On the top of a trendy wave - or on the beach watching the splash of the waves?

Tapio Anttila

We made the annual designer pilgrimage to the megalomaniac Milan Furniture Fair. We usually go there to taste the trends of the big world, which burn the Finnish tongue used to the food made by mothers. For a designer, trends are a bit of a double-edged sword; you should follow them, but on the other hand do something timeless and your own. How can you get through this sanely and go back to producing trendy stuff that is nevertheless unique?



The Milan fair has been held as "The Fair" of the industry, where the world's best brands first present their new products. That is why it has been best for those in the field to go there to update their heads on what to expect from the latest trends. Our trend-sniffing noses have been blocked because of the coronavirus for a couple of years and were eagerly waiting for new scents.

This time, though, making a general conclusion about where the design is going was quite impossible. For some strange reason, the trade fair was more focused on the premium-luxury segment. In Finnish, for damn expensive stuff. If you were to judge the trends based on that, it would be like this: shiny, gold, silver, brass, marble, huge and plush sofas, quality and dark wood. Responsibility, rational use of space, versatility and innovation shined in their absence, which are perhaps more values of the mid-premium segment. Brands in this segment were missing - Scandi brands at the head of it.

Involuntarily, I started to wonder why the fair's offerings were focused on this more expensive end, and why right now? We have moved from one crisis to another and the economic situation is bad everywhere. This has certainly increased the polarization of design consumers. For the wealthiest, this situation in the world does not necessarily sway much, while at the other extreme, people act more and more price-oriented. It may be that after the coronavirus, fairs will generally look for a new form, as well as the world in a new crisis. In addition, generating trends and sniffing them out has moved more and more to the internet and social media, so the role of trade fairs might also be redefined. 


So I'm not going to guess based on these trade fairs what is the trendiest right now. And if you, the reader, have been able to read this nonsense until now, I urge you to refrain from it too. You're not in a hurry either, because one of the overwhelming features of trends is that they never end - there are always more of them and old ones disappear. Instead of colors and shapes, I would now look over the fence at megatrends. Responsibility has been looming there for a long time. It will definitely remain, but it also seeks new forms and concreteness. It is essentially related to longevity, the use of wood and transparency, and circular economy. Well - you already knew this, but how things are implemented is "THE" thing.

However, some conclusions could be drawn, as different segments always interact with each other and are influenced by each other. If the result of these fairs was luxurious, it still conveyed a certain homeliness and harmony. The proportions of colors and materials were carefully considered and they were in harmony with the whole - the end result was elegant. Plants that bring a lot of greenery were used as a finishing touch. The fair buildings did not so much resemble stands, but were like huge houses built inside the halls. Wood had been used very abundantly, but the overall look was not typical of wood's roughness, but the shapes were soft and varied. Today's robotic technology allows for more versatile wood processing, and it was really visible.


So can timeless be trendy? Or trendy timeless?

I would answer yes to both! Timelessness is responsible and if responsibility is a megatrend, then timelessness is trendy. A trendy piece can also be timeless, because a well-designed and made trendy piece of furniture serves as a good example of its time and can achieve iconic status as a representative of a certain style, in which case the definition of timelessness is fulfilled. Sound confusing? Well - that's certainly what it was... sorry.


As I stated at the beginning, trends are a bit tricky for a designer. You should follow a color, style, shape, etc. created by someone else, but still make something of your own. I admit that I follow what's happening in design, but I try to "forget" them when designing something new. This is a bit difficult to explain, but I let the subconscious mind do the work and the trends are somewhere there haunting the background of the creative work. I live in this time and yet I cannot close certain elements of this time in my expression. Maybe this sounded confusing too - sorry.

Colors are a typical trend thing that is talked about a lot. In my own design, they have remained quite neutral - at least for now. There are two reasons for that. First of all, I find it too easy to use trendy colors, because someone else has already defined them for me. Secondly, I try to make long-lasting products and strong colors don't always work for that. It is clear that people's needs and interiors change. I would like my furniture to withstand these changes and go with them for a long time. I am by no means against the use of colors, but I think about it more holistically through interior design. I would recommend that the colors be implemented in the interior through easier elements, such as curtains, carpets, loose covers, pillows or, for example, wall surfaces to be painted. Their colors are always easier to change and update than, for example, a more expensive sofa.

We Finns are a bit bad at the segmentation I mentioned in this article. That is, defining what is offered, how to target and address the customer base of one's own brand, and how to meet exactly their needs. In short, this can be called customer orientation, which I would offer as a new future trend. That is, we don't feed the customer from above what he needs to do, but we think about what he needs from the inside. Doesn't sound very trendy, right?


And the final relief. I once read an interview with Jasper Morrison, where the reporter asked how he follows trends. He replied: "I don't follow them at all, I create them". Pretty tough claim...

- Tapio