The recent Milan Design Week celebrated the relaunch of the wood furniture industry, which is showing some significant signs of vitality in terms of growth and exports thanks to companies’ strong concentration on technology and sustainability. Human capital training remains another important development factor, with the presence across the country of 15,000 students in 91 design institutes (universities and polytechnical institutes).
Recognizing the success of Italian design does not, however, mean ignoring the decades-old problems that have dogged the industry. The first concern is company size, since the larger a firm is the greater its capacity to invest and thus successfully meet the challenge of the ecological and digital transitions. The second is production lines’ ability to keep up with market trends by continuing to innovate and be competitive. Here Italy suffers a certain disadvantage with regard to attracting investments, and consequently has a deficit in marketing and storytelling capacity – and not only in the business arena but across the country system itself.
The Made in Italy label could capitalize better on the positive perception it enjoys among global consumers, starting with the well-known areas of tourism and culture; yet, as in other areas, what seems to be lacking is a systemic approach with oversight. Instead, a more complex system of horizontal relations leaves the various actors free to test solutions based on practice rather than on planning. This then triggers a process that can appear disorganized but that yields results thanks to a widespread ability to transform creative ideas into attractive, technologically advanced, durable and sustainable products. Aspects that are the essence itself of Italian design.
Therefore, the furniture sector must be viewed as part of a broader ecosystem that parses the Italian design culture across a range of contexts: from interior and urban furnishings to services. By systemically organizing all its strong points, design can continue to reap the benefits of a niche globalization that has brought success to many Italian firms. After all, while mass globalization has led to the de-industrialization of entire regions and sectors, countless Made in Italy success stories have found their level in important market niches that, projected onto a global scale, offer significant potential for growth and prosperity.