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April 16, 2010 5:04 PM

Eye, Fashion

A Democratic Salone

For a fashion journalist used to covering the grueling and elitist round of shows, being out and about during the Salone del Mobile furniture fair is like stepping into a different world. First of all, unlike with the fashion shows...

For a fashion journalist used to covering the grueling and elitist round of shows, being out and about during the Salone del Mobile furniture fair is like stepping into a different world.

First of all, unlike with the fashion shows where hysteria can break out over a seat number, the furniture fair, which attracts about 350,000 people to Milan, is much more democratic and relaxed.

Ditto for the attendance. As Giorgio Armani put it at the inauguration of his sprawling new Armani Casa store here, "People in the design industry make a younger crowd, less arrogant and pretentious compared to that of fashion."

Besides the actual fairgrounds, a mega area called Rho-Pero about a 30-minute drive from the center, the Salone del Mobile bubbles with about 500 open-door events where anyone can leisurely stroll in and out. Hence, the international vibe and the energy the city pulsates. And due to the visibility of the event, it's understandable fashion houses want to be part of the game and play along, either by presenting namesake wares or lending their stores and showrooms to artists, better if of the up-and-coming variety.

The scene is hopping and inspirational, underscored by an atmosphere of "fiesta" that has benefited from the sunny and mild weather. The six-day show ends on Sunday.

Huge colorful linen lamps tower over Via Montenapoleone, on the city's toniest shopping streets, while banners and quirky installations dot the city. Traffic gridlocks (chauffeured cars this time are few and far between) cross the city until midnight, stores are open into the night and hordes of people pack the streets.

Soaking up the newest in design is a truly mixed crowd where older men in pinstripes mingle with artsy-grungy types who mingle with Milanese signore flaunting bad highlights and fake tans. Will the Milan fashion shows follow suit?
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