London Design Festival 2019

The London Design Festival, which is now in its 17th year, continues to shine its light on the most talented and innovative UK and international designers.  Spread across the entire city, the festival is split into different districts throughout town, each its own hub of innovation, design and inspiration.

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The Victoria and Albert museum remains the central headquarters of LDF hosting a varied selection of exhibitions and installations.  This year, visitors were welcomed by a huge suspended cube within the museum’s entrance by Sam Jacobs, which reflected a digital underwater animation, complete with plastic waste.  The intention of ‘Sea Things’ was to provoke an emotional response to our global single-use plastic crisis, an issue which was echoed throughout the entire festival.

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The ‘Legacy’ exhibition at the V&A was a project commissioned by Sir John Sorrell, who is the Chairman of LDF, he invited prominent principals from a number of cultural and artistic institutions such as the English National Ballet, The Young Vic theatre and the British Film Institute to collaborate with a selection of hugely talented designers such as Max Lamb, Sebastian Cox, Studiomama, Terence Woodgate and Jaspar Morrison to create an object of personal relevance for them.  The result was a selection of beautifully crafted products all made from American red oak that also demonstrated the legacy of wood and its life beyond the tree. 

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One more fascinating, yet slightly harder to find, exhibit at the V&A was held in the tapestry halls, providing the perfect setting to display Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters dazzling New Orleans Mardi Gras suits in all of their intricately beaded and magnificently plumaged beauty.  The costumes were accompanied by a hugely engrossing film ‘All On A Mardi Gras Day’ documenting Melancon’s dedication to his art and an homage to his city.

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Also in the Brompton Design District was ‘Masters of Disguise’, a fun and amusing collection of masks designed by various contemporary artists portraying their interpretation of their own personal identity.  The show, hosted by the design gallery Seeds and curated by M-L-XL, displayed Bethan Laura Wood’s ‘Make Me Up’ netting mask, which actually bore a striking resemblance to the artist herself, as well as pieces by Sabine Marcelis and Michael Marriott.

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Paul Cocksedge’s commission ‘Please be Seated’ was a hit with design visitors, locals and city workers alike.  The concentric circles made from reconditioned scaffold boards provided welcome seating and shade, a place for a picnic or a space to lie down.  

Image Credit: Mark Cocksedge

Image Credit: Mark Cocksedge

Kirkby Design’s Underground Volume II was hugely popular.  Their exploration of the heritage of the London Underground’s moquette pattern led to refashioned pastel velvet cushion covers and a stunning transformation of a London tube carriage.

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The London Design Fair at the Truman Brewery in East London was home to a mixture of exhibitors. Curved rugs by 2LG Studio and artist designed rugs by John Booth for Floor Story along with metal seating and terrazzo tables by Made in Majorca demonstrated growing interior design trends. Fernando Laposse showed us his spectacular veneer tiles made from corn husks, High Society have created plant-based lighting and Chip(s)Board have made sunglasses from potato waste.  And then there was Adorno: Crossovers, a collection from 11 different counties highlighting local trends and identities with the aim of creating a cross-cultural design dialogue.  There were standout pieces from Troels Flensted and Ragna Mouritzen for Denmark, Henrik Odegaard from Norway and Hanna Dis Whitehead for Iceland.

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Camille Walala brought ‘Walala Lounge’ to South Molten Street with her bright and colourful signature graphic style decorating sculptural benches and cubed planters providing much needed street furniture to weary shoppers to rest and revive.

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Slightly off-piste but certainly worth the detour was Bohinc Studio’s ‘Lunar House’.  Lara Bohinc created an immersive experience, of which there should be more of at LDF, which combined sound, scent and a visual feast. The period townhouse was transformed with petrol blue floors and undulating walls to highlight Bohinc’s latest collections which are inspired by the moon landing.

Image Credit: Philippe Fragniere

Image Credit: Philippe Fragniere

The British designer Lee Broom’s ‘Kaleidoscopia’ was a mesmerising lighting installation which created an optical illusion using mirrors and Broom’s Orion lamps to give the appearance of an enormous chandelier.

Image Credit: Lee Broom PR

Image Credit: Lee Broom PR

An added advantage of the London Design Festival is exploring parts of the city you might not normally visit and discovering smaller gems amongst the major events. W.A Green in Shoreditch is a beautifully created, quirky homeware store worth a visit at any time of year which was displaying knitwear from design duo Paris Essex.  Interior design studio and store Design & That hosted limewash paint workshops and The Conran Shop in Chelsea celebrated design past, present and future with Sella Concept’s fabulous hall of mirrors window display.

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A particularly popular and powerful element of the London Design Festival were the series of talks and panel discussions.  Headliners such as Vivienne Westwood, the winner of this year’s LDF Lifetime Achievement award, discussed her manifesto to save the planet as part of the Global Design Forum.  The iconic Paola Navone spoke at Silvera about her long-term working relationship with Baxter, Made in Italy. Patricia Urquiola, Patrizia Moroso, Giulia Molteni, Roberto Gavazzi and Giulio Cappelleni debated the strength of the industry of design in Italy, attributing it to a history of craftmanship and beauty and continued collaborative efforts to maintain its position.

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On the subject of Italy, one significant highlight was the welcome addition of I-Made at the Saatchi Gallery.  This was the first exhibition dedicated solely to Italian design and manufacture to be held in London and arrived with thanks to Giulio Cappelleni who curated I-Made, as well as it’s deeply satisfying satellite show ‘