The year in design starts in April with the annual Salone del Mobile in Milan and it draws to a close with the London Design Festival each September.
Every year, it’s fascinating to see what themes have made it through and which have been forgotten. Some that looked triumphant in Milan are looking tired by September. Inspired sparks that went almost unnoticed in April might be ubiquitous trends by the time they reach London.
It’s these comings together of creativity, craftsmanship and innovation that makes design festivals – and design itself – so endlessly exciting.
And so, with August suddenly almost behind us, it’s time to look ahead to this year’s London Design Festival, held from 15-23 September.
There are a number of exciting cultural exhibitions that will be taking place all over London, but as interior designers, it’s hard to go past the 5 major trade shows showcasing different designers and aspects of design. These are the “Design Destinations” – don’t be put off by the festival organisers’ attempt to rebrand what they feel could be a little too dry as a mere “trade show”; these are fantastically exciting events, unmissable to anyone with even just a passing interest in design (and if you’ve read this far, that means you).
Decorex International: 16-19 September, Syon Park
First off the rank this year is the always drool-worthy offerings of Decorex, hosted in the appropriately gorgeous surroundings of Kew’s Syon Park.
Decorex aims squarely at the high-end and luxury interiors, hosting over 400 exhibitors ranging from specialised furniture, textile and lighting designers all the way through to interior design firms exhibiting entirely original collections and conceptions that are bound to open your mind to new possibilities.
Each year, Decorex brings a healthy focus to the cream of rising UK talent; an ideal place to discover some of the most innovative new designers in the country.
This year’s theme is Carte Blanche… We’re looking forward to seeing what the designers bring to this, from the literal ‘blank canvas’ to…absolutely anything.
Register for your tickets here.
Focus/18: 16-21 September, Design Centre – Chelsea Harbour
Next up is Focus/18, and while Decorex seems to courting blank minimalism, F/18’s theme this year highlights the Journey of Colour.
Focus/18 takes a decidedly more internationalist approach across their 120 showrooms, drawing new ideas and talents together in what is one of the more intoxicating assemblies of the annual design calendar.
Unlike the other Design Destinations, Focus/18 is free to enter for everyone! As such, this is a no-brainer to attend twice if you have the time. Going early in the exhibition’s run gives you the opportunity to marinate over everything that’s there and revisit the ideas and exhibits that have stuck with you. This is always a real boon, and Focus/18’s willingness to enable the “design-savvy” public – and not just those in the trade – to enjoy it is great!
100% Design: 19-22 September, West Kensington Design District – Olympia
Then there’s 100% Design, which is promising a (welcome) revamp of their vision and purpose. This is intended to compliment the brand new “West Kensington Design District” (which is to say they’ve refurbished the exhibition centre at Kensington Olympia, where the 100% Design has been based for year).
The hope is to enable the area to become a real driver for trends in years to come. It’s going to be quite exciting to see how that tone is set with this premiere exhibition.
The program certainly sounds promising; with an overall focus on design for city living (specifically London, but lets assume there’ll be ideas for everyone). There’s an exhibition of 20 jury-selected designers with less than 5 years’ in the industry – an exciting way to ensure new voices are promoted – alongside projects from established global brands.
100% Design is free to attend for trade professionals only, so be sure to register in advance.
designjunction: 20-23 September, Doon Street & Southbank
The newest and smallest addition to the London Design Festival roster, designjunction is also expanding in 2018 to encompass the Oxo Tower Wharf and Riverside Walkway on the always exciting Southbank.
The invariably well-curated line-up of international brands will doubtless throw-up a number of desiderata, however this “destination” has, in the past, focussed more on nifty products than innovative design or architectural thinking. Going by this year’s write-up it sounds like we’re in for more of the same. But more!
Not that there’s anything wrong with exciting knickknacks. We’re as prone to succumb to the next needful thing as any interior designer (or person who likes toys…).
Once more, this isn’t quite free to the general public, so be sure to register ahead of time.
London Design Fair: 20-23 September, Old Truman Brewery – Brick Lane
Last but by-no-means least, the London Design Fair prides itself as being the most international of the big five “destinations”.
Whether it is or not, the Fair does a good job of highlighting their international focus with the 10 Country Pavilions at the heart of their exhibition, supported by designs from a further 26 countries.
Once again, the public must pay for the privilege of attending, so don’t forget to register if/when/as soon as you can.
Beyond the Exhibitions:
Landmark Projects: 18-23 September
These are always eye-catching, great fun, and very clever way to harness a bit of viral marketing with Instagrammable installations dotted around key central London locations.
This year, stage designer and master of projection Es Devlin takes over Trafalgar Square while up the road, the Architecture Social Club lines Regent Street; Waugh Thistleton Architects of Shoreditch get Eschery in the V&A courtyard; graphic design firm Kellenberger-White has fun with letters in Broadgate; while Scholten & Baijings makes it all about tea at Fortnum & Mason (naturally).
V&A Projects: 15-23 September
As if any excuse is needed to return to the V&A Museum, it’s always a pleasure to have another prompt to get over to Knightsbridge and soak up that most thrilling monument to design history.
2018 marks the tenth year for the V&A as the official hub for the London Design Festival, so be sure to get over there and see what gems they stock the halls with to mark the anniversary.