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Salone del Mobile: Belgium is Design

The Benelux country used three different events during Milan's design week to show the creativity and innovation of its young designers

Belgium brought to Italy its unique style during Milan Design Week with three different events reunited under the “Belgium Is Design” moniker: the showcase of the 101% Designed in Brussels designers; the “Light and Lightness” exhibition and a view of the current research and experiments carried out by eight different designers from Wallonia and Brussels. The events – organised at the Pinacoteca di Brera and at the Salone Satellite – allowed visitors to discover different works including the latest ones developed by architect Julien De Smedt, interior architect Benoît Deneufbourg, artist Corentin Dombrecht, product designer Vanessa Hordies and industrial designer Julien Renault, while showcasing also the projects of the 25 designers selected since 2007.

The “Light and Lightness” exhibition under the loggiato of the Pinacoteca, wrapped for the occasion in white strips of ethereal tulle, focused instead on products and interior design objects analysing physical weight and philosophical lightness and tackling modularity, flexibility and accessibility.Products and prototypes included jewellery pieces inspired by Heaven and Hell by Stijn Van der Auwera’s stAen, lighting products by Tamawa and Gauthier Poulain, acoustical mobile phone boots and cocooning workspaces by Alain Gilles, Xavier Lust’s curved glass desk, bookshelves by Michaël Bihain and deconstructed bookcases by Bram Boo, glass candle holders and flower bowls by Oxygène, Marie Mees & Cathérine Biasino’s Alfred rugs and Mathias van de Walle‘s origami champagne bottle holder. One of the featured designers, Annick Schotte, created two lamps that displayed interesting connections with fashion and pattern cuttings. 

Dazed Digital: How did you get involved in this event?
Annick Schotte: When I got the brief from Giovanna Massoni, the Belgium is Design Head of Communication, and saw that it focused on light and lightness, I jumped at the prospect of taking the challenge and develop a project based on this theme. My first project was indeed a lamp based on a simple and foldable aluminium structure that you could “dress up” with a tyvek lampshade. I decided to experiment with the same concept, but apply it to a larger lamp, coming up with a new product, characterised once again by a flat aluminium structure and a pleated and twistable lampshade.

DD: There is a fashion element in your designs, what inspires it?
Annick Schotte: I’m first and foremost a designer and I studied industrial design. Yet one of my projects as a student was developing waterproof suits as I’ve always had an interest for pattern cuttings. In a way my lamps move from pattern cuttings since the lampshade is a sort of flat pattern cutting that becomes three-dimensional once you give it shape and put it on top of the aluminium structure that could be considered as the “bone” of the lamp but also as a flat aluminium pattern.

DD: Would you like to develop a piece with a fashion designer one day?
Annick Schotte: I would be really interested in applying knitting to one of my pieces. My father was an architect and I have seen architecture being applied to fashion, so I would love to be able to see what kind of results we could get by employing different textiles created by fashion designers for interior design projects.

DD: What makes the Belgium Is Design event so unique?
Annick Schotte: A lot of people seem to be interested in Belgian design and we have exhibitions about Belgium and design also in other places such as Paris or London. Yet this event has been particularly important since, for the first time, the three Belgian regional institutions in charge of design promotion shared the same venue, reuniting Belgium’s different souls. We indeed had Flemish and French designers showcasing together and representing Belgium’s unique mix of cultures and inspirations with Flemish minimalism and French elegance. 

DD: In your opinion, what’s the main aim or purpose of today’s design?
Annick Schotte: In Belgium we think that design is not only going to increase economic prestige, but can also generate direct benefits, improving people’s life and winning against poverty thanks to the creation of economic activities and jobs. Besides factories that are going to work with designers will create better and innovative products capable of making people dream but also of generating wealth. 

DD: What will you be working on in the next few months?
Annick Schotte: I will try and find a textile that can be put into form with heat and possibly develop the latest lamp I created, since in Milan I presented a prototype of this new model. I would like to create exclusive versions of my lamps, but, at the same time, I would also like to make sure ordinary people were able to buy my products since my main aim is making beautiful and intimate objects that could create a peaceful atmosphere and make life easier for everybody.