Photographed by Christine Pienaar Photography
For the design world, Salone del Mobile is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year—there’s the furniture fair, and then there are the countless showrooms and factories that open their doors, industry events, and special exhibitions—all against the backdrop of the humming Milan cityscape.
For the past few years, designer and stylist Laura Melling has gathered a group of women in her network who have careers in the creative industry to join in-studio visits around Vancouver. Beyond Vancouver, the group has traveled to Modernism Week in Palm Springs and has held creative retreats with other makers and designers on Mayne Island.
Next week, for its biggest trip yet, the collective will make the journey to Milan to soak up inspiration and design experiences while attending Salone del Mobile. Many of the women belong to The Aviary, a co-working space for architects and designers that also devotes square footage to serve as a shopfront for local makers. Co-founded by registered interior designer and intern architect Andrea McLean, who is also going to Milan, The Aviary has served as a kind of home base for the group and was a key ingredient in what brought these talented women together.
One of the other group members who has been instrumental in planning, writer and illustrator Renske Werner, explains, “We believe Vancouver is bubbling with design talent and we hope to put Vancouver on the map as a design capital through these trips, and our presence at major design events such as Salone del Mobile.”
To find out more about them, read below and follow them on Instagram to get a front-row seat to the show. Also, follow GRAY’s Insta feed all week (meanwhile, the GRAY staff will be at Design Week Portland), as each member of the group, who come from different backgrounds and are at different points in their careers, shares what she’s seeing at the fair, at exclusive events, and around the city.
We asked each one to share what she’s excited about seeing at the show. If you can’t attend yourself, the next best thing is to follow GRAY’s updates all next week through the eyes of these “Designing Women.”
"I’m excited to travel with this collective of designers from Vancouver. While we are all designers, we each have our specialties—architecture, interiors, product, marketing, illustration, photography—which allows unique vantage points. I’m excited to explore Milan Design week through each other’s eyes and I’m looking forward to the many conversations our collective experience will spark.”
Gaile Guevara, Creative Director, Gaile Guevara Studio Ltd.
“In our work, it’s important to educate ourselves in design outside of our city. I’m excited to see the newest developments from the design icons that inspire me. In addition to sourcing furniture and lighting, I’m especially looking forward to seeing the public exhibit spaces. Travel adventures with peers and the design community make the experience even more rewarding.”
Foojan Kasravi, Junior Interior Designer, Gaile Guevara Studio Ltd.
“I’ve been to many design shows so far, and for me, it’s not just about the showcase, but that it's an emotional experience. I’m looking forward to connecting with the community of creators and innovators who inspire the entire world.”
Fatima Islam, Interior Designer, Studio CM
“Besides discovering innovative furniture and lighting at Salone, I am looking forward to experiential installations at various off-site events held concurrently with Milan Design Week. Spatial displays at concept stores and galleries are a huge source of inspiration to me—Alcova, Spazio Rossana Orlandi, and Six Gallery are at the top of my list.”
Alyssa Lewis, Creative Director and Designer, Studio Block
“I know first-hand how influential the creative community and design scene is in Europe, and look forward to being immersed in it once again. There is a feeling there that anything is possible as a creative, something I don’t always feel here in Canada. Events at the top of my list are Altered State by Snarkitecture for Caesarstone, Layer x Kvadrat, Forms of Movement by Nendo, Open Sky by Phillip K Smith for COS, and Mutant Matter by FranklinTill and Dutch Invertuals.” IG: @studio___block
“Travel is a powerful source of inspiration for my creative practice. Be it a place, an object, or an experience—it is an opportunity to explore and discover. This will be my first Salone experience and I can’t wait to experience the creative energy of how the city comes alive—especially the more conceptual, installation-based environments.”
Andrea McLean, Interior Designer, Intern Architect, and co-founder of The Aviary
“I’m looking forward to seeing furniture and lighting that I am trying to source for clients that are very difficult to find examples of in Vancouver showrooms. We’ve been invited to the Cassina Factory, which I am very excited about because of its recent update by my favorite designer, Patricia Urquiola.” IG: @andrea_mclean
Ema Peter, Photographer
“In Milan, I am really looking forward to seeing some of the pavilions built specifically for Design Week. One of my favorite architects, Peter Pichler, is doing an incredible structure in the middle of the courtyard of Statale University. It will be truly stunning to photograph.”
“I’m looking forward to celebrating design with like-minded people in Milan. I’m especially interested to discover emerging perspectives and ideas in the practice of interior design, and especially thrilled to check out Fuorisalone, which takes place throughout the different districts of Milan.”
Renske Werner, Writer, Illustrator “I am looking forward to seeing things through the group’s perspective and sharing opinions about design, aesthetic, and beauty. Now that I am creating my itinerary, I most look forward to the opportunity to interview some of the design world’s greatest minds such as Marcel Wanders and Alberto Alessi. I also look forward to seeing Bar Anne, designed by the award-winning architects of Space Encounters. The concept inside is a design installation/exhibit with work from Sabine Marcelis, VANTOT, Mae Engelgeer, and Rick Tegelaar (among other Dutch Designers).”