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Why Salone del Mobile Is Irresistible for Luxury Brands

This week, designers, collectors and major fashion brands will flock to Milan’s design fair. Also, LVMH reports first-quarter sales.
People visit the design exhibition “Vieni a vedere” by Gaetano Pesce at Bottega Veneta flagship store.
This week, designers, collectors and major fashion brands will flock to Milan’s design fair. (Getty Images)

Milan’s Salone del Mobile design fair has taken on new proportions in recent years. In addition to luxury furniture makers courting decorators and their wealthy clients, it now attracts scores of fashion brands looking to make a splash among top-spenders. Proposing a 360-degree luxury lifestyle to their wealthiest customers is an bigger focus than ever this year as aspirational customers continue to spend less.

Salone doesn’t officially start until next Tuesday, but this year the fashion action will mostly be over by then: brands are trying to squeeze in their moments before tastemakers and top clients decamp for the Venice Biennale, where previews begin Wednesday. Armani/Casa’s opening dinner will be Saturday, followed by a flurry of fashion events Sunday and Monday.

A handful of luxury fashion brands have actually built substantial businesses in home design: Loro Piana’s home universe has seen real success in recent years, anchored by its expertise in top-end fabrics for upholstery. Hermès produces a full range of furniture in addition to its best-selling H-logo pillows and leather tchotchkes. Armani/Casa, Versace and Fendi also feature established furniture and homeware extensions.

But even as sales of luxury homeware show promise, the focus for many brands during Salone isn’t on conversions, but being part of the conversation. Prada, for example, recently launched a new homeware range, but that collection won’t be the focus during the fair: rather the brand will stage the third edition of its “Frames” symposium, a series of talks which “delves into the complex relationship between the natural environment and design.”

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Brands also just understand the power of hosting influential people, particularly during Salone when the Italian spring creates a potent backdrop for gatherings. It’s a big moment for cross-industry networking, as the event tends to draw a broader range of people from culture- and design-adjacent fields (architecture, fashion, design, art, media and marketing) than more insular events like fashion week or Cannes Lions.

One activation to watch will be Gucci: the decor for new designer Sabato De Sarno’s first flagship store in Milan hinted at a passion for Italian post-modern design. Exploring that avenue could add texture to the brand’s reboot after a year of palette cleansing.

Earnings Kick Off

As brands stage frothy events in Milan, they’ll be gearing up for sobering news, too. On Tuesday, sector leader LVMH is expected to report a further slowdown, with sales growing 3 percent according to analysts. Smaller rivals who report in the following weeks are set to fare worse: Kering has forecast a 10 percent drop in sales; Burberry is also expected to post a double-digit decline.

LVMH’s commentary on when and how business might pick up in China and the US will be closely examined. In China, slowing economic growth and mounting trade tensions with the EU won’t help turn things around. Investors are also hungry for signs that the US luxury market has passed the bottom of the curve after sales pulled back from post-pandemic highs.

Additional reporting by Dan Thawley.

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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