Marva Griffin, make way for the youth

She's been involved with young talents and design for some time now: Marva Griffin is an institution in the world of design and interiors. Founder and curator of Salone Satellite – a successful formula that is running for the 20th consecutive year in Italy, 12th in Russia and just did the first in China – Marva is the type of person who firmly believes in individual talents and believes they should all, especially the lesser-known and younger ones, have the chance to show their work.

Of Venezeluan origin but now adopted by Milan, Marva began her career in PR at C&B – now B&B Italia – and then dedicated herself for many years to journalism and the organization of exhibitions. Here's what she told us from Shanghai, with all the enthusiasm of someone who loves design just like the very first day.


This year Salone Satellite made its debut in China. What's the balance of that experience?
Its the first time we're working with young Chinese designers and without a doubt this is a celebration of their work. The Salone Satellite formula is now fully consolidated: I invented and launched it 20 years ago in Milan and 12 years ago in Moscow, to celebrate young talents from Russia or former member nations of the Soviet Union. It's a call for fresh and innovative ideas. A chance for them to make a name for themselves with professionals of the field: this is where they go.

Let's zoom-in on China: are the designers there promising?
Just look at them: they're young and excelling, able to combine their historical and cultural heritage with a new DNA that is avant-garde and technological. For example one young talent presented a wooden lampshade decorated with a 3D-printed pattern. It's a beautiful thing when tradition and innovation come together.

You've dedicated yourself to scouting, how do you discover a new talent in design?
It's the fruit of a lengthy selection. At Salone Satellite in China I worked with the primary universities of the country, but I never do anything alone: there's a whole committee of experts dedicated to this purpose. Then there's a jury that assigns awards to young designers. Apart from the quality of the project being presented there's no doubt that personality plays a part in the selection process: it's a very important aspect in the world of international design. Usually universities start indicating the most talented names and at that point, together with the committee, we review the material received. There's many of us reviewing it; each with their own personal perspective and vision. 

Among the promising talents you discovered, who are you most proud of and why?
All the kids have talent: they're so young and have so much to grow and mature still. They will be the ones, in the future, to decree the strongest. It would be premature to evaluate them based on prototypes alone.

In what way has the world of design changed - and is still changing?
The world of design doesn't change, rather it evolves. It's fascinating to think everything in the world in which we live is designed, from the chairs in which we sit to our coffee spoon. Time determines a natural evolution in design, these days and increasingly it has the advantage of being sustained by technology.

What object of design do you particularly love (or more than one)?
So many: I'm in love with all design. Among the pieces I have at home I'd mention oval mirror Le Grand Transparent by Man Ray, the LC2 by Le Corbusier and the Vanity Fair armchair by Poltrona Frau.

Who are the designers in Italy we should keep an eye on?
It's impossible for me to make a list: they're all excellent, it would be unfair to mention names.

Can you recommend a book to read for a good background on design?
My advice is to read as much as possible of what has been written related to design: from essays to magazines, learning about its history. Luckily the world is full of high quality design-related books and magazines.

How do you stay updated on all that is design?
By nature I'm curious, which means I never stop looking around me: I visit museums, I never miss a fair, I read a great deal, I talk with people. I'm lucky to have the chance to travel a lot because of my work, and to visit many places where beautiful things happen, Salone del Mobile among them. I don't limit myself to design: these days there's a strong contamination and dialogue between art, design and fashion.

© Daniel Kuan

Can you describe a typical day for you (if there is such a thing)?
I'm always extremely busy, but the truth is I don't have a routine. Now for example I'm submerged in preparations for the next Salone Satellite in Milan, with over 700 young talents from all over the world. Then we're organizing the 20th anniversary celebration of Salone del Mobile in Milan, with a packed calendar of exhibitions and events. And all the people to meet: reporters, designers, producers. There's no break.

Do you live by any motto?
To quote Roberto Benigni: "Life is beautiful". You have to live it everyday!

Interview by Marzia Nicolini

© Tian Li
© Li Haiming
© Bi Qitong
© Weiwei Wu

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