Rossana Orlandi - Milan, Italy

Ini - Se 1.jpg

It’s no secret that Milan is a mecca for fashion. Likewise the city is central to design. The annual Salone del Mobile Milano and Milan Design Week draw the world’s best in the design industry - architects, product & interior designers - and, like its renowned fashion week, a good sprinkling of fashionistas too. On this trip to Milan I attended my first Milan Design Week, although I confess “week” is a bit generous. My trip was a weekend jaunt only so my design “week” experience was an abbreviated yet fulfilling course.

Salone is the premiere event during this week but other design exhibitions throughout the city mark this week as a citywide festival of design. I went to Milan for one such exhibition in particular - to see Nigerian American designer Ini Archibong’s new collection with Se. The furniture collection was on view at Rossana Orlandi, a most extraordinary design space and gallery in Milan.

Archibong collaborated with Se on the luxury furniture company’s fourth collection (‘Collection IV’) to create a 22-piece collection of indoor and outdoor furniture and lighting titled Below the Heavens - a reference to the threshold between earth and heaven. (Se released the first half of the collection in 2018). In line with the theme of the heavens, Archibong assigned celestial names to his pieces, inspired by mythology (the ‘Icarus’ chair and ‘Heracles’ table) and spirituality (the ‘Oshun’ sofa after the Yoruba deity). The furniture also takes on a very natural effect: Typical spindly furniture legs are replaced with legs which resemble smoothed stones (this is especially evident on his tables and chairs). The wood grain of those pedestals was still visible thereby underscoring the natural element of the collection.

Rossana Orlandi was a gallery space like I’ve never seen. Through the main entry you walk through a garden with gorgeous blooms both planted and arranged on tabletops in alluring bouquets. Above the luscious garden hung lanterns with colored lights that fluttered on and off to their own rhythm. In the garden guests lounged and sipped an assortment of Italian spirits. Conversation flowed freely. This was a pleasant cacophony of sights and sounds.

Onward from the garden stroll a series of rooms spread out - each functioning as an exhibition space for a design collection. The space which housed Below the Heavens was designed to resemble an apartment in Paris I felt the walls of the “apartment” in particular, with distressed concrete and chipping plaster, bestowed this effect. The textured walls juxtaposed a sensual furniture collection without hard edges. They grounded me in the present while Archibong’s curvaceous and cloud-like display elevated my spirit upward. View the collection from Se here.

Nadia Sesay