Ambiente, the largest, and most important trade fair for the consumer goods industry, is the launching pad for innovation and new trends. Taking place each February at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2016 Ambiente was host to 4,387 exhibitors from 96 countries in addition to 137,000 buyers representing 143 countries. Messe Frankfurt is also host to the well-known textile fair, HeimTextil.
Manufacturers introduce innovative, new products and trends at Ambiente and this year was no different. With guidance from Nicolette Naumann, Vice President of Ambiente, Pursuitist found many examples of outstanding design and innovation. The retro vintage look was also a popular theme at Ambiente in 2016, according to Naumann, from the color scheme selected to the design of the product itself.
This year, the world-renowned Italian architect and designer, Paola Navone, represented Italy, Ambiente’s partner country for 2016 (Great Britain will be the partner country in 2017), by curating a wide-ranging presentation that celebrated La Dolce Vita and reflected the broad spectrum of products offered by Italian exhibitors. Ms. Navone, who developed a line of tableware and furnishings for Crate and Barrel, created a temporary café at Ambiente called “Café Milano Milano”. Ms. Navone is known for having a special “savoir faire” when developing her designs, and for using textiles in unconventional ways, such as using leather as a textile. A Vespa she personally designed with the Dolce Vita theme was on display at the presentation she curated.
Pursuitist attended the five-day fair, walking no less than seven miles a day to tour every hall and floor in search of the latest and greatest products consumers can expect to see in stores in the near future.
Innovation and Function
Pursuitist found many innovative products that are sure to influence design trends moving forward.
The Zwiesel Kristallglas company introduced a full line of mouth-blown dishwasher safe crystal stemware and decanters that oxygenate the wine as it is poured inside. The collection, which includes glasses specific for red and white wine, combines a unique design with a useful function. The line was conceived and designed by Bernadotte & Kylberg, the Swedish design duo with Prince Carl Philip Bernadotte and Oscar Kylberg at the helm. The glasses, which have a worldwide patent feature a small crystal bubble (referred to as an an “integrated glass decantation sphere”) affixed to the center of the interior which results in the wine being oxygenated as is poured inside it. “The glasses have a great feel as you hold it in your hand,” said Prince Carl Philip, who added that the are both “timeless” and functional”. Alexander A. Kohnen of the International Wine Institute led an extensive wine tasting at the fair using the glasses. According to Kohnen, the Air Sense glasses are especially well suited for more complex wines.
Another innovative product featured at the fair was the all-in-one cook processor by KitchenAid that can cook and/or steam, puree, stew, fry and boil. Sold in Europe, this product is sure to be a game changer when it eventually becomes available for purchase in the U.S. sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Villeroy & Boch, the 268-year-old Mettlach, Germany-based ceramic manufacturer, launched a simple, yet practical line of dishes made specifically for eating pasta. The “Pasta Passion” plates feature an integrated hollow area where spaghetti can easily be spun around a fork. When not eating pasta, the hollow can also serve as a place to hold sauces, condiments or salad dressing. The plates, which stack easily, can be purchased for $39.95 for a set of two.
Italy’s Guzzini, which is well-known for its high quality acrylic kitchen and dining accessories, introduced an innovative flat water bottle that will fit inside any bag. The acrylic container that is decorated with ripples sculpted into its exterior was designed by Ron Arad. The size of a tablet computer, the container holds 1.5 liters of liquid and fits neatly inside a briefcase, handbag or backpack. When it is released in the U.S. this spring, the “Quench” stacking water bottle will retail for $19.95.
Rosenthal, the Bavarian porcelain manufacturer introduced a line of china offered in both beige and blue that takes a classical pattern but with a twist—an optical illusion is produced each time the plate is rotated or seen from different vantage points. Called the “Francis Carreau” collection, the new pattern interplays shaded and unshaded checked areas that are delicately outlined in gold, producing a kaleidoscopic effect. “Rosenthal’s very beautiful new service is very special,” commented Ambiente’s Naumann. “They took the classical form of a pattern they have had for a long time and depending on the light, it changes.”
Another innovative company presenting its products at Ambiente were the sleek furniture and accessories made of recycled leather produced by LindDNA of Denmark. Run by two sisters who are in their twenties, Bline and Mie, the company granulates scraps of leather before manufacturing it with a mix of rubber and water, which produces a water-repellent, easy-to-clean surface. Pursuitist loved the chair pads, which are priced at 95 euros each, as well as the desk pads and placemats, all of which have the look and feel of leather.
Reallum has reinvented the rolling pin with an ultralight aluminium design that is sleek while also being hygienic and non-allergenic. Made in Italy, the non-stick rolling pin, called the Mattarello, it resembles a long hollow tube with a rubber ball at either end. The tube, which comes in four different lengths and three colors, can be filled with warm or cold water before being used to roll out dough. The futuristic rolling pin will retail for 35 to 49 euros, depending on the length.
The Retro Look is Back
Pursuitist found many examples of products that were retro in design.
In furniture, Sieger Design, a manufacturer based in Germany, featured a tiny love seat with a built-in tray that is reminiscent of the seats with built-in liquor cabinets popular during the 1950s and 1960s. The retail price for these seats is between 400 euros and 500 euros, depending on the fabric selected.
Another favorite retro-themed product seen at Ambiente that was both innovative and functional is the Swiss Air-themed airline “trolley”. Produced by Aviatik, which is based in Switzerland, the company was founded and is owned by Simon Ludwig, a longtime (and current) Swiss Air flight attendant. The trolley can be used as a beverage cart or in an office setting and serve as a unique storage cabinet for hanging folders. The trolley retails for 1350 Swiss Francs and takes three weeks to ship to the U.S.
KitchenAid exhibited a fun line of retro toasters that caught our eye. The toasters, which were offered in a variety of retro colors featured removable baskets that hold the bread as it is toasted.
Richard Ginori, the bespoke Florentine porcelain manufacturer that was founded in 1735, showcased several of its beautiful designs including several that were initially created during the Art Deco period. For example, the Labirinto “Labyrinth” design was first created in 1926 by the company’s renowned designer Gio Ponti. The entire collection, which includes dishes, plates, bowls, vases, coffee and tea services, are hand-decorated by the Manifattura di Doccia and is offered in four colors. Richard Ginori’s famous “Catene” geometric design was also featured at Ambiente. Created by Ponti nearly 100 years ago, the chain-like design has been imitated throughout the industry.
Milan-based industrial designer, Giulio Iacchetti, showcased his line of innovative canvas chairs that resembled tiny beach cabanas from the 1920’s at the fair. The chairs, made in a red and white stripe canvas created especially for the fair, were featured at the Iacchetti-designed temporary cafe, “Café Remini Remini”, which was reminiscent of the Italian Adriatic Riviera.
Carrie Coolidge is a Pursuitist contributor based in Manhattan. From 2009 to 2011, Carrie served as Co-Editor of Luxist, the luxury lifestyle website at AOL where she ran the Luxist Awards, a program that honored the very best in fine living. From 1996 to 2009, Carrie was a Staff Writer at Forbes magazine, where she covered real estate, personal finance and the insurance industry, among other areas. Carrie is also the author of six books, including "The Business of America is Business". Follow her on Twitter: @carriecoolidge