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  June 25th, 2014 | Written by

Mr. Chairman Does Milan

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In 2000, our company Emeco introduced its first new chair since 1944—a chair designed by Philippe Starck. We didn’t have the money to rent a stand at the famous Salone Internazionale del Mobile furniture show in Milan. Starck had a great idea, though, and he and I hired a panel truck and put a big photo of our new chair on the side. We parked outside the entrance to the show and got a LOT of attention and press coverage. I’ve traveled to Milan for that show for 10 days in April ever since.

This year Milan was more welcoming and beautiful than ever. The weather was, as all the locals said, “unusually” warm and sunny. I didn’t need any of the raincoats, wool jackets or thick socks I had packed. The apartment buildings in Milan have lush “vertical gardens”—on every balcony there are full-size trees, flowering vines that climb up the balustrade and dangle down toward the terrace below. My room on the 10th floor of our hotel had a rooftop view toward the Corso Magenta, and the hotel dining room served the outstanding breakfast I always look forward to, with fruit, cereal, eggs and naughty things like cookies, pecan tarts and chocolate Easter bunnies cakes. Milanese are very into pastries and it’s impossible to turn them down.

OKI SATO The Nendo designer on the Emeco stool he designed.
OKI SATO The Nendo designer on the Emeco stool he designed.

The day before the show started I put on my running gear and ran around Milan to watch the Milan marathon finish line that was near the Duomo, the more than 600-year-old cathedral that marks the center of Milan. I love being a runner—it’s such a great way to survey a town. I ended up in the charmingly restored Brera District, where the boutiques and chic furniture showrooms were setting up their displays for Design Week. The other design areas are Zona Tortona and La Triennale. At the COS installation at Via delle Erbe 2, I went to a great exhibit of designs by the Japanese designer Oki Sato of Nendo.

He is an acclaimed talent, and I understand why after seeing the range of his work. Sato designed the Emeco “SU” Stools that we showed at Salone this year and was an important part of our exhibit at the furniture show.

During the six days of Salone, which is held at a huge convention center about a 40 minute subway (“Metro”) ride from the center of Milan, there are events constantly happening in the Brera district. We had a nice lunch in a restaurant patio on a cobblestone street, then got on the Metro to go out and set up our stand.

We had a great team dinner at Bebel’s Ristorante at Via San Marco 38. Milan restaurants offer mostly seafood or beef and, strangely, hardly any chicken. I’m a brave eater, though, so I ate the octopus with potatoes—a popular spring dish—swordfish, calamari and a lovely shaved-artichoke salad with parmesan. In one restaurant in Brera, I asked for salad and the waiter, who spoke limited English, said, “No salad.” I asked “Chicken?” He said, “No chicken.” I said, “Fish.” He left. He came back 10 minutes later with a plate of whole sardines, thankfully without heads. I ate it.

FISHY The headless sardines served as Plan C for one of Gregg Buchbinder’s lunches in Brera.
FISHY The headless sardines served as Plan C for one of Gregg Buchbinder’s lunches in Brera.

My very favorite event was the Emeco party at Bar Basso. Bar Basso is owned by Maurizio Stochetto, a University of California grad who comes from a family with a tradition of making the best cocktails in Italy. Bar Basso is a small but always crowded bar in an out-of-the way corner of Milan that draws the architect and design crowd every night. It reminds me of my college days at the 901 bar near USC. Emeco gave out Bar Basso drink coupons during the day and our favorite press people, our dealers and Emeco fans all met and drank Negronis. I can’t decide which type I like better: Negroni Sbagliatos or Negroni Wrongs. Maybe they’re the same—you can’t tell the difference after you’ve had a few.

If you read this article and decide to come to Milan during Salone, come to the Emeco stand. I’ll give you drink tickets and we’ll meet at Bar Basso!

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