Behind The Scenes At The IKEA x Rinse France Takeover At Milan Design Week

Celebrating firsts with an innovative week of music and style.

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Video via YouTube

For this year’s Milan Design Week, the Italian style mecca played host to brands from all over the world who’d flocked to the northern Italian city with exhibitions, galleries, showcases, and parties. 

Among those was IKEA, the Swedish titan who returned to the Padiglione Visconti venue for the second time since they started coming to the week-long event in 1995—this time in partnership with Rinse France. Together, thanks to the design work of architect Midori Hasuike and spatial designer Emerzon, they transformed the 1244-square metre venue into something between a gallery, showroom and nightclub. Their partnership brought together the striking visual designs IKEA is famous for with the up-to-the-minute club pedigree Rinse France specialises in and it was a real collaboration that went to the heart of IKEA’s long-standing relationship with music. “Back in the 1970s, they sold instruments at IKEA,” says Marcus Engman, IKEA’s Creative Director. That was the real start of it,”

For the music element of their week-long installation, they went straight to Rinse FM France with whom they’d recently worked with at Paris Fashion Week, where they’d sourced 35 local acts to perform. “We were looking for someone who knew the French scene,” Marcus tells me of the PFW collab, “and we were recommended Rinse, of course. So we spoke to Manare, and Manare is a lovely guy. For us, it’s a lot of finding people that we feel that we could resonate with, someone who could also teach us things and also knows the scene. It turned out really well, I must say. I’m really happy about it.”

Hoping to repeat that success, they turned their attentions to local acts to connect the music element with the theme of ‘firsts’. “We’re seriously trying to mirror the music of Milan,” says Erik Olsson, IKEA’s Art Director. “Last year, we really tapped into Milan’s rave community and that was wild. That’s very unexpected for IKEA. This year is even more surprising because we’ve tapped into so many different kinds of groups.

“There is no guestlist, there is no VIP section, there is nothing like that. All the crews are bringing someone that’s completely new in the game or someone playing their first track ever, so we’re trying to really focus on that idea of firsts with the music.”

Marcus has long been embedded in the music world. In fact, although his father was Head Of Design at the furniture brand, his passion for music stretches back and the same goes for IKEA. After leaving home at 19, his first career was just as visual and just as creative, surrounding himself with musicians and bands for whom he’d design their album covers, a passion he reignited when he returned to the company.

“We started off looking into what people are really interested in,” he says. “I’m sad to say that people are more interested in music than they are in home furnishing, and they’re more interested in fashion and other things. Then we saw we didn’t want to become a musical company or a fashion company, but we wanted to learn how to resonate with the crowd. That’s why we started looking into what could we do within music and how could we get an influence from out of that.”

With this event, Marcus, Erik and the rest of the IKEA team wanted to tell the story of all the firsts involved in creating a person’s first home: first flat, first keys, first decor choices, the first opportunities you have to make a home in your own image. That first trip to IKEA to stock up in furniture is almost a ritual, but for many, it’s also becoming a luxury.

“I realised that, right now, there are so many people who can’t leave home but want to leave home,” says Marcus. “The economic situation makes it almost impossible to do it and it’s having a big impact on the mental health of young people. It’s never been worse. That was something that we wanted to shine a light on. Maybe also because what we do here in Milan is partly, internally, for IKEA to focus on the first home because first-time homeowners are the ones who have the biggest needs right now. There’s so much more we could do for students. It would also be nice to maybe do designs and actually do solutions together with the students instead of them just coming to us and buying things. We’ve never done that, but it would be fun.”

Adding to that, Rinse France founder Manare adds: “Firsts is such a strong statement, and there’s just so much to play with. Whilst we wanted to highlight some of Milan’s finest acts, it was super important to give a platform to young, up-and-coming talent and creatives for this project. It is built in our DNA to help new artists and collectives.”

Here’s what went down in pictures...

Large '1st' sign lit in red, evoking a sense of urgency or importance

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