Maria Porro at the Teatro Lirico in Milan

New perspectives

Maria Porro is the president of the Salone del Mobile.Milano, which will take place this year in Milan from 7 to 12 June 2022. In an interview she told us what she is focusing on at the moment as well as what visitors can look forward to.

Anna Moldenhauer: Maria, this year the Salone del Mobile.Milano is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Your family has run the Porro S.p.A. design brand for generations, so you have experienced the international furniture trade fair since you were young. Over the years the fair has changed a lot, but has always been open to new formats, for example in 2021 in the form of the supersalone. Now you are moving on from there – what is the Salone all about now and what plans do you have for the future?

Maria Porro: Everything has changed for us in the last two years and that's why we're faced with the task of questioning the core of what we do: Why do we organise trade fairs? I think the crucial point is that the Salone del Mobile is not just an international furniture trade fair, but a catalyst as well – a vibrant cultural event. Year after year, the event manages to light up Milan and gives the city the opportunity to reposition itself. At the same time, the Salone takes place over a short period of time in a specific place. That's why I think it's very important to build lasting bridges, both economically and culturally. The responsibility of the Salone del Mobile is to accelerate the process towards sustainability and then to put the ideas we've come up with into practice. The Salone links different approaches and provides a platform, i.e. a blank sheet of paper for creative expression. At the same time, it makes us think about the direction furniture design needs to take in the future.

There are also people who voice a wish for a return to the Salone del Mobile's glamour days. Do you think it's possible to bring these two approaches together, i.e. both the show and sustainability?

Maria Porro: Yes, I think it's possible, even if it's certainly a challenge. The Salone del Mobile is like an organism that consists of many different approaches that we have to shape and mold. This year we are giving the manufacturers guidelines to encourage sustainable presentations and are trying to initiate a collective change. The nice thing is that most participants have already taken steps on their own to change their production in a sustainable sense. So changes are already taking place. Our task now is to help speed it up. I know how difficult it is to change investments, processes and ways of thinking in a company; it can't be done overnight. But it is possible.

Anna Moldenhauer, Head of Editorial Department at Stylepark Magazine, in conversation with Maria Porro, President of the Salone del Mobile.Milano

You bring a wealth of experience in stage design, communication and event management from the career you had before the Salone del Mobile. Can you tell us which special exhibitions are planned for the 60th anniversary?

Maria Porro: We're showing a 1,400 square-metre installation by architect Mario Cucinella at the fairgrounds in Hall 15 as part of the S.Project, which is a virtuoso ecosystem representing an ideal future of living. This is not only an exhibition, but also a place where people can get together – something the Salone del Mobile wants to do for the visitors. To this end, we will have discussion rounds led by Maria Cristina Didero, Beatrice Leanza and Chiara Alessi. In the city, in the Sala delle Cariatidi of Palazzo Reale, we will show a site-specific film installation dedicated to “11 values” that have always been part of the event's DNA. There will be 11 auteur films by 11 renowned Italian directors, who have each interpreted a key word according to their own style and transformed it into an auteur short film. In addition, our collaboration with the Fondazione Teatro alla Scala will begin again. This year, the Salone will open with a concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Lorenzo Viotti, followed by a ballet with Roberto Bolle, one of the best ballet dancers in the world.

Our daily lives have become more complex and faster since the beginning of the pandemic. We work in an increasingly hybrid way, personal meetings are less common, so we also travel less. In addition, since Russia has attacked the Ukraine, we now have war again in Europe. Organising an international furniture fair at this time must be a huge challenge. What is particularly important to you regarding the concept of this year's Salone del Mobile?

Maria Porro: The Salone del Mobile is supposed to be an opportunity for the industry, but it must also go far beyond this. It's no longer about being as big as possible and funnelling crowds of people through the halls. It's about enabling new perspectives, about acting more consciously. This means that we have to work hard to be able to offer something that people want to come to us for. The quality of the event has to be the priority.

You grew up in a family business and now, as director of the Salone del Mobile, you can combine both worlds. Which aspects would you like to connect?

Maria Porro: The fact that the board of the Salone del Mobile is made up of entrepreneurs is, in my opinion, something very special, because the manufacturers perspective' is always crucial when deciding what the Salone del Mobile should offer. At the same time, the Salone is very diverse and serves as a framework for the entire furniture industry; it's a great opportunity. I try to do my part in the overall scheme of things, but I'm not alone out there. Instead I stand side by side with the companies as part of the panel and our associations.

When you became the President of the Salone del Mobile, many people thought it wasn't only your expertise that was worth mentioning, but also your young age and the fact that you're a woman. Do you find it important to emphasise these aspects?

Maria Porro: No. There are many fantastic women in our industry – designers, architects and entrepreneurs. I'm proud and grateful for the trust placed in me, and that the board of Federlegno Arredo Eventi has decided to entrust me with the task of managing the Salone del Mobile. But I work together with my team, so it's not just about me.

Salone del Mobile
7 – 12 June 2022

Milan Fair | Rho
20017 Rho MI, Italy