Finding a Foothold in a Fancifying Design Capital

This article is part of our Design special report previewing Milan Design Week.

Three things Phil America and Jenny D. Pham never imagined they’d be doing as recently as five years ago: running a design company together, living together and living in Milan.

In the prepandemic days of 2019, the (aptly) American-born Mr. America, now 41, and the German-born but (mostly) American-raised Ms. Pham, 43, were flitting between Europe, Asia and the United States, he pursuing a career as an artist and she as a communications director for international fashion brands.

“We were friends for years,” said Mr. America — though they saw each other only in Los Angeles, his home base for a time and the place where her parents happened to be living. Then things changed. “The friendship slowly became a relationship,” he said. “And the relationship slowly became a business.”

How that relationship, and that business, evolved — and how both of them ended up in Italy’s capital of style — is part of a larger story, the next chapter of which is unfolding during Milan’s annual design week.

Cups from Objects Are By’s Milan Metro collection inspired by the city’s subway system. “I ride it every day,” Mr. America said. “Just like in New York.”Credit…Camilla Ferrari for The New York Times

In the middle of the ever hectic Salone del Mobile, Ms. Pham and Mr. America’s two-year-old company, Objects Are By, will be staging a vernissage around their inaugural collection, complemented by a new project just added to the lineup. The launch event, like much of the work appearing in it, speaks to the couple’s strong feelings for their adoptive city, as well as a desire to capitalize on its restless creative energy.

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