When the Milan Design Week, which runs parallel to the Salone del Mobile, was born as a spontaneous event in the 1990s, nobody imagined it would become the strongest attraction during the annual furniture fair held in the Italian capital of design.
The Salone del Mobile, or the Milan's furniture fair, was launched in 1961 to promote Italy's furniture.
"Years later, a group of entrepreneurs decided that the exhibit space was not sufficient to express the growing energy of the design sector and had the idea to use their shops in Milan as free-entry showrooms," Paolo Casati, a new media designer that helps the organization of the event, said.
In the 2000s, what was then named as the Milan Design Week grew in size and international prestige, expanding here and there from shops and palaces in the city center to disused industrial buildings in peripheral areas of Milan, while conserving its spontaneous nature.
"In the course of a few years, the Milan Design Week contaminated the whole city, giving birth to a model that we can define today as scattered territorial marketing. This model is exportable so that we are thinking about applying it to the Milan Expo 2015," Casati said.
This year's edition of the Milan Design Week, which ends on Sunday, has counted over 900 events organized by some 700 international companies. More than 300,000 visitors from 130 countries and regions attended the event generating an estimated turnover of more than 200 million euros (277 million U.S. dollars).
The local government, universities and the numerous design schools of Milan also have a role in some of the initiatives. But the organization of the Milan Design Week is entirely based on the investments of private brands that can outsource the search of location, building up of contact with the local service system, setting up and communication of their events, Casati explained to Xinhua.
"What happens in the Milan Design Week goes beyond the presentation of new products that everybody can easily find online. International brands are expressing their energy here," Casati pointed out.
Costs for companies that need to rent a location can be 9,000 euros and up, while can be limited to a few hundred euros for those that already own a space in Milan. But there are also companies investing one million euros in the Milan Design Week, Casati noted.
Hyundai has supported the Milan Design Week as one of the main sponsors for four consecutive years "in line with the event's continuous tension towards new ideas and possibilities," Managing Director of Hyundai Italy Andrea Crespi told Xinhua.
In the past editions, the South Korean carmaker has presented a variety of installations and research projects. This year the company has decided to invest on young talents setting up an "inspiring and fruitful" cooperation with the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) design school, Crespi said.
"Year after year, investing in the Milan Design Week has proven to be a winning choice, a unique opportunity for the growth and notoriety of Hyundai in Italy," he said.
New opportunities have also been offered by the digital evolution that has enriched the Milan Design Week with many web-related initiatives over the past few years, he added.
"Companies have realized the importance of promoting themselves in different ways from the usual commercial activities," a resident who has followed the Milan Design Week from the beginning, Alessandra Salici, told Xinhua.
"Some 15 years ago, I used to work for a small communication company in a district of Milan that was quite lifeless, when I happened to get involved in the Milan Design Week," she said.
"Then I saw that the project was growing, with more and more brands asking designers to enrich their shops-windows with scenographic creations," she added.
Today that district in the southern part of Milan, which is called Tortona, has become one of the most lively and attractive zones of the Italian design, "thanks to the spontaneous enthusiasm of many people who have joint hands to make their city better," Salici said.