Design, Fashion, Food and Innovation in the newly born Ecological Age

Sala Alessi - Palazzo Marino, Milan

October 19th 2011


Culture|Futures & Ragnarock

Ragnarock is a non-profit Association created with the intention of improving our society through intercultural exchange between different countries. Every year Ragnarock organises the Ragnarock Nordic Festival in Milan, with the aim of promoting Nordic best practices in artistic, economic and political terms through cultural and political events such as conferences, exhibitions, concerts and workshops.



In the framework of Ragnarock Nordic Festival 2011, along with Culture Futures and the Danish Cultural Institute, Ragnarock presented for the second time in Italy the international conference “Culture|Futures”. The conference was held on October 19th 2011 in Milan.

On this occasion, the Municipality of Milan offered the conference to be held at Palazzo Marino, in one of Milan’s most beautiful baroque halls, Sala Alessi.

The conference focused on the role that several cultural disciplines (design, fashion, food) have in guiding people toward more sustainable standards of living. The aim of the event was to compare the experiences from Italy and Nordic countries about culture and sustainability and to reflect on a better quality of life, thus encouraging interaction and cooperation among different countries.

Students, professors, businessmen, professionals (architects, designers, fashion designers, etc) and representatives of Milan and of international institutions gathered in Sala Alessi, where a lively debate went on from the beginning to the end of the event.


The conference and the contents

The day was divided into different sessions, each one addressing its own perspective on selected fields.
Opening session - The opening speakers, comprised of officials from the Municipality of Milan and from the one of Copenaghen, the Director of the European Commission office in Milan, Ragnarock founder and president Marco Germinario, Finn Andersen, General Secretary of the Danish Cultural Institute and Culture Futures patrons Olaf Gerlach-Hansen, used their presentations to explain the Conference’s and Culture Futures’ goals and to underline the importance of sharing knowledge across cultures. Especially since the cultural differences, here between Nordic countries and Italy, can make us blind to alternative ways of doing things, so there is much to learn from each other. As a natural opening Olaf Gerlach-Hansen described the ideas behind Culture Futures, and how important it is to involve cultural institutions and individuals to ensure that action is taken now, so the environmental issues can be dealt with before it is too late.

The next session - Future, Fashion, Design and Innovation for a Better Quality of Life - was dedicated to sustainable design and fashion, with emphasis on the importance of producing objects and realizing projects respecting sustainability rules and therefore giving them a social value.  Speakers presented some very interesting ideas on how sustainability can be incorporated in design and fashion and how them can be a statement and visible symbols of environmental and sustainable consciousness.

It was underlined, not just the role of the design in finding innovative solutions to global and societal problems and in influencing people behaviors, but also the role of some private companies and how the innovation can be implemented in society through new ways of designing and delivering new services in the coming decades.

Finally, the Development Director at Danish Fashion Institute and at NICE (Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical) explained how can  fashion industry become sustainable,  presenting an educational project dedicated to fashion companies in order to lead them toward the integration of sustainability and social responsibility in their business processes.

This session focused on fashion and design was followed by a session - Sustainable Food - where Anna Meroni and Kasper Sewerin Fogh Hansen, presented background and ideas at the basis of their projects. Different countries and different methods, but a similar aim through them: enhance local production and improved it thanks to knowledge spreading activities.

The conference “Culture|Futures” ended with a discussion between politicians, such as the Mayor of the Work, Economic Development, Universities and Research Committee of the City of Milan and the Vice Secretary General of ANCI (National Association of the Italian municipalities), the director of green brand (State of Green), the director of the international organization specialized in the production of sustainable and innovative items  for fashion and design (Class) and managers of companies leader in the production of facilities for the waste disposal (Envac) and in the production of solar panels (Latitude Solar). The speakers in this last part of the event - Green Growth and Cultural Change - have spoken mainly about the cultural barriers and opportunities to business innovation, how to make sustainability culturally attractive and the impact of new solutions on culture.


Behind the event

Partners – It is primarily important to underline the role of those institutions and companies that supported the event. In particular, Culture Futures was arranged under the patronage and support of the Municipality of Milan and the Italian Ministry of the Environment; with the support of the European Commission – Representation in Milan and the Danish Cultural Institute. Moreover, the event was sponsored by Envac, a Swedish company engaged in sustainable waste management, and by Latitude Solar; it was realised in collaboration with Culture Futures, with Design Library and with 

Many of these institutions and companies have been already working in close partnership with Ragnarock Association, thus becoming part of a large network of companies and institutions that believe in the value of art, exchange and open discussion as a means of making our society aware of social problems in a innovative way.

Communication strategy – The event was advertised thanks to a very well targeted and organized promotion strategy. In particular, Culture|Futures was advertised through the channel of Universities of Milan specialized in fashion and design: direct contacts and spreading online invitations during the month before the event. Another target of our communication strategy were the most important networks and associations of designers, organizations interested in sustainability based both in Milan and all over Italy. Moreover, the international community of students and professionals in Milan was also invited to take part in the event, which was mentioned on the most important websites and blogs related to architecture, fashion and design. 

As a sign of the success of such communication efforts, a large audience took part in the event: 152 people gathered in Sala Alessi. As can be seen from the charts below, many of the attendants were students, professors and professionals from the press;  in 11% of the cases were foreigners.


The conference had a strong visibility online: blogs (Bio-fashion, Sustainability-Lab, etc.) and online magazines (, Terra News, Corriere Informazione, etc.) have mentioned the event. Moreover, the Municipality of Milan, the European Commission, the Design Library and other partners of Ragnarock Nordic Festival also took part in the communication process by promoting the event through their own newsletters and channels.


The second edition of 'Culture|Futures' in Milan was extremely successful in terms of high level of the debate, attendance, and satisfaction of our guests, partners and audience.

Although significant improvements have been made over the past year, some aspects of the event can be improved.

The main improvement concerned the structure of the event. The conference has been structured in quite a 'traditional' manner, while the theme of the event could provide inspiration for a more creative and innovative format, more similar to a workshop that could encourage greater interaction between the speakers and the audience.

In general, the conference was outstanding for the quality of speakers involved, for the well-balanced program and for the presence of foreign guests.

Surely the large audience which attended the conference, the enthusiastic comments that speakers made about the event and the positive collaboration with partners involved, constitute a reward for the months of hard work that preceded Culture|Futures and a final confirmation for the good work carried out by the Association in the past five years of activity.


Pictures online on Flickr:

Press review online on Ragnarock website: available soon


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