Louis Vuitton Reimagines the Voyage at Milan Design Week With Latest Objets Nomades Creations

It’s after midnight on a Wednesday in Milan, but it feels like New Year’s Eve. A swell of stylish patrons spills out of Bar Basso, the historical spot credited for inventing the now-viral Negroni Sbagliato (a softer take on the classic, which replaces gin with Prosecco). It’s the place to be after hours during Milan Design Week, as evidenced by the huge crowd of designers, artists, and creatives raucously toasting to their passions with oversized goblets on the sidewalks outside.

Salone del Mobile, the annual furniture and design fair, descends on Milan for one week in April. Its many offshoots, which encompass Fuorisalone, come alive in the city’s most unexpected venues—from uninhabited palaces to former factories. And unlike Fashion Week, which is invite only, Design Week (or simply Salone) is open to all. The Milanese drink it up.

Palazzo Serbelloni, a Neo-Classical palace briefly inhabited by Napoleon, is one such venue—transformed for the week by Louis Vuitton as a showcase for the house’s multi-faceted Salone presentation. Part ephemeral installation, part furniture showcase, Vuitton invited collaborators to explore what its codes of travel could mean for design.

In the palazzo’s arched courtyard, French architect Marc Fornes imagines a larger than life bubble-like sculpture mimicking the shapes of underwater coral for guests to get lost in. It’s a perfect example of what the house calls “nomadic architecture.”

Up a spiral staircase, and displayed in contrast to the palazzo’s many-frescoed ceilings, is the latest exhibition of Vuitton’s Objet Nomades, a collection of modern furniture and homewares that has grown to 60 pieces since its inception in 2012. Objet is an ongoing collaboration between the luxury house and internationally-renowned designers including Marcel Wanders, Raw Edges, and Campana, who have been invited to create pieces inspired by the idea of bringing far-flung worlds home. Of this year’s 11 new additions, four are designed by Swiss design firm atelier oï, who explored the possibilities of working with Vuitton’s signature leather.

Quetzal by atelier oï.

Case in point: flying atop the exhibition is a group of decorative mobiles designed in the shapes of South American Quetzal birds. Thirteen twisting feather-like strips are covered with pieces of Vuitton leather—blue on one side, green on the other, with their edges dyed red. The final feather, longer to give the mobile balance, is covered in red leather and recalls the birds’ vermilion breasts. Their magic is in their movement—tropical birds perpetually in flight.“ When you observe the Quetzal, you can feel like you’re in South America. It’s not the object travelling, it’s the object showing you a moment of travel,” says Aurel Aebi, who helms oï alongside Armand Louis and Patrick Reymond. The Quetzals are exhibited alongside origami leather bowls ingeniously made from a single cut of leather twisted and molded into a circular shape. Both are examples of what the oï team calls “storytecture”—transforming materials to tell stories in unique ways. In the case of working with leather, the oï team references the material’s inherent pliability as a root for organic experimentation. “People say form follows function, but we say it follows emotion,” says Aebi.

Piva Lamp by atelier oï.

Another of Vuitton’s collaborators, Atelier Biagetti, explores through its creation of the Flower Tower, a glowing column lamp inspired by Vuitton’s iconic monogram. “Another way of travelling is through your mind,” says Laura Baldassari, one half of the multi-disciplinary design studio which she helms alongside her husband, Alberto Biagetti. Made from hand-blown Italian glass, the tower’s light source appears to be levitating—a result of ingenious, upward-facing rings of LED lights which are then reflected and diffused within each column of glass. “We wanted to design something that is not a lamp; it’s an object that is pure light,” says Biagetti. “From a certain point of view, people might think it’s not a lamp, but a luminous sculpture.” Positivity is the ultimate inspiration for the duo, who previously created a table inspired by sea anemones for the Objet collection. “We think the stories behind the objects are more important than the objects themselves,” says Baldassari. “They’re like actors in a scene—they can tell many stories.”

All images courtesy of Louis Vuitton. Still life images: photographed by Philippe Lacombe.