It seems like only yesterday we were in Milan for the 2019 Salone del Mobile and all of a sudden, Summer is winding down and we’re charging headlong into September’s London Design Festival and the end of the design year.
This year the festival will run from 14-22 September.
It’s always interesting to see what themes have made it through, which have been developed and which have already been forgotten. Of course, with sustainability being such a dominant theme at this year’s Salone, we’re especially excited to see the echos and reinterpretations of that back in London.
There are an overwhelming number of exciting cultural exhibitions taking place all over London. For bang-for-your-buck, it’s hard to go past the 5 major trade shows showcasing different designers and aspects of design. These are the “Design Destinations”: these are fantastically exciting events, unmissable to anyone with even just a passing interest in design.
But there are a further 11 Design Districts this year as well, dotted all over London in the various exciting design and consumer hubs.
Where to even begin?!
London Design Festival: Design Destinations
Focus/19: 15-20 September, Design Centre – Chelsea Harbour
Focus/19 is always a great event for meeting and interacting with designers. They’re on hand not only to present their own work, but to hear from their colleagues.
Focus/19 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 London Design Festival Design Destinations, Focus/19 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/19’s willingness to enable the “design-savvy” public – and not just those in the trade – to enjoy it is great!
100% Design: 18-21 September, West Kensington Design District – Olympia
Next up is 100% Design, returning for the second year to the “West Kensington Design District” at Kensington Olympia, which they inaugurated in 2018.
This year is taking a retrospective approach, looking back on the 25 year history of this exhibition while juxtaposing that with the same impressive line-up of 400 fresh, new international designers.
The other exciting highlight to 100% Design is the 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: 19-22 September, King’s Cross, N1C
This year sees designjunction graduate to the big leagues on the London Design Festival roster, leaving behind the smaller spaces around Southbank’s Riverside Walkway in favour of the enormous new exhibition centre in the capital’s brand new design district around King’s Cross’s Granary Square..
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: 19-22 September, Old Truman Brewery – Brick Lane
Always one of our favourite exhibitions is the London Design Fair. It prides itself as being the most international of the big five major “destinations”, but it’s not the internationalism that makes the fair great. Brick Lane is such a vibrant area, and the Truman Brewery is the perfect, crumbling, industrial backdrop for highlighting the new and exciting ideas in design, wherever they’ve come from.
Once again, the public must pay for the privilege of attending, so don’t forget to register if/when/as soon as you can.
London Design Festival: Design Districts
Bankside hasn’t been deserted entirely with the northward move of designjunction. A walk from the OXO Tower to the Tate Modern promises to be as rewarding as ever, with displays ranging from African Design to the musical inspirations of cityscapes.
Straight out of Brompton: the one and only original Design District, inaugurated 14 years ago and still a hive of activity during the Festival calendar.
Chelsea makes a play for our sustainable hearts this year by hosting the great Eileen Fisher (whom we loved seeing in Rosanna Orlandi’s workshop in Milan) and her Waste No More movement (and the Saatchi Gallery is promising an exciting exhibition from Italian designers I-MADE too.
Clerkenwell turns the sustainability up to 11 this year, with their theme of Waste Not Want Not, questioning not only use and re-use, but even our willingness to hear and incorporate solutions from other cultures.
Along with designjunction, 2019 marks the first year of this lively new complex between Granary Square and Coal Drop Yard as a hub for some of London’s most creative firms and best known brands.
The Conran Shop is a centre for design in Marylebone all year round, but this year it will also double as the official hub for the district’s Festival efforts. Be sure to check out what is sure to be a showstopping edit.
Less sustainable than it is awesome, Mayfair is always a grand place to see how you could spend an inheritance quickly.
Overlook Pimlico Road at your peril! This vibrant strip in the very heart of Westminster is always an exciting and inspiring destination for window shoppers, and the Festival is a perfect opportunity to nose around in some of the best interior design showrooms in London.
Unlike the Bermuda Triangle, this one throws out ideas at an astonishing rate. With over 60 independent events taking place throughout the Festival, it’s hard not to get lost here. Send help!
For it’s second year, Victoria Connections bridges the gap between Pimlico Road, Chelsea and the rest of London with an eclectic array of design, from PATTERNITY’s Life Labyrinth to the collected costumes from Wicked!.
West Kensington is stepping up for its second year too, and it’s not afraid to bring the big guns, leveraging the Design Museum and the V&A Blythe House for just two of a number of great events, running throughout the Festival. So once you’re done with 100% Design, consider heading over to Detail London or Kirkby Design for some great investigations of high-end upholstery or to Blythe House for a rare look inside the V&A’s immense theatre and performance archives.
Beyond the Exhibitions:
Another exciting feature of the London Design Festival is always the eye-catching, Landmark Projects that are installed throughout the city.
This year’s highlights includes the installation Sea Things by Sam Jacobs Studios in the V&A‘s grand entrance. This combined physical and digital artwork sounds awesome: a meditation on the vastness of the oceans and the challenges of our role as caretaker of them.
This year’s other key Landmark takeover features Paul Cocksedge’s transformation of Finsbury Avenue Square for the epic, undulating work Please Be Seated, which is all about the re-using of salvaged wood from construction projects into a tantalising new (and continuously sin-wavy) form.
V&A Projects: 14-22 September
Also at the V&A this year, (as if any excuse is needed to return to the V&A Museum) they’re hosting a series of more than 14 works and features from international designers and brands, including a key feature of Elora Hardy and her incredible bamboo design work from IBUKU. We cannot wait to see it!
Decorex International: 6-9 October, Olympia London
In a turn-around from 2018, last off the rank this year is the always drool-worthy offerings of Decorex, taking place this year outside of the rest of the festival (and moving this year to the more convenient location of Kensington Olympia).
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.
Photo credit for our feature image for this post goes to the Cummings Twins, capturing their own sculpture of Fenrir, on show at the Bankside Hotel for the duration of the Festival. Be sure to go and check them out!