Alessandra Canella: An Insider’s View on Salone Internazionale del Mobile

Alessandra Canella is our very own contributor at H&L. For those who don’t know, she is also a UX designer from Milan, Italy. I invited her to do an interview for Nuandao, and it hit me, “Why not share with H&L as well!” For other questions, visit her interview at Nuandao’s blog (English/Chinese) where this was first published.

Design aficionados know that last week, thousands flocked to the historical city to treat themselves to any extraordinary design feast at the Cosmit – Salone Internazionale del Mobile. The annual event has been hosted in Milan since 1961, and features works from international designers in various categories. Fortunately we have her insider’s perspective on the event.

First of all, tell me about yourself.

I’m an Italian designer, with a bachelor’s in Furniture Design and a master’s in Product Service System. I moved to Shanghai in 2010 and I stayed for two years, getting a degree at Tongji University in Design and Innovation while freelancing with local studios. Last year I moved back to Milan, where I freelance as graphic designer mainly, and work as UX designer for Experientia in Turin.

Is this your first time to the event?

Every year la Settimana del Mobile (literally the furniture week) is the biggest event in the city for designers – in autumn there is the fashion week too but it’s less friendly. Since I began studying design,in 2005, this has been a must-go event that designers can’t miss for anything in the world!

Italy is a culture rich in design. How is the Salone different from other design events in Italy?

First of all, Cosmit is just a small part of the Settimana del Mobile. Cosmit is the official event in the big fair in the north of Milan, but year after year it is surrounded by more “unofficial” events that take place all around the city. At the beginning, Cosmit was The Event and there were a few events around in the city.

Lately, the events and expositions around the city, in districts such as zona Tortona, Brera and Lambrate, gained more and more space and recognition. This means that the city completely sheds its own skin during this week and the air citizens breathe becomes more inspiring and vibrant. La Settimana del Mobile is not a simple fair located in one big fair disconnected from the city: it is the city itself that changes. Historical places are turned into designed ones, such as Museo della Scienza e della Tecnica and the botanic garden of Accademia di Brera.

What is the scene like? Are designers there mature and established or are there budding designers too?

As mentioned, there two different kind of scenes: the one of the official fair and the one of all the expositions popping up around the city. In the first one big brands show their latest products – brands like Cappellini, Driade, Bisazza, B&B, Foscarini, Indesit,… In the big fair, there is a space dedicated to young designers, showing prototypes and small productions, and this is called Salone Satellite. On the other hand, Fuorisalone at the beginning was designed for young designers who hadn’t enough money to afford the rent at the official fair, but nowadays big brands show their products too, preferring the informal atmosphere of Fuorisalone rather than the official one of Cosmit.


Do you have any favorite designers we should look out for?

I always check for Tom Dixon at Fuorisalone. This year he exposed at Museo della Scienza e della Tecnica and this challenge turned out in a very interesting show to visit. More here.

Having lived in Shanghai before, how is the design environment in Milan (Italy) different?

Everybody wants to become a designer in Italy. Hairdresser are called hair designers and so on. Design is often perceived as a fun field to work – even though, when done properly, it requires a lot of effort and energy to get things done properly. In China people is not so much design-centered and this helps in keeping design a serious field, where only skilled people can work.

If I were to go to the event next year, how much should I save? What are some tips to travel frugal but enjoy the entire experience?

Since to attend Cosmit you have to pay about 20 euro, I would see go there for an entire day and take advantage of the day ticket. The other days I would go around, spend about one day in each district and visiting the best sights. Usually people who attend Salone events get very tired along the week, so I think it’s better to take it slowly and see district by district. Find a hotel nearby the underground and that’s it! The budget is about 150 euros + hotel rate + flights.

Tourists could consider to buy a 10 travels card or to buy a week ticket to save money – since the subway will be huge during that week!

Happy planning guys! Maybe see you next year at the event!

All photos courtesy of Alessandra herself. For more info on her, check her out online at Remarkable


  1. isabelle says:

    Thanks, Natasia and Alessandra — really enjoyed this interview. Salone Internazionale del Mobile sounds great, and I hope to have an opportunity to attend one day. :-)

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