Meet Maria Porro, The Empowering New President of Salone del Mobile
In this edition of Empowered Women Empower, join us for a peek inside the inspiring world of Maria Porro the young, energetic, creative woman bringing new energy to the Italian-based Salone del Mobile.Milano as the first female President.
Maria’s branding is all about great designs that empower. While growing and renewing the way we see the interior design and home decor industry. “Our goal is a strong, united, inclusive, sustainable, and creative Salone del Mobile,” she says.
In September of 2020, Maria became President of the trade association for Italy’s furniture manufacturers. With a degree in Set Design from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, she comes as a breath of new life to Salone. Once again, arts and theater come hand in hand in design!
As a designer, organizer, and curator, Maria Porro has worked all throughout the world. Gaining inspiration everywhere and becoming the master of design and communications that we know today.
Read on to learn more about Maria Porro, her plans for Salone, and to be empowered!
Love Happens: As our name, and the tagline of our publisher KOKET denotes, at ‘Love Happens’ we are firm believers that you cannot achieve any level of success without love. When did your love affair with furniture begin? And how did it make you feel?
Maria Porro: It all started when I was a kid, since I’m the fourth generation of a family specialized in wooden furniture.
One of the first memories I’m very fond of is the one of my grandfather Carlo preparing the veneers used to cover our systems. And me as a child rummaging in this large metal container where there were all the wastes, to play with these enchanting wooden papers all different from each other. That’s probably my first attempt as a designer! My grandfather caressed the wood with his pianist’s hands. And with his mouth he could smell the humidity and the scent: from him, I learned that wood is precious and living matter and must be respected, that its defect is a merit. He passed on to me our family’s passion and knowledge of the material. Where we express our best in terms of research and craftsmanship.
Lh: Tell us a bit about your path and what led to your decision to become the President of Salone del Mobile.Milano?
Maria: It all happened step by step. In 2015 I became marketing and communications director of my family’s company, the historic Italian design brand Porro S.p.A. After serving on the Executive Board at Assarredo, strongly believing that teamwork and sharing of skills could lead us to achieve new objectives, I was unanimously elected President of the trade association for Italy’s furniture manufacturers.
Aside of this in 2019, I became a Board member of the Altagamma, which gathers High-End Italian Cultural and Creative Companies. Including the one of the design sector, recognized globally as authentic ambassadors of Italian style. I was then appointed President at the end of July as a natural evolution of my commitment in the months before as President of Assarredo.
Lh: We are living in a time where content is ever more digital and virtual, yet the world of furniture remains steadfastly physical. What do you envision the Salone del Mobile experience looking like 5 years from now?
Maria: I imagine a world always more digital. However, at the same time, I believe that we will still need physicality in almost all our actions. You need to touch a material, to sit on a chair, to lay down on a couch, to be immersed into and walk through an installation to really appreciate it with all your senses. So an event like Salone del Mobile can only live if it is real, not digital at 100%. And at the same time, it cannot be completely physical, for digital’s unique ability to cross the boundaries of space and time. We have to find the real “phygital” balance.
Lh: You are the first woman to hold the role of president of Salone del Mobile, congratulations! As an empowered woman, what motivates you to grow and succeed?
Maria: I believe that motivation to grow is human, not related to a specific gender. I’ve always tried to excel in my job, or studies, for a personal fulfillment. I’m the fourth generation and the first woman to lead my family company, Porro. But I see the same thing in many other companies. And I’m surrounded by a wonderful group of women in leadership positions in the Assarredo association. For me, the question of being a woman in an industrial or design environment does not even arise. Anyway, I’m happy to break a routine and represent innovation and inclusiveness.
Lh: How do you empower others?
Maria: Giving the example first but also motivating my collaborators. I really believe in teamwork! It’s so nice when you can share your successes with other people. And when you all enjoy and feel as an essential part of the process. I believe in intellectual, but also human connections with my partners.
Lh: Who is Maria Porro the Woman?
Maria: I am an active and curious person. I like to try new experiences, meet new people, try new dishes, visit new museums. But at the same time, I’m a bit introspective: I love to immerse myself in a book, music, or in nature. My last winter vacation, I was in the mountains with my 3 kids. And the highlight of our vacation was when I built an igloo for them!
Lh: Who is Maria Porro the President of Salone del Mobile?
Maria: I visited Salone del Mobile almost every year since I was born. My whole family, my grandfather, my father, and his cousins worked so hard for this special time, the most important moment of the year, and the kids were brought in to see the outcome and to visit the fair.
So I feel honoured to be now its President and the youngest ever, but at the same time, I feel at ease here where I naturally belong: I’m glad to represent the sector where my family is operating since four generations.
Lh: What three pieces of advice would you give to a young woman starting her career?
Maria: To be herself first of all, to have eyes wide open to absorb as much as possible from others and the environment, and then to digest all those experiences by making out something personal. And then to have the courage to grab an opportunity, don’t be afraid of the future!
Lh: Do you have any mottos you like to live by?
Maria: Actually I find more mottos that I disagree with… Maybe because one of my favourite things is to turn the situation around! Here is the motto: “Non trovi la soluzione? Ribalta il problema!” (translated means: “Can’t find the solution? Overturn the problem!”)
Lh: What’s next for Maria Porro? And for Salone del Mobile 2022?
Maria: What’s next? A lot of work!! First, because we are in the middle of de-briefing “supersalone” and secondly because I have to become familiar with my new role and all the duties that it contains. As far as Salone del Mobile.Milano 2022 I can only tell at the moment that it will be a not-to-miss event. Salone will turn 60! Be ready for a special edition where to come back to meet each other, to exchange ideas and energies once again.