Apr 12, 2013
Exotic wood and funky chairs star in Milan design week
Apr 12, 2013
MILAN - Wardrobes made from exotic Japanese wood by Armani, a brass and leather "Donatella Versace" chair and other "home" furnishings from Italian luxury designers were on show in Milan this week in an effort to woo wealthy tourists and high end hotel developers.
Fashion groups such as Versace and Armani diversified into home design decades ago in an effort to capture a bigger slice of the $750 billion global luxury goods market.
But they continue to add items from drinks coasters costing 100 euros ($130) to leather-covered wardrobes in an effort to lure buyers across the luxury spectrum from the aspirational European middle-class to wealthy Asians and property developers.
"We have always looked at distant parts of the world, but this is inevitable now with the economic problems in Italy," designer Giorgio Armani told Reuters at an evening presentation of his Armani Casa 2013/14 collection at his theatre in Milan.
Armani, who used natural but rare materials such as Japanese tamo wood for a trunk-shaped wardrobe and banana tree stripes for round gaming tables, has made home design an integral part of his group, which had total revenues of 6.7 billion euros ($8.77 billion) in 2011.
In 2003, Armani set up an interior design studio for private clients and real estate builders, which also worked with Indian prime property developer Lodha at the World Towers in Mumbai.
Global sales of luxury home furnishing rose 3 percent to 18 billion euros in 2012, according to U.S. consultancy Bain.
The sector grew below the average of the industry, as Europeans cut back on non-essential purchases. But analysts expect it to benefit from demand for all-round luxury services from travelers, who account for 40 percent of global luxury goods sales.
Hotel services, according to Bain, outpaced any other sector in the luxury industry in 2012, with global turnover estimated at 127 billion euros, up 18 percent on the year before.
Fashion houses at the design week, which includes an international furniture fair near Milan running until Sunday, used archive items to strengthen their brand image.
Some partnered with other designers on limited collections to satisfy the most demanding clients.
Platinum-blonde creative director Donatella Versace collaborated with Los Angeles designers Nikolai e Simon Haas on a "Donatella Chair", made of honeycomb brass and black leather.
Fashion house Missoni also presented outdoor furniture and a variety of textiles inspired by their trademark "zigzag" motif.
"Our chairs can even be used in a kitchen," Rosita Missoni, who started the family business with her husband Ottavio over half a century ago, said at a crowded cocktail event.
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