London Design Festival used to be one of the most important design activities of the year. This is where fashion brand Acne used to launch their furniture collection and the biggest parties were held. Not now. LDF has gotten so unimportant that you don’t even have to read this text.
I have been to the design week of London plenty of times. And very often been smitten by the creativity and relevance of our time. Above picture with me and Victor at the Faye Toogood exhibition 2015, at a lively Somerset House. 2010 fashion brand Acne launched their furniture collection at Liberties. Everyone went to London Design Festival around 2008-2018.
Those times are gone. London has gone from being internationally important to regional. And to be honest. Perhaps is local production, local design and locality the future? I don’t know. LDF 2023 is mainly about London based designers, doing London stuff for a London audience. And not interesting enough…
London is still an important city but not so much for the design scene.
I will be hard… Perhaps the most interesting thing during the design week in London was the temporary pop up where they launched the new album by Kylie Minogue. This is where the que was. This is what everyone talked about.
Things change. London Design Week used to be an opportunity when we had lots of events. There was 100% Design, Designjunction, Designersblok, Superbrands, etc, etc. Lots of competing “fairs”. Very often handmade and a bit crafty. But that’s ok. We need that too.
But London has always been the city for Established & Sons, Tom Dixon and so many other brands. Now even Conran Shop at Fulham Road is closed. Skandium is closed. Is Libby Sellers where we saw Formafantasma the first time closed?
Today London Design Week consists of 13 different design districs with no real coordination. It’s not easy for me as a visitor. And not necessarily good quality.
People will say that London Design Week was good because there were conversations about for instance new sustainable materials. Well, not really. Nothing new. I absolutely saw more in for instance Alcova in Milan. But sure. There were conversations. Even Tom Dixon did it. But he showed 3D-printing we’ve seen before and also material by mycelium. All done before. Nothing new.
You can of course say that there is a fair like London Design Fair. But the quality is soooooo low.
You can of course also talk about the initiatives that V&A is doing, but it is so museal and not really touching me. Here textile craft from the Sikh community. Is it design or art? At this edition of London Design Week, there were plenty of installations at churches etc, but absolutely more art than design.
And in general – there were so many installations that were boring and uninteresting. Like the exhibition by Artek/Vitra where they had changed the classical stool in 50 different ways. We have seen similar things before. Come on.
Or the installation by Jasper Morrison talking about four different kinds of bamboo. So??? It’s the same old things we’ve seen before.
I will talk about some positive things in a minute. But!! If you want to go to a design week in September, October. Don’t go to London. Go to Prague for Designblok, go to Helsinki for Habitare or Vienna for Vienna Design Week.
I was looking at the Instagram feed from my friend Alina Schartner. Even Vienna had more relevance and energy than London.
Honestly – I give London Design Festival 2 out of 10 or even 1 out of 5.
You don’t want to read this feed when it is only bad stuff. I will talk about positive things soon. Don’t worry. But first we need something to clense the palette. Let’s look at Lego.
Look. Happy things. Lego was not the only big brand doing things at LDF. Well, there was also car brand Mini. Other than that, not so much. I saw IKEA did a thing at Vienna – but not here…
Regardless, the pretty commercial event where one could make flowers at Lego was nice. But very commercial
My top three at London Design Festival
Fels is one of those new studios that does everything. They curate, do brand building and exhibitions. Kind of like me. So of course I like it.
Founded by Finbar Conran and Oscar Mitchell. They invited 19 (I think) designers and artist to come to the countryside in the UK. Here they stayed for a few weeks, worked and got inspirered from this local setting.
Hyper local, it’s the trend word of today.
But very nice.
You can basically sense how a city designer walk among the cows and realised “let’s make a lamp”.
In March I went to see the new IKEA and H&M baby Atelier100. I think it is super interesting that two of the largest players in retail join forces. Of course they realise they need to do something now when people are stopping consumerism
And the theme is hyper local. Local designers using local materials for a local audience. Hyper local.
That first collection didn’t really impress me. Read here.
But this was nice. Better kept together. Better curation. Better stories. Better products.
I really liked this chair. Made of wood from fallen trees in a park (because of storm). Then 3D scanning stones from Thames that were 3D printed. Just nice story and aesthetics.
Of course everything is very, very limited in numbers. This chair would be made in perhaps ten pieces. But that is also interesting. Do we need large numbers?? Made by CAN.
We talked about London stars earlier here. SCP is one of the classic stars and they did really well this time. Plenty of things to see. Big energy and creativity. Surprising and fun. At one stage is was stroking a chair’s leg in a very sensual manner.
From the same sensual exhibition at SCP. Here a stool that you were supposed to fondle…
Hyper local again. Sons of Beasley made chairs on site.
Wilkinston & Rivera made these chairs that were more like sculptures than ergonomic.
And SCP made a new upholstery collection. I totally liked this by Philippe Malouin. I think this is something new. Maybe we need to change the way we think about sofas. We don’t sit in a row, watching TV anylonger. Perhaps get a furniture where we can crawl up and use our mobile phone or iPad? Interesting and nice.
Other stuff from London Design Festival
Another version of the same thinking. Roi Kabayashi made this sofa in the same manner at above.
LDF is spread out over the whole city and that is a challange. Another challange is quality. At Cromwell Place.
The Koreans are taking over. There were soooooo many nice craft projects by various Korean designer. Here at gallery Charles Burnand.
Chairs. There were soooooooooo many chairs at LDF. Do we need another chair. Here at Donna Wilson who turned 20 years old.
It’s all about colours. I have said it before. We focus a lot on colour. More on colour than actual innovation. At London Design Fair, design studio Two Lovely Gays made an installation with much focus on colours. It was OK.
So, London Design Festival – you get 2 out of 10. Or 1 out of 5.