More Queues than A’s?
We do enjoy a trawl of the London Design Festival. Once upon a time September’s design calendar meant a trip out west for 100% Design and, although it still forms a major part of the week for us, there are now plenty more shows, events and openings vying for attention.
So, every year we attempt to formulate the most economical, smart schedule. And every year we wish we hadn’t bothered.
The issue here is that the LDF is something of a victim of its own success. People want to see what’s happening. They want to move from event to event, when they want and how they want. London, however, has other ideas.
Trains, tubes and buses make navigation difficult at best and long-winded and infuriating in reality. Add to this the nature of the market right now, and people aren’t heading out to the festival in the middle of the day – quite simply because they can’t.
What we have therefore is something of a bottleneck. The most obvious example of this was the VIP/press preview night at designjunction. Having moved from its original Sorting Office home to two new Holborn venues – The College and Victoria House. The College, former home to Central Saint Martins, hosted 180 leading design brands. Unfortunately, thanks to an enormous queue of people waiting to do exactly what we had hoped to do, there was next to no chance of us being able to do those 180 exhibitors justice.
So, that meant Plan B. As it happens, Plan B turned out to be a lot of fun as we decided to head across the road to Victoria House, which hosted an exciting pop-up shopping destination, hosting 35 design-led stores offering an eclectic mix of accessories and homeware products throughout the festival. Not very us, but better than queuing or turning around and heading home, we concluded.
It turns out that not only did Victoria House have a Zetter Townhouse cocktail bar, said bar was being inhabited by a number of like-minded souls – including client, specifier and end user friends.
Furthermore, we then headed (en masse) across to Molteni’s fabulous showroom for an aftershow. Thanks to Kate and the Molteni team for their fantastic hospitality.
The evening’s ‘networking’ did leave us in something of a quandary, however.
We couldn’t exactly bring you a balanced report of designjunction if we hadn’t actually looked at the most relevant parts of the show.
And then we had another cunning plan. We’ll head out on Saturday – when it’s relatively quiet in terms of industry interruptions and interventions.
Or it should have been! It turns out that even more than our bunch of merry men and women were denied a full view of the show on the preview evening. We have to say that we were genuinely impressed that these dedicated industry folk were willing to give up a chunk of their weekend – and not because they were unwilling to queue on the Wednesday, but instead because they were too busy throughout the week. Dedication.
Moving on to the show itself, the iconic College building on Southampton Row has been largely disused since the Central Saint Martins’ closure in 2008. The show’s curated assortment of contemporary design brands created a striking contrast to the characteristic classrooms of Britain’s oldest design school. The impressive exhibitor list included leading UK and international brands such as Allermuir, Bisley, Bulo, Icons of Denmark, Herman Miller, James Burleigh, Fritz Hansen, Vitra, Made in Ratio, Modus and Andreu World.
We were particularly impressed by the incredibly democratic nature of the ‘stands’, while the design-led displays played beautifully with the fabric of the building and the ethos of the show. We have to applaud the effort and thought put into the displays of brands such as Herman Miller, Vitra and Bisley, who willingly blended with young, fresh, up-and-coming design labels. There was nothing ‘shouty’ or overly corporate here – and it was all the better for it.
Also impressing was the illuminating, contemporary lighting display downstairs at The College. We wished we had more time to fully explore.
We have to confess that we did have a spot of trouble navigating the building. We thought it might be just us, but later heard that the segmented nature of the space did cause difficulties to other visitors. Still, we’ll know what to expect for next year.
Going further back in time to the Thursday of LDF, we made (or attempted to make) our way across to 100% Design’s new k
vhome – Olympia’s Grand gallery. In fairness, we can’t really blame anyone for the fact that we struggled to get across to London to Earl’s Court in the first place. It was somewhat soul-destroying to finally reach the platform, only to immediately hear the station announcer reveal that there were no scheduled trains to Olympia for the foreseeable future. More time lost! Oh well.
We eventually made it across to the Grand – and we have to confess that we’d forgotten what an amazing structure it is. The ornate Victorian barrel-shaped roof makes it far more open and light than 100% Design’s previous home at Earl’s Court – well worth the effort in getting here, in fact.
The central hub was also far more open and visitor-friendly. We immediately liked the atmosphere, and were also impressed by the array of companies skirting the hub – which included Workplace sector stalwarts Boss Design, Aircharge, Isomi, CMD and Vitra, alongside the returning BuzziSpace, Bestuhl Alea, Triumph, Sagal and the mighty Steelcase. It was also nice to see a few new per centres, including By Bailey, Max Furniture and Century Office.
100% Design is still very much the place to be when it comes to the trade – with a number of London’s leading furniture suppliers present and correct. On the down side, there was a disappointing number of specifiers visible. Shame – we liked the show and once again wished we had more time to explore.
Heading even further back in time, we started the week in our adopted home of Clerkenwell, where a number of our friends, including Interface, Morgan and Knoll, showed their latest innovations as well as generous hospitality. Our poor Editor, Mick, is still sulking about being unwell and missing out on the annual spectacle that is the Knoll evening!
Just down the road in Shoreditch, our friends at Deadgood opened the Deadgood Library, which was home to the company’s temporary showroom throughout the London Design Festival. Inspired by paper as a medium, the brilliant installation placed an emphasis on reading, graphic design and illustration.
Next year we’ll definitely work out a smarter schedule. Probably.