The Salone del Mobile in Milan may be unrivalled around the world, but the number of interesting design-oriented events in Europe is growing exponentially. The Italian fair is still a record-breaker, but it is open to a number of more than legitimate criticisms.
Neither the stands at the Milan fair, which are designed and executed down to the last detail, nor the companies which showcase their collections, can be compared to any other event. And Italy still leads the field in craftsmanship, prototyping, design, tradition and research. You could say that Milan practically invented the furniture industry. However, many Italian and international designers claim the city is actually the “antithesis of design”, the words of Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in chief of the most popular international magazine in the sector, Dezeen. The picture of a sprawling, hassled and expensive city emerges: “London is ten times the size of Milan, but the London Design Festival is ten times easier to comprehend” explains Fairs, claiming the Milanese fair comes up short both in terms of its organisation and its relationship with the city.
The London Design Festival, in its fifteenth year, is set to celebrate London as the design capital of the world from 16-24 September 2017, reminding the world the pull this British city has for designers, journalists and influencers from all over the world. The Festival features a busy programme of unique and immersive design installations, features and hundreds of side events, from product launches to exhibitions. The Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the main festival hubs, will play host to a wide range of installations specially commissioned to some of the most exciting designers in the world for the occasion, as well as a packed programme of events, including Global Design Forum, seven days of conferences on design. In the Museum’s Tapestry Gallery, Ross Lovegrove will present his installation created in conjunction with Alcantara, the Italian brand which produces and sells this material around the world. The designer has created an undulating structure which, unlike most of the other works of art, is meant to be touched. Transmission is a flexible 115-metre long band, folded into a flowing 25-metre sculpture. Lovegrove’s installation is an intuitive and evocative response to the immersive, physical atmosphere of the Museum’s rooms, a new opportunity to celebrate the best of British design and Italian innovation in one.
Decorex International, the interior design fair held at Syon Park, on the other hand, is the destination for the industry’s elite, where interior design professionals discover the finest and most coveted luxury products from new, emerging and established talent. But the key event of the London Design Festival is 100% Design, the UK’s largest trade event for industry professionals, due to be held at Olympia from 20 to 23 September and in its twenty-third edition. Every year 100% Design adopts a theme, which is reflected across the installations and the busy schedule of talks and round tables, and appoints a Content Editor. For 2017 the theme is Elements, which embraces everything from the fundamentals of design to the component parts that make up a product and the materials used. The show’s Content Editor is Max Fraser, the most famous design journalist in the world. Another major feature of the Festival is the London Design Fair, previously known as Tent London and Super Brands, a 4-day event which brings together independent designers, established brands, international country pavilions, features and exhibitions. This September will also see the launch of Design Frontiers: a free, group exhibition of over thirty international designers at Somerset House. Design Frontiers, in conjunction with the London Design Festival, will illuminate the thinking and working practices of these celebrated designers, whose work is redefining the frontiers of their disciplines: from automotive to fashion, product design to graphics, digital to performance. Lastly, the ambitious annual programme of special projects and installations, the Landmark Projects. The fair commissions the world’s best designers and architects, as well as pioneering new talents, to create something extraordinary in response to a variety of stimuli, such as a material, theme or location. The projects are then installed across London.
This year, the heart of London’s financial district will host the work by Camille Walala: a castle built out of vinyl blocks, sealed PVC inners and high-strength nylon, covered with large prints. With her influences including the Memphis Group, the Italian design and architecture group founded by Ettore Sottsass, Walala stands out for her faultless enthusiasm and daring use of shapes and colours. The bold colours of the installation are intended to “visually dominate an otherwise grey space ” and to “inject a little joy into what may otherwise have been just another day at the office”, says the Festival’s organisers. After all, design involves every aspect of our lives and has a great impact on our emotions, something Italian are well aware of. There is (and there will always be) a large number of Italian designers and companies who present their collections in Great Britain. In London, however, people are wondering if the word “design” really refers to furniture or if it has been superseded in favour of other disciplines or product sectors. The Salone del Mobile in Milan still attracts visitors in its own right, but the London Design Festival can easily compete with what the Milanese event has to offer, such as the many initiatives of the Fuorisalone.
Cover. London Design Festival 2017
1. Max Fraser
2. Swedish Ninja
3. Bujnie
4. Bartek Mejor
5. Irina Razumovskaya
6. Stoff Studios
7. Cole Son
8. Fernando Mastrangelo
9. Ross Lover grove – Transmission
10. Camille Walala – Building Block Castle