Why Milan?  New Zealand Designers Reflect



Phil Cuttance, David Trubridge, Well-Groomed-Fox, Rod Fry, Simon James, Designtree, and Punga and Smith


Why Milan? New Zealand Designers Reflect is a collaborative exhibition project and magazine feature presented by Objectspace and Urbis magazine.  The exhibition is an opportunity to see a selection of works that seven leading New Zealand designers have chosen to take to the prestigious Milan Design Week – arguably the biggest design fair in the world – over the last seven years, to showcase their work to an international audience.


Why Milan? is also an opportunity to hear the exhibitor's assessments on the value of showing at a very high profile international event that annually attracts the design world’s elite.  Collectively their reflections provide valuable insights for the local design community and other New Zealand designers setting out to position themselves within the international market.  David Trubridge, a regular exhibitor at Milan design week over the last ten years, says 'Milan is by far the best place to build reputation in the design world because it attracts all the international press as well as buyers and dealers.'


All of the exhibitors in this exhibition realise the potential value of showing their work internationally, although it is somewhat inevitable that the considerable costs involved in travelling, shipping work and exhibiting at a major commercial event create a lot of pressure.  Designer Simon James says, 'it was a huge learning curve in terms of setting up the correct business model for New Zealand exports.'


So is there is a catch?  Although Milan Design Week is undoubtedly a great opportunity for emerging and establishing designers, some say Milan Design Week is becoming overrun with big budget commercial projects that threaten to swamp the smaller name designers.  Partly for this reason, Trubridge says his time showing in Milan is nearly up, 'it is very expensive and I think that now there are better ways that I can use that promotion budget … creativity is delicate precious flower that blooms in free spaces. It does not survive bombast or power games.'


What does become clear is that New Zealand designers are currently very highly regarded internationally and it is obvious that this is in part due to some of the designers featured in this exhibition.  Of course, to survive and to thrive in the current market both locally and internationally, designers have to stay on the ball.  Perhaps most important of all in the current economic climate is maintaining a sense of optimism and an absence of self doubt. This is suggested by Phil Cuttance, who, when asked if New Zealand can keep up with the New Zealand heavyweights says, 'yeah, of course, we are our own worst enemies.'

David Trubridge, Grow Lights (Hinaki, Flax, Koura, Kina), 2010. Image courtesy of the designer.

Simon James, Miss M Chair, 2003. Image courtesy of the designer.