Brexit Uncertainty Causing Disruption for British Furniture Designers at Milan Design Week

March 18, 2019

The ongoing uncertainty over Brexit is causing havoc with UK furniture brands’ preparations for Milan design week, which starts 10 days after the country is due to leave the European Union.

With Brexit scheduled for 29 March 2019, and a no-deal exit still a real possibility, British designers and manufacturers are fretting over how they will get their products across the English Channel amid potential chaos on both ferry and Eurotunnel routes.

“It is a serious issue,” said Sheridan Coakley, director of British furniture brand SCP. “Most people work down to the wire on their designs and people are usually panicking to get their furniture there in the week before the show starts.”

Many British companies have decided to avoid showing in Milan altogether this year – although many of them are not openly blaming their decision on Brexit. SCP is among them.

“I think you’ll find there are a lot of companies not attending this year, probably not for any reason in particular, and certainly not because of Brexit,” Coakley told Dezeen.

Shipping delays could create “bottleneck at Dover”

Milan design week 2019 takes place from 8 to 14 April. As the most important event in the industry calendar, it centres around the Salone del Mobile furniture fair, which every year showcases products by over 2,000 brands.

Outside the main fair, many UK companies showcase their products at venues across the city as part of a programme collectively referred to as the Fuorisalone.

Brodie Neill, who is this year presenting his work in the Brera Design District, is among those with concerns about getting trucks over the ferry crossing between Dover and Calais.

The London-based Australian designer, founder of furniture brand Made in Ratio, moved his Milan shipment forward to avoid risk of delays.

“We’re going to verge on the side of caution,” he told Dezeen.

“We would normally expect a straight-through journey of about 30 hours, but we’re expecting that to be a lot more because of any bottleneck at Dover.”

Modus and SCP among British brands staying away

British brands that have decided not to exhibit at all this year include Lee BroomModusPinch and Established & Sons, as well as SCP.

Many brands that spoke to Dezeen claimed their decision was not motivated by Brexit. However one brand director, who wishes to remain anonymous, admitted that Brexit was part of their reason for staying away. Instead the brand plans to focus on launching new products in the UK and engaging with local customers.

“Brexit is definitely affecting our thought process as a business,” they told Dezeen. “Whilst it was not the overarching reason we chose not to participate in Milan, it does play a part in this.”

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