New York Design Week 2018

New York Design Week is actually more than a week. This year it lasted May 11 – 23. This is a report from the most busy days that were from Wednesday May 16 until May 20. As with most design weeks the central driver usually is a fair but with creative installations elsewere. So hold your hats, here we go.

The design week in New York consists of basically one major fair, two exhibition projects and of course activities at various showrooms and galleries around Uptown or in Soho. With somewhere around 36-40 000 visitors this design week is absolutely not the largest and perhaps not even the most important, but this is a city that send influences all over the world.

In my job as a trend hunter I talk to a lot of people. One conclusion is clear. Everyone talks about USA. All major European brands are offically or non-officially targeting the US market hard. Many of the Italian and Danish brands have their own permanent showrooms here.

And the US is now shopping in Europe. Last year Knoll bought Scandinavian Muuto and I heard more rumours of similar transactions. One of the most talked about brands during Milan Design Week is New York based Apparatus. British Established & Sons deliberately decided to launch their new lighting collection in New York. America is happening on many levels.

One of the main highlights of New York Design Week is Sight Unseen Offsite. Curated and selected by two women, this is a personal favourite. Some people I met during this week sighs and says “Does it always have to be so Memphis inspirered”. And this is true. The use of colours, museum like pieces etc, all reminds me of the Memphis movement fron the 80s.

At Unseen I noticed Kim Markel, an interesting designer with a sustainable angle. Here she has experimented with cosmetics brand Glossier to use their packaging waste (lipgloss bottles etc) as material for building cupboards, tables and chairs.

But you see a lot of nice and insta-friendly installations. Like this by jeans brand Levis.

Justin Donnelly and Monling Lee. Everything looked very “tube driven”.

Álvaro Gómez-Sellés and Marisa Müsing.

Student work from Ana Butirago.

For several years Unseen have been cooperating with Norway. A project from last year, got repeated this year as well. Norwegian designers were paired with American small scale producers. Here Falke Svatun with US based Objects of Common Interest.

Tube shaped furniture from exhibitors Hannah Bigeleisen and Steven Bukowski

The duo behind Unseen also coordinates a number of exhibitions on town. Fashion store Creatures of Comfort showed these chairs and tables. Nice colour combinations.

During a design week like this, there are of course related disciplines that take this opportunity to do something unusual. Like in this case where Opening Ceremony collaborated with Harry Nuriev.

A small note is that Opening Ceremony actually had some pretty nice designed items in the shop. Really nice.

So if Sight Unseen is very colourful and museum driven in it’s aesthetics, then Wanted is a mix of schools, individual designers and various projects. Also arranged by two women and in two places in New York since a few years. One is in Manhattan and one is in Brooklyn.

The Manhattan version is livelly but extremely uneven. Here a lamp with fringes by D’armes.

3D printed accessories in sustainable materials by Polish UAU Project.

Vegan leather by Do Yoon Kim.

A leather stool by Ian Barsanti.

Most talked about project was the Zero Waste Restaurant by Harri Koskinen and Linda Bergroth. Together with the chefs of Danish super restaurant Noma, they pushed sustainability in a good way.

Speaking of American brands I thought this was interesting to see how Steelcase showed this as a solution for a work space.

The Brooklyn installation is a bit far from the Manhattan version. But of course we make time to go there.

If the Manhattan version is a bit uneven – then the Brooklyn version is really, really uneven. But still. Here I see schools and young designers.

I did find it interesting to see how a lot of the schools are focusing on engagement.

This was pretty interesting. In the old Greece, the people wrote things on ceramics and left it to the gods. What would we wish the gods could change today?

Or like this. The student want to mix a German culture with a Japanese culture and brand it with a porcelaine brand like Rosenthal. In Germany you break plate when you marry, but in Japan you have a tradition of fixing what is broken, and highlight the broken parts with gold. No waste. And still respecting of all cultures. I liked this a lot.

The fair ICFF is a complicated relationship for me. I have been perhaps five times over the year and I has absolutely doubled in size. This where I have found cool new designers and brands. Not so this year. I was overly suprised last year and just as disappointed this year.

Of course you find some things that are ok. Liked these wallpaintings (not so much the lamps) by Rosie Li Studio.

Canadian brand And Light.

Estudio Persona.


More Skram.


And of course US most “European” brand Bernhardt. Nice colour combos.

In general though, the fair got smaller, a bit uglier and absolutely more boring than last year. Just look at the Kartell stand and compare it to any other fair…

The hallways were pretty busy so I am sure there are orders made here – but I had really high expectations from 2017. I got a bit disappointed.

There are two major galleries focusing on design in New York. One of them is Future Perfect and previous years I have seen new things by Piet Hein Eek etc. This year it got a bit strange…

The other gallery is Matter. Here we saw new lighting by Luca Nichetto.

More interesting is of course to see how Established & Sons launch their new lamps here.

A design week is of course not a design week, if there aren’t evening events. Of course there are plenty in New York. The Italians are extremely present with all brands such as Cassina, Cappellini, Flos, etc, etc having parties. The Danes are also present with their things from Carl Hansen & Sön, Fritz Hansen etc.

Most visited and best atmosphere was at Kartell and Tom Dixon (here serving totally black food)

Wallpaper and Poliform

Moooi launched a new chair but also brought the things they showed in Milan.

Partying with the Danes at Carl Hansen & Sön.

So to summarize. New York is New York. This year people talked about how the got tired of the same aestetics running at Offsite Unseen since several years. Wanted was a but unclear. ICFF was terrible. But it’s good. I am sure this week says more about the state of the design industry than just saying the New York doesn’t deliver. It is a good design week.

We noted darker colours than in Milan. Still a lot of mustardy yellow but the red is not as pink as in Milan. Shapes are getting “tuby”. And Wanted showed that there still is energy in the sustainability subject (less so in Milan).

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