Connection and Storytelling: Retail Design Lessons From Milan Design Week

May 2024 / By MJ Munsell, Jessica Thaemert, Marta Abas

Once again, the design world filled the city of Milan for an inspiring week of immersive brand experiences and events.

Global Home, Auto, and Fashion created a variety of unique and memorable moments ranging from large-scale tech-enhanced pop-ups to full-scale lifestyle installations to smaller room-sized experiences with hand-crafted products. The common thread among these experiences is the commitment and success of building a connection between the brand and the consumer through crafting multi-sensory and imaginative interactions.

Our standout experiences from this year’s city-wide events were…


The anticipation around Alcova every year lies not only in the chance to explore the unique and crumbling beauty of bygone days but in the curation and individualized setting that each artist creates to display their work.

This year was no exception as two abandoned and historic villas, Villa Borsani and Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, became the sprawling architectural backdrop. Featuring over 80 independent exhibitors from all over the world, the immersive and otherworldly locations allow you to “experience the intersection of design’s past, present, and future.”


“Wow…imagine living here.” Those thoughts surge repeatedly through your mind as you move with wide-eyed awe into each room of Bocci’s Apartment Showroom. So richly layered and dripping in their illuminated creations, you are instantly immersed in the brand’s lifestyle vision.


Located in the heart of the Brera district, Casa Mutina featured Ronan Bouroullec’s newest ceramic designs. The shape of Adagio “involves a play of interactions” between the tile and the wall, creating an expressive three-dimensional woven sculpture.

The showroom, designed by Patricia Urquiola, features floating walls and floors, allowing a flexible canvas for transforming space and showcasing ever-changing vignettes.

Paola Lenti

Walking into Paola Lenti, you feel a sense of calm wash over you. The hectic pace of the city fades away, and you are invited to feast on the extensive and colorful outdoor collections surrounded by greenery. This year’s space also featured Paola’s collaboration with Nendo, which used production cut-offs to create petal-shaped tables, lighting, and seating, calling “attention to nature as a source of inspiration for a more conscious and happier life.”

Moooi’s Custom Scent Making

“A Life Extraordinary” is Moooi’s yearly fantastical immersion into their world. This year’s event featured a scent-making machine, where after answering non-standard yet perfectly Moooi questions like “Do you want to go—Up / Down?” and “What surface are you drawn to—Sharp / Smooth?” your custom scent is created and bottled.

It was a unique and memory-making experience.

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana’s Dal Cuori Alle Mane exhibition transports visitors into a realm of opulence, where iconic high fashion is meticulously arranged in lavish, detail-rich rooms. Immersed in the essence of Italianità, deeply ingrained in the brand’s DNA, attendees embark on a journey inspired by the Arts, Music, History, and Tradition through the designers’ eyes.

As visitors wander from room to room, each space is imbued with a captivating wow factor, ensuring a continuous sense of awe throughout the journey. Each collector piece, meticulously curated, serves as a testament to the brand’s long-standing tradition of craftsmanship and storytelling.


Simply elegant is the best way to describe the Tacchini booth at Salone. Storytelling for each designer, process, and piece leads you into gallery-like room settings where each object feels celebrated and special in an understated yet refined curation.

CC Tapis

CC Tapis’ distinctive ethos shines brightly at their booth, showcasing a thoughtfully crafted collection. Collaborating with renowned designers, CC Tapis honors their commitment to hand-crafting techniques, contemporary design, and sustainable practices. The uncomplicated setting at Salone allows the products to command the center stage and effortlessly highlights each unique design.

Exhibition Design, Product Displays, and Retail

At Salone, exhibition design takes center stage. Visitors encounter innovative presentations of furniture, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, architectural materials, and decorative objects. This year, some of the most immersive experiences belonged to the bathroom category. Brands took the opportunity to create a sensory environment inspired by water, while others focused on creative ways to display their product. As retail designers, it is an enriching and inspiring experience to see how brands put their best foot forward in a global show where brands compete for the visitors’ attention.

What made all of these experiences great?

This year at Milan Design Week, we were awed by unique and holistic product environments that will undoubtedly build lasting memories and, therefore, a connection with the brand, no matter how large or small. 

Stories are told without words, curation and imagination inspire, and multi-sensory, immersive experiences build the strongest bonds.

Until next time, Milano!