1. THE WINNER: Lisa Corti
This designer and participant in Fuorisalone (series of independent design events not hosted at the main trade fair) has done more justice to Indian block printed fabric than any Desi fashion house. Using European, yet vibrant, colour palettes, fashion designer Lisa Corti has truly reinstated the Indian aesthetic in the Western sartorial space. What we at Sihasn love most is how she has done exactly what we do – contemporized and reinvented heritage Indian fabrics as furniture upholstery.

Lisa Corti’s Showrooms are Magical Kaleidoscopes of Indian Block-Prints

2. MILAN’S BEST KEPT SECRET: Mercatino Penelope
Sequestered in the basement of a residential building and virtually impossible to locate is Mercatino Penelope, a bizarre flea market and the cachet of Milan for vintage furniture and décor. While the stuffed peacocks and Buddha sculptures appeared to be the odd and incongruous members of an ensemble that included velvet-upholstered modern furniture, nude statues, and contemporary mirrors, they truly completed the surreal scene and evinced precisely which Desi decorations connote retro style.

Bizarre and Brilliant, Mercatino Penelope is a Secret Flea Market in the Basement of a Residential Building

While the wealthiest in India want all their furniture to be haute, Italian, luxury furniture, the haute luxury fashion houses of Italy are going Indian full throttle. Nowhere could this be more obvious than at the Etro showroom; from paisley-patterned bedcovers and pillowcases, to phulkari-embroidered curtains, Etro’s entire décor line is quintessentially Indian. Even the bean bag was somehow upholstered with paisley-embroidered fabric. Etro epitomised the Indian aesthetic trend picked up by all major Italian designers. Other stores where ikat prints on silk and cotton were popular include Hector Dogtas and KA International.

Paisley and Other Mehndi (Henna) Designs on Furniture and Phulkari-Inspired Embroidery on Curtains at Etro

The putative leader in fashion (and now, décor) trends, was the Missoni fashion house and the inimitable star of Milan – both at the Salon fair as well as at the Fuorisalone exhibit at its store. The line outside the Missoni store circled around an entire block but was totally worth it. Once inside the showroom one understood just what the packs of ebullient visitors exiting the exhibit were all in a tizzy about. The House of Missoni has shown us just what the potential for fabric is… infinite, to be precise! Every single piece of furniture and décor in the Missoni showroom had been upholstered with multi-coloured crocheted yarn, and the Salon exhibit was – from floor to ceiling – draped, upholstered, and embellished with sunset-coloured fabric. Sihasn votes Yea for Missoni’s very Indian maximalism, vibrancy, and dynamism!

Sunset-Hued Fabrics Bedecking the Missoni Exhibit at SaloSunset-Hued Fabrics Bedecking the Missoni Exhibit at Salon

The Mesmerizing Missoni Showroom Caparisoned in Rainbow Crochet

Seletti’s gambit by overdosing on the “Pop” truly paid off because its stall was by far the most crowded, and possibly the most photographed, one in Milan. What this traveller likes about all things ‘Pop’ is that it’s a trend that reflects not just how colour and maximalism are in, but how well they align with Desi aesthetic sensibilities. We love colour and bling in our fashion; we wear it with pride and flaunt it unabashedly at every wedding celebration. It’s about time we embraced it in our home décor like the effervescent Italians and designers thronging the Seletti stall in Milan.

Over-the-Top ‘Pop’ at the Jam-Packed Seletti Exhibit at Salon

Fuorisalone’s Kawashima Selkon, unexpectedly, hasn’t garnered the attention it so rightly deserves. A Japanese wallpaper company, the exhibit consisted of funky, metallic fabric wall coverings that were not just novel and unique, but harbingers of what is sure to become a trend very soon around the world and, especially, in India – fabric panelling on walls. Selkon brings something fresh and funky into what is typically associated with boring tapestries reminiscent of French chateaux.

Kawashima Selkon’s Bewitching Wall-Fabric

Annamaria Alois, A Design House That’s Been Designing Classic, Luxury Wall-Fabrics in Southern Italy Since 1885

7. OUR ASIAN COUSINS: Israeli Design
At the Asia Design Milano space in the hippy-hipster-artsy neighbourhood of Tortona, was none other than the Israeli exhibit, another feature from Fuorisalone. Photographer artist, Dorit Shabbat Morag’s books displaying his photography in India were there for all to browse through. With much chutzpah, Morag has captured the raw and real side of urban India – sex and sexuality, drugs, squalor, colour, and beauty all at once. The artist maintains that there are powerful homophilies that our two nations – India and Israel – share; this is probably true in terms of spirituality and political identity. The Israeli fashion exhibits were Western, while the furniture more Eastern revealing just what makes Israeli designers so special – Orientalist and Occidentalist at the same time.

Israel in Milan: Nazar (Evil-Eye)-Inspired Seating and Dorit Shabbat Morag’s Raw Photography from India

The token Indian brand at Fuorisalone was Jaipur Rugs of course and, this time, in collaboration with a famous Italian designer. The carpets on display were the designer’s inspiration from Jaipur, contemporised and adapted for the Western audience, demonstrating just how the syncretism of two different nations’ distinct aesthetics could result in refreshing, beautiful design.

An Italian Designer’s India-Inspired Rug Designs by Jaipur Rugs

Paisley and Other Indian Motifs Remain Popular Across All Rug Designers

9. VIBRANT TEXTILES: Upholstery that is Finally Vibrant
Digitally-printed upholstery was used in scores of exhibits across Salon. The easiest and most popular motifs for digital textile printing and for use on furniture upholstery are, for obvious reasons, Asian. Indian and Chinese motifs are maximalist, colourful, and offer the most variety and versatility for printing on textiles. This traveller was thrilled to see an infusion of all things Asian in a panoply of Italian design.

Digitally-Printed Tigers and Peacocks, Chinese Embroidery, a Riot of Colours Everywhere – Salon 2019 Was a Kaleidoscope of Pop and Vibrance

10. THE NEXT BIG THING: Natural, Handmade, Organic
It’s good to see the world is alerted to the value of design that uses natural materials and design that is handmade. This bodes well for India as the handicrafts sector constitutes the second largest source of employment for Indians. Which is why the handmade Italian furniture was heartening to see. In fact, Barcelona-based design firm, Nanimarquina not only get all the production of their rugs done in India but have also used profits to set up a school in the village of Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh. They have worked closely with Indian biochemists to develop jute-knotted rugs that are biodegradable, yet soft. Also, the use of sheep’s wool, coconut husk, and other organic materials in lieu of overrated memory foam was a big deal. This is a trend that deserves an A+.

Handmade Copper Seating by Zavetto

Hand-painted Chair by Aboriginal Artist from Australia, Danielle Mate Sullivan

‘Sleep On Nature’ is the Tagline of Greek Mattress Producer CoCo Mat that Uses Natural Latex (made from the sap of the Hevea Tree) and Coconut Husk to Make Ergonomically Superlative, 100% Natural Mattresses

A Sofa Upholstered with Fluffy, Luxurious Sheep Wool at Salon