London Design Festival
With a sense of excitement and anticipation, I headed to the London Design Festival, which takes place in different parts of London each year during the month of September.
Having visited some other shows this year already, including my all time favourite Milan Design Week, I was curious to see what the LDF 2016 had in store for design lovers like me.
For those familiar with London you will know that traveling from A to B can be quite time consuming. I therefore planned to visit one show per day, which worked out really well. Not only because of the travel involved, but also because each show is quite different in its own right.
On day one I visited Decorex, which is considered the most high end show of the London Design Festival. Unlike at other trade shows you will notice quite a few ‘ladies of society’, easily distinguished by the way they dress, alongside your regular trade show crowd consisting of interior designers, retailers, students and other design enthusiasts. Decorex is geared towards the luxury market and features predominantly classic, rather than modern contemporary design. Since my heart beats for ‘modern contemporary with a touch of nostalgia‘, I usually skip most of the classic exhibits. However, I always discover something new and worthy my time, in particular when it comes to fabrics and rugs.
The next day I headed to 100% Design and Luxury Made. At 100% design, which is the main exhibition you will find contemporary solutions for the home, the kitchen, the bathroom and the workplace. There is also a section dedicated to lighting and to building materials, featuring specialised paints, wall coverings, tiles and the likes. The show also hosted some international pavilions, including China, Slovenia, Argentina and South Africa, a few international brands and many local British brands. There was also a small section for young and up and coming designers, showcasing their products for the first time. Since I am currently working on a commercial project, I went straight to the workplace section, exploring the new and innovative solutions for modern day offices. Overall, I was quite impressed with some of the acoustic paneling as well as the designs from Slovakia. I shall definitely keep an eye out for design brands emerging out of Eastern Europe.
Luxury Made on the other hand is set aside in a beautiful historic building and showcases some luxury brands in a more discreet and intimate setting.
On the third day I visited designjunction, which was held in the King’s Cross area of London. King’s Cross/ St. Pancras train station is one of London’s major gateways and home to the Eurostar connecting London with continental Europe. The area, previously regarded as one of London’s red light districts, has undergone some major re-development in recent years and is surely worth a visit in itself. On one hand it’s industrial design at its best with dozens of old warehouses and stables converted into funky and trendy restaurants and bars and on the other hand they have erected some striking skyscrapers. It’s a bold contrast of old and new and offers urban living at its best.
It was my first time attending Design Junction, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Needless to say, I really enjoyed the backdrop and also liked the show. It certainly is the most contemporary of all, featuring a lot of local designers and easily caters to anyone with a slight interest in design. Design Junction, albeit not very big, is split into 3 areas: the main exhibition where most exhibitors are housed, the market, showcasing some furniture design, but mostly accessories and smaller items and the public square featuring some design installations and pop-up stores.
Made in Britain: One of the major trends I could observe this year is the general feeling of going ‘back to the roots’ in terms of choice of material, sourcing of material and manufacturing. Whereas the exhibitions are international, the majority of exhibitors seemed to be of British origin and they very proudly proclaimed that their products are made in Britain. This is a trend I had already observed in Italy as well as in Switzerland to a lesser extend. More sustainable manufacturing is a step in the right direction. Consumers are becoming more informed, aware and conscious about the ecological and social impact of global manufacturing and manufacturers seem to be waking up slowly. It will surely be interesting to see how this trend progresses in the next few years.
Subtle colours: Much like in Milan, colours continue to be rather subdued. There are subtle shades of grey, pink and blues in combination with natural materials, as we know it from Scandinavian design.
Hand made: The trend for hand made items is something I had already noticed at the Milan Design Week. The designs are often times influenced or inspired by nature and tribal cultures. Just like the trend to produce locally, this trend could be considered a social movement, creating an opposing wave against the infamous sweatshops in the Far East.
Natural materials: In combination with local sourcing and manufacturing, natural materials, such as wood, stone, glass and steel are the most popular materials in contemporary furniture design. Simple shapes and forms, some with influences from vintage design and others using innovative methods of assembly to create flexible and modular solutions for the home.
Industrial design: The trend of using industrial parts and turning them into contemporary and functional pieces continues to be explored. The Edison style bulbs and other types of industrial lighting are now widely available and an easy way of adding a bit of fun and quirkiness to any space.
Call me biased, but I don’t think the London Design Festival will ever live up to Milan Design Week – my personal wonderland! However, I really enjoyed the shows and with London being my favourite city in the world… it surely is a good enough excuse to pop over for a visit 😉
What is your favourite design show?
Greetings from London!