Young designers explore the unexpected in Milan

Ecological packaging material made from seaweed, an instinctive children’s toy-set to promote the imagination, modular clothing that shifts according to shape and desire, and a clock that visualises the present by marking the passing of time, these were just some of the intriguing ideas presented by a team of young creatives in Milan.

This is the annual Lexus Design Awards, an ambitious project for the Milan Salone del Mobile created as a way of nourishing emerging international talent with typically thousands of entries from all over the world. This year the Japanese carmaker took over a former metal factory in the Tortona design district to exhibit projects by the 12 finalists.

The winning project, Agar Plasticity by AMAM, explores sustainable packaging using a gelatinous material made from red marine algae. The young Japanese studio worked with British designer Max Lamb to explore the material. Its flexibility means that it can be used for both cushioning and packaging; it can be ecologically disposed of and won’t harm marine line if it should drift into the sea.

Elsewhere, Myungsik Jan was inspired by the Korean ceremony doljabi when on a child’s first birthday a range of objects are placed in front of the toddler. What they choose is said to reveal their career. DADA is a modern interpretation utilising a range of natural blocks, cylinders and fabrics to also entice the child’s curiosity and imagine their future path.

Shape Shifters by Angelëne offers a new form of textile cutting for adaptable clothing to promote personalisation and reduce consumption and waste. With a masters in material futures from Central Saint Martins, studio founder Angelene Laura Fenuta looks at how modular principles can help create dynamic garments with embedded silhouette versatility.

We were also intrigued by Trace, a project by RCA graduate twins Ayaskan. This is essentially a clock that visualises the present by marking the passing of time through a liquid that changes colour under ultra-violet rays. Conceptualised by the London-based Turkish studio, here a UV light beam rotates around the face of the clock to mark every second, minute and hour, leaving a trace of colour as time sweeps by, then fading back to transparency.

Finally, Plants-Skin by Hiroto Yoshizoe is a moderately permeable ‘intelligent’ flowerpot that is made from coloured mortar coated with hydro-chromic ink. When the surface absorbs water the white ink becomes transparent and colour appears, the gradation revealing the level of moisture, so as to indicate when the plant requires feeding.

Nargess Banks

Read the full Milan 2016 report here

Find out more about the Salone Internazionale del Mobile for 2017 here

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