, Julie Hassan, recently returned from the prestigious fair, newly inspired and excited by the sights and designs that surrounded her. Here she recounts her first day of events, with visits to stunning lighting exhibitions, run-ins with Rory Dobner and a special British exhibition at the Vivienne Westwood boutqiue.
Wednesday 4.30am (London)
Up bright and early (although I’m normally up by 5.30am to get the kids ready for school and check any emails that sneak through during the night). After a quick check of today’s itinerary and a very strong coffee, I’m in the car to Heathrow to meet Liberty’s Head of Visual Identity Maxine Groucutt and Senior Press Officer for Home and Lifestyle, Simon Midgley. After check-in, we jump onto a flight bound for Milan’s famous Design Week. This, out of the many Design Weeks held worldwide, is one of the busiest with events all over the city. Hotels and flights start filling up almost a year in advance, so it’s important to plan ahead and book early! I recommend two to three days minimum to ensure you have enough time to take in the many activities and exhibitions happening throughout the week-long event.
11am (Milan time)
A quick bag drop at the hotel and we’re on our way to our first destination, the Wallpaper Handmade Exhibition at ‘Lecletico’ – a beautiful interior design studio. The exhibition brings together some of the world’s finest designers, craftsmen and equally renowned manufacturers to design a series of unique and stunning products. Bethan Gray’s handmade collection of tabletop pieces made from solid marble and crafted by stone specialist Lapicida were a favorite. The detail and vitality of the patterns really grabbed my attention.
Our next stop is a visit to Vivienne Westwood’s shop on Corso Vanezia, where this year the store is hosting an exhibition entitled ‘The New British’. The store has been transformed by an eclectic collection of products from British designers, all with a strong ethos for creating sustainable and functional products without sacrificing the beauty of their design. It’s great to see Donna Wilson’s SCP collaboration; Donna’s animated plates and cushions have recently gone on sale at Liberty, her designs are perfect for cheering up the home.
Time for a quick lunch stop. Poor Maxine ended up with a bottle of water thrown over her by a waiter, but every cloud has a silver lining as Simon and I benefited from the delicious sweet treats which were sent over by way of apology!
Next up we’re checking out the stunning lighting at the ‘Baccarat’ exhibition. The sheer size and detail of the lights on display was breathtaking! Baccarat is known for combining tradition and innovation and the pieces on display represent this perfectly. Phillippe Starck’s contribution, which included a glass deer head, was just divine!
It feels like the end of the day is veering ever closer, so we quickly make our way to Fornasetti where a fantastic ‘1913 to 2013’ exhibition is on display. It represents a century of history from the birth of Piero Fornasetti to the present day. I’m a big fan of the designs (new and old). We have a great selection of the homewares at Liberty which will soon be joined by Fornasetti’s renowned wallpapers.
We then quickly make our way to one of our newest suppliers, ‘Discipline’, which showcased a number of beautiful, simple and versatile products from its 17 designers. Cork was a big theme here and the look and tacit nature of the material was an interesting alternative to the wood and ceramics we had seen throughout the day. Discipline’s Re-Turned birds have just arrived at Liberty this week, they make the perfect house warming present as well as having a lovely provenance being made from recycled wood.
Whenever I visit Milan, which must be close to 30 times by now, I always try to fit in a visit to Rossanna Orlandi’s eclectic and mesmerising store. This year I have even more of an excuse as Liberty favourite Astier de Villatte is there showing off the latest of its beautiful collections. The recent collaboration with Patch NY is a perfect marriage of art and craftsmanship. The chandelier was also breathtaking. I love being able to walk around such detailed and delicate masterpieces, even if it is a little nerve racking!
Another stunning shop filled with the latest designs from all over the world, ‘Corso Como’ is next on our hit list. It’s here we bump into our good friend and designer Rory Dobner. Rory has recently acquired his own area on the 3rd floor of Liberty which with his giant pink neon sign, which can’t be missed. Rory’s detailed brushstroke designs translate perfectly onto the plates, cushions, tiles, candles and various home accessories which are available to buy in store and online.
Dinner time! We went to ‘Ristorante Delicatessen’ a fantastic Italian restaurant recommended by the Telegraph’s very own David Nicholls. We were lucky enough to get him all to ourselves for the evening and shared stories and tips on things to look out for the following day when we tackle the enormous furniture fair.
