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February 11, 2013
Every year, Cosmit, the Italian organization behind Milan's annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile furniture fair, the ne plus ultra of all international design shows, holds a press conference for journalists from all over the world. Under the new leadership of Claudio Luti, CEO of Kartell, this year's conference was bigger than ever, and presented an unusually candid board of directors ready to answer questions about everything from China's growing influence to the future of Milan as the world's reigning design capital.

While the word 'preview' might imply that journalists are privy to the furniture pieces to be unveiled in April, this is not the case. Rather it's an opportunity for Cosmit to tout the show itself, in an effort to boost attendance and garner international attention in advance of Salone. Kicking things off, Luti and his board, comprised of company heads from other major Italian furniture interests like Flos, Poliform, Federlegnoarredo, and more, first made a couple announcements:

- On the show floor this year will be French architect Jean Nouvel's project "Offices for Living," the Pritzker Prize winner's repudiation of the "totalitarian nature" of closed space and bad design. Comprised of different scenarios unfolding over 12,000 square feet at Salone Ufficio, the portion of the show dedicated to office design, Nouvel's concept will undoubtedly present lessons gleaned from his many office building commissions, from CLM-BBDO in France in New York to Torre Agbar in Barcelona.

- For the first time ever, this year COSMIT has worked with the city of Milan to offer an all-inclusive ticket that encompasses public transport to the fair—located in Rho, a thirty-minute ride from the city's center, entry to the fair itself, and free admission to all public museums for all ticket-holding Salone attendees. This agreement is a much needed step in the right direction, since so many important events happen outside the trade fair, throughout the city, and creating an inclusive ticket will encourage even more people to come to Milan during the design week.

Once these announcements were made, the board of directors opened the floor to questions from the 95 journalists present. One point in particular that piqued the interest of the crowd was the talk of authentic design, and the need to fight the knockoff trade.

Q: What are we supposed to do with the Chinese, who copy everything, who are beginning to run the world, and who are very good at it?

Claudio Luti: Yesterday we had a meeting with entrepreneurs and designers to talk about what can be done against this. On one hand we should be very proud because the copies are only of the bestsellers of the world. But we should conspire to fight against this unfair competition. I would say those who copy are thieves, they steal work from companies who invest in research. I think the Chinese are beginning to change their minds, from the information I've gotten, they are beginning to think copies are no longer enough, that they should start making ideas themselves. Already now in the Chinese distribution system, if you go into the important malls you see the copies have been sent away by the Chinese themselves. We also have [the problem] on the Internet, with sites that sell copies. We should educate the world in understanding the difference and the effort in making something original or buying something original. The title [of the meeting] was "Be Original" and this is something we should all do. Remember how important it is to respect the original, there's an intrinsic value, there's an intrinsic quality. Every day of the year, remind people that what is original must be supported. Acknowledge the original and always buy the original. This is very important and obviously, the better the distribution, the better the partners, you can defend the originality, the uniqueness.

Following of this, Luti said, "My dream is to remain the capital of design and fashion. Even a small city like Milan has a lot of energy, and it's emblematic of a city that works. There's no Paris, there's no London, there's no Shanghai—Milan will remain most important thanks to Salone del Mobile."

"Crisis or no crisis, Milan goes on."

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