Designing change refugee artisans shine at Milan Design Week

Making Knots – Fuorisalone, Milan Design Week 2024, Italy

At the heart of Milan Design Week’s Fuorisalone 2024, an event known for showcasing cutting-edge design, lies an installation that transcends mere aesthetics, promoting a cause with profound social significance. “Making Knots”, conceived by Gianpaolo Venier of OTTO Studio, stands as a testament to the power of design to drive positive change.

The installation, housed within the “Le Stanze” showroom, serves as a creative collaboration between Venier and a group of Afghan and Syrian refugee women. Here, the craft skills of these resilient artisans take center stage, transformed into vibrant pom poms, braids, and upholstery under Venier’s guidance.

But “Making Knots” is more than just an artistic endeavor; it’s a beacon of hope for refugee artisans striving for economic autonomy. Through the MADE51 initiative of UNHCR, these artisans are provided with opportunities to showcase their skills on a global platform, enabling them to reclaim their independence and share their stories with the world.

Federica Borgobello, CEO of SpaghettiWall, emphasizes the project’s social responsibility, stating, “We are entrepreneurs, architects, design enthusiasts, but we are first and foremost people, with values and a social responsibility.” This sentiment underscores the commitment of SpaghettiWall to support those affected by armed conflicts, using their platform to advocate for positive change.

In addition to showcasing the artisans’ creations, the installation serves as a catalyst for fundraising efforts in support of the MADE51 project. Visitors are invited to contribute through free donations via a dedicated QR code or by participating in a silent auction of unique customized pieces, with proceeds directly benefiting refugee artisans.

Chiara Cardoletti, UNHCR representative for Italy, the Holy See, and San Marino, expresses gratitude for SpaghettiWall’s support, highlighting the vital role of initiatives like MADE51 in promoting the economic inclusion of refugees. “With a growth as rapid as it is constant, the number of people fleeing conflict and persecution in the world has exceeded 114 million,” Cardoletti remarks. “MADE51 offers refugee artisans the opportunity not only to return to income and thus re-establish their independence but also to express their talents and utilize their skills.”

As visitors engage with “Making Knots” and learn about the stories behind each creation, they are reminded of the resilience and creativity of displaced communities worldwide. Through the fusion of design and advocacy, the installation inspires dialogue, empathy, and action, reaffirming the transformative potential of design in addressing pressing social issues.


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