Time to finally unpack and rest, it’s another early start tomorrow and Milan waits for no one!
Shop the latest arrivals of home and gifts here.
Tomorrow is, of course, Mothering Sunday and we hope you’ve all remembered to buy your Mum something really special! If you’ve left it until the last minute, there’s still time to visit us at our Regent Street store and find a heart-felt gift, guaranteed to keep you in a her good books for the rest of the year!
Struggling for inspiration? Who better to ask for Mother’s Day gift advice than our Home Buying Manager, Julie Hassan? Responsible for selecting all the gifts you’ll find here in store, Julie is also mum to twin daughters Eleanor and Hannah.
1. “You can never have too many Diptyque candles and this one’s my all time favourite scent!” - Tubéreuse scented candle 190g, £40 by Dyptique.
2. “The Liberty beauty team tell me this is the perfect red lipstick for me, and I trust their expert judgement.” - Femme Rouge Velvet Crème Lipstick in Muse, £22 by Hourglass.
3. “If my daughters are feeling generous, I’ve had my eye on this bag since it arrived in store.” - Red Wild Wild Willa leather tote bag, £405 by Marc by Marc Jacobs.
4. “I’ve not worked at Liberty for 30 years and think each year deserves a Liberty scarf! This year I’ve got my heart set on this one.” - Blue Tree of Life print silk scarf, £135 Liberty London Scarves.
5. “Prestat are the Queen’s chocolates of choice and I can understand why. These are the best I’ve ever tasted.” - Sea salt caramel truffles, £11.50 by Prestat.
6. “I’m not afraid to dress with colour, so I love the bright blue Swarovski crystals in these earrings.” - Gold Gardenia drop blue crystal earrings, £135 by Oscar de la Renta.
7. “My iPad would look great in this!”
- Silver metallic ianthe iPad case, £95 by Liberty London.
8. “My signature fragrance - the amazing floral scent is an intoxicating mix of tuberose, jasmine, violet and gardenia.”
- Fracas Eau De Parfum 100ml, £110 by Robert Piguet.
9. ”This fox would be the perfect companion for a night in on the sofa with a large glass of red wine.”
- Green knitted lambswool cushion, £75 by Donna Wilson.
If you’re feeling a little lost in all the Valentine’s Day hype and not quite sure what to get your special someone, don’t panic. Our Web Team have revealed what they’re really hoping for this Thursday to give you a bit of loved-up inspiration, *hint, hint.
After our Managing Director Ed Burstell appeared on The Apprentice last Wednesday, we gave you the chance to ask him your own questions in true Lord Sugar style. Thank you to everyone who submitted a question on our Facebook and twitter sites – check below to see if your question has been answered by Ed:
Jamie Robertson @JamYNWA: Would you actually invest in either of the two pitches featured in The Apprentice? Could you see those as in your store?
Possibly the grooming products but I’d want to test them our thoroughly and make sure they weren’t superficial. I’d want to make sure they actually do what they say they do
Rebecca Rose Dunn @Rebeccarosedunn: What are the key factors that you look for in a new brand?
Original thought, commerciality and something that fills a niche in the marketplace
Ellen Horne @ellen_horne: What is the best way to get into buying?
One of two ways – school, or dive straight in and work your way up!
Donna Wilson @DonnaWilsonLtd: What’s is your favourite shop in the world (apart from Liberty)?
Barney’s in my hometown of New York
Girl Monday @JoelleCoghlan: What is the singular most important ingredient to a successful product launch?
Integrity – if a product says it’s going to do something, make sure it does!
Nicola Swainson: What makes you and Liberty so successful at what you do?
We’re driven, we’re dedicated and most of all we’re inquisitive and that comes through in our product selection.
Anna Wilson: How are the Mary Portas knickers selling?
They’re a total blow out and we’re scrambling for more stock!
The Lovely Room: How do you find the right balance when purchasing new lines/products and selling them on without all monies being held in stock?
We purchase 85% of our stock outright and 15% on a concession basis. If you believe, you buy.
Lottie Warren: What would be your advice for aspiring young designers when dealing with buyers and potential retailers?
As I’ve said before ‘don’t bulls*it an expert’ – make sure you do your homework and know your market, the store you’d like to retail in and the industry. We have people who pitch products to us at our Best of British Open Call who haven’t been into the store for 6 years!
Stained Glass by Karen Ann Smith: Would you ever consider using ‘The Apprentice’ approach to enable artist/craftsman the opportunity to have a career within Liberty?
We already have a mentoring programme here at Liberty which you can get involved in once you start here. We offer our retail staff a chance to participate in our ‘1 day programme’ which means they can spend one day out of their week learning skills in an area they are interested in, whether that be buying, merchandising, design or online.
Jill Glaister: How do you strike a balance between loyalty to the beauty, creativity and history of Liberty and the need to increase profits and move forward?
We’re probably one of the only stores left in the world which can still do heritage categories, such are our carpets & rugs, arts & crafts, vintage furniture and fabric along side modern product mixes. But we make sure we do these things with experts – for example we work with Patch Rogers for our Arts & Crafts pieces and Bruce Lepere who has more experience in oriental carpets than anyone I know. We blend the two elements together and re-work some of our classic prints to give them a modern edge across all categories. Collaborations are also key in the mix, and we work with global brands to give our heritage prints a modern twist.
Sabivo Design: What is the secret, better still, is there any chance of a small business ever entering Liberty?
Yes! Have you heard of our Best of British Open Call? The next date is coming up in August. Our buying team dedicate a day to the open call which allows small business and new designers the opportunity to come in and show us their products.
Marisol Mercado: Do you need an assistant?
Thanks for the thought, but I’m pretty self sufficient at the moment!
Originally from New York, our Managing Director, Ed Burstell joined Liberty in 2008, coming from his home city’s luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman.
Initially joining us as buying director, he was promoted to Managing Director in June 2010 and is now responsible for overseeing all buying functions and marketing here at Liberty.
Tune in to BBC1 tonight at 9pm to see Ed appear on The Apprentice. We caught up with Ed to ask him about his experience on the show:
Tell us what happened on the days filming
On the day of filming, my first task was to be a ‘secret shopper’ as the teams pitched their ideas. I posed as a customer and observed their way of selling, what was unique and special about their product and anything which made them stand out. And, ultimately if I thought they could make any money! In my view, it’s all about business and it’s a combination of all these factors which contribute to being successful.
Afterwards I was asked to question the Apprentices’ as part of a larger group. It got a little intense, as you can imagine, but Lord Sugar was very focused and is a no nonsense man like myself! He’s very personable and knows when someone is trying to bulls*it him too.
What would you be looking for in your ideal apprentice?
I’d take my lead from Lord Sugar; it’s all about having a visible business brain and being adaptable to whatever the business world throws at you. Not everyone can be an expert in every field – I’m certainly not – but it’s all about being adaptable to the situation and of course having enthusiasm.
Do you believe experience or qualifications are more important in the workplace?
I don’t think there’s a right answer to this. I have a degree in accounting which I’ve never used. I got the degree purely because my parents wanted me too, but instead pursuing the numbers I started on my retail journey. Believe it or not, I started as a fragrance sprayer at Macy’s (which was hell!) but it was my first introduction into retail and I’ve never left.
I learnt so much starting on the shop floor and working my way up through the ranks, and this has been an invaluable skill to learn. So I would say it makes no difference what your qualifications are, it’s about how you use your time and what you learn in the process.
Did you meet Alan Sugar or his aides Karren and Nick behind the scenes? What were they like?
I had a good chat with Lord Sugar and told him I was a fan of the show! He’s not a ‘warm and fuzzy’ character but he’s very down to earth and I like that about him. I’ve met Karren and Nick before on the Junior Apprentice so we caught up in filming breaks.
If you could give the apprentices one bit of advice, what would it be?
Don’t try to bulls*it an expert, whether it’s Lord Sugar or someone in the industry you’re trying to impress. They’ll always see through you.
How do you think you would fare being a candidate on the show?
Put it this way – at my age, that boat has sailed!
If you could say ‘you’re hired’ to one candidate, who would it be?
If I had to place my bets, they’d be on Jade. You’ll have to watch the show to see if I’m right though!
GOT ANOTHER QUESTION FOR ED? Tweet it to us @LibertyLondon
LIBERTY TV: Meet Ed on video