From the rooftop of Martini Terrazzo, where Inax held its cocktails and dinner; a view of the Piazza del Duomo.
‘Duomo’ arigato!
WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - April 28, 2019 - 12:00am

Thanks to my sister Rose Anne C. de Pampelonne, who inhabits the world of interior design, I’d often hear about Milan Design Week during our family dinners.

Globally, Milan Design Week is recognized as the mecca, and biggest trade fair/design showcase of its kind. So to be invited by Lixil Philippines to witness the participation of one of its brands, Inax, at the Superstudio Piu, in this year’s Salone del Mobile, was a rare opportunity to revisit this grand Northern Italian city while in the midst of one of its pillar events — Milan Fashion Week being one of the other times in the year this city plays host to visitors from all over the world.

At Salone del Mobile are Kenneth Cobonpue and your columnist flanked by Lixil Philippines’ Carlo Malantic and Emily Besavilla.

It’s been some two decades since the last time I was in Milan, and it was interesting to note how, with so many changes in the city’s landscape, there’s also something immutable about these great cities. The Piazza del Duomo still rules as THE tourist attraction, the Milan Cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II regally standing as the twin attractions of the piazza. The Obicà restaurant on the top floor of the Rinascente department store is a wonderful place to have a good Italian meal while enjoying a magnificent view.

Over at the Salone, I was more than overjoyed to bump into Kenneth Cobonpue, the lone Filipino exhibiting this year. He mentioned how this makes for eight years now of participating in the fair, and how it becomes more of a challenge year to year. Spread over more than 20 cavernous halls, the Salone was a beehive of activity; and off-site areas such as Superstudio, command their own audiences. My observation was how the main Salone site was more about selling and product displays, while off-site was more a mix of art fair, blending artistic vision with brand equity.

Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest active mall in the world, built in 1865.

Inax is one of Japan’s leading lights in sanitary wares and ceramics; proud of its rich 95-year provenance, its early association with Frank Lloyd Wright, and how it’s constantly updating itself, blending design and function. Chatting with Asia Pacific CEO Bijoy Mohan, he was happy to report that the brand is making the push to be present in more markets. A leader in Vietnam, and already in Malaysia and here in the Philippines; Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and India are all on the calendar within the year.

For those who aren’t aware, Lixil is the mother company, with Inax, Grohe, American Standard and Jaxson among the brands owned by the conglomerate. Lixil is an official sponsor of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and the Special Olympics. Rather than merely compete with each other, the Lixil “umbrella” allows the brands to complement and share technology and design. They expand and dilute to sharpen the essence of each brand — and the Design Awards they continue to reap would seem to substantiate the system.

One of the quirkier executions at the Superstudio site.

As it was, it turned out to be three glorious days of spring sunshine in Milan; filled with discovery, good food, art and design. The welcome cocktails and dinner hosted by Inax was held at the Martini Terrazzo, a stone’s throw from the Duomo; and it was a surprise to find a Jollibee branch on the ground floor of the building. Lixil is a Japanese company, and it was Milan Design Week, so I can only say “Duomo arigato,” thank you very much for having me.

Lixil Asia Pacific CEO Bijoy Mohan welcoming his guests to Milan.

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