From Scandinavia to Milan: MA/U Studio at Milan Design Week

Milan Design Week leads to many new adventures. For Danish designer Mikal Harrsen, founder of MA/U Studio, it meant a move to Milan as MA/U Studio in 2017 came under the Italian Boffi umbrella.

De Padova made Danish design part of their legacy when they began selling Danish furniture in 1956. As a part of Boffi Group, they acquired 75% of the Danish Design Studio MA/U Studio in 2017, hereby establishing an even more solid collaboration between Danish and Italian design.

MA/U Studio was founded in late 2011 and to be partly acquired only 5 years later seems a both rapid and interesting development for a small Danish studio. Mikal Harrsen spoke to Nordic Design Trace in regards to the upcoming Milan Design Week, about how this partnership became a reality.

We first introduced the brand at Salone del Mobile in 2012 – so this was where it all began”

– Mikal Harrsen
Mikal Harrsen of MA/U Studio. Photo: Marco Reggi

Partnership with Boffi/De Padova

What is MA/U’s initial relation to Salone del Mobile/Fuori Salone?

“We first introduced the brand at Salone del Mobile in 2012 – so this was where it all began. Then, in 2013 we were in Milan, exhibiting at the Triennale di Milano as part of the GamFratesi curated exhibition ‘Danish Chromatism’”, explains Harrsen.

After 2013, however, the brand didn’t return to Milan until primo 2017, when the partnership with Boffi Group began. MA/U Studio and Harrsen chose to focus on the Stockholm Furniture Fair between 2014-2016.

“Ironically, the partnership between MA/U Studio and Boffi Group came as a result of our exhibition at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2015. Roberto Gavazzi (owner of Boffi and CEO of Boffi Group, red.) visited the fair for the first time, searching for potential collaborations within the Scandinavian design sector,” says Harrsen.

Photo: Tommaso Sartori

Why do you think a design studio such as MA/U became of interest to Boffi Group?

 “There were strong common denominators between the activities and designs of MA/U Studio and the ones Roberto Gavazzi had in his vision. I had focused on a very clear strategy and path for MA/U Studio. A path I felt was in line with emerging behavioural trends, in residential areas as well as in the contract markets. The strategy was easy to adopt into the existing activities of Boffi Group. Strong and clear advantages of a partnership were evident for all of us – and as it turned out, we got along nicely”.

Photo: MA/U Studio

Milan Design Week: “most important week of the year”

In Milan, the New Year in furniture design begins with the ‘Salone’. For Mikal Harrsen Milan Design Week has off course become increasingly important for MA/U Studio.

“This is our biggest and best opportunity to communicate our new designs, upgrades and commercial message to existing and potential new partners”

– Mikal Harrsen

“This is where we show all our novelties. In the days up to the official openings we are hosting presentations and dinners for all the partners of the Boffi Group brands, this is our biggest and best opportunity to communicate our new designs, upgrades and commercial message to existing and potential new partners”, he explains.

“Our two showrooms, in Via Santa Cecilia and Via Solferino, are both completely refurbished for the occasion every year – as we offer complete life style solutions, coordinated between all the brands of the group, it is not far from the effort of renovating two big villas! This is probably why these destinations are among the very most visited and popular in the city during this week in April. Added the stand at the fair grounds in Rho, our activities add up to probably 4000 m2. It´s a very big activity for us – it´s clearly the most important week of the year.”

Photo: Tommaso Sartori

What significance does Salone del Mobile have for you as a designer, on a more personal level?

“Massive groups of people tend to make me resign a bit, to be honest! I´m glad most of my time is dedicated to meetings with people that I have been looking forward to reunite with, many of them I see only rarely and some only on this occasion. Then of course I get to meet new wonderful people also. As a designer, do I get a lot of inspiration during this week? I don´t think so, too much in play to convert anything into creativity. A lot of the impressions from Salone kick in later on when we work on ideas. To me Salone is about revitalising – a new beginning for business, work and relations.”