EN/ Maison&Objet jan’12: consolidation and cautious optimism

The Maison et Objet has just closed its doors, it was held in Paris-Villepinte from January 20th to 24th, 2012.

This B2B International fair gives twice a year the sector assessment about decor / design for home, furnishing and fashion (Milan’s Salone del Mobile is more turned on cutting-edge innovation, creation and furniture). Here are some key points that we have spotted.

Two key findings :

  • A very high quality session (regularly increasing over the past few years) as well as commercially positive, after fall’11’s relatively « flat ».
  • Dictatorship of style has ended. No more « mainstream » except consistency need and search for meaning. Therefore companies have free rein to work on their own identity on the basis of their expertise, their history, their market. This is what European consumers expect from them.

  • From a business perspective:

This session has been considered rather positive by exhibitors (for some even « the best of the last 3 years ! ») -although caution is the rule until the commands have not been confirmed- in this suffering sector. The synchronization with the period of annual french sales discount has not had a negative impact on sales. Asian buyers were very active on the fair.

  • From a collections perspective:

High quality collections.
Industrials have confirmed their focus on simplicity, purity (baroque has disappeared); it means a streamlining from European companies on their real expertise, together with an increasing workmanship and finishing.
Many companies have considered the need to work on the consistency of their brand; therefore they are less willing to put designers signatures before their values.
We witness an intense research on materials : most of manufacturers try now to stand out internationally by highlighting their inner skills, and by increasing quality, and sometimes by putting forward their intimate link to crafts.
Few breakthrough innovations: they tend to consolidate what they know (careful careful !) using high tech but to make it disappear, as a function or as a mean to improve production processes and customization/order on-demand (dramatic increase of 3D printing, generalization of digital cutting …).
Numerous furniture companies get back to their archives to re-release old classics.
No more greenwashing. Eco-design is there, but in pervasive way: it is never mentioned (it might look like a « foul taste »…).

  • From a trend perspective (necessarily subjective and difficult exercise, do not hesitate to share your insights!)

Few « unbridled creativity », despite the theme « crazy », announced by the organizers of Maison & Objet. Reasonable products, sleek, timeless… to meet public expectations.
Hard (and unsuccessfully) to describe a « trend »: codes are now mixed between periods, references, styles … the classics are reinterpreted … but always in a quirky way (the objects are inclined or de-structured to differentiate themselves). Some point to the need of consumers to create « parallel universes » (like Lewis Carroll’s) to relativize the real life, to create an own hidden place…
Confirmation of a return to noble materials (raw wood, stone / marble, wool, porcelain, and cork everywhere, everywhere …), they gain in flexibility, lightness thanks to the new capacities of digital technologies that allow easier work of materials. Objects are made to be touched, sensed, to promote contact (a lot of felt).
Big comeback of plexiglass, treated in a contemporary way to play transparency effects, juxtaposition of vibrant colors.
Need of personalization and of subtle differentiation: individual wants to differentiate itself, but not in an ostentatious way … Similarly, discreet eccentricity through a detail or a defect in the object (to counteract the situation, the end of the world?). Use of crafts techniques: knitting, crochet …
Structured forms but asymmetric, feet are discrete, the seat comes off the ground, giving a feeling of levitation. Shapes of the 50s and 70s are now everywhere …
Colors are decided and united: bright, acid (pink, green, blue, yellow, red) but mixed above all…
What conclusion to draw out of this? There is no « mainstream » except consistency and search for meaning! These are what you should (shall ?) search for your identity!

  • On the specific sector of ​​design producers:

The « Now! » exhibition hall dedicated to contemporary design presented some thriving new producers, with products usually manufactured in France or Europe, on modest scales. To be noticed for example the now well-known Esé, Petite Friture, Eno, La corbeille, Moustache, Domestic, pursuing their search for meaning and coherence in everyday objects with consistency and rigor. But also the very recent by Marcel, Superette, Objekten, Haymann (please forgive me for the ones I forget).

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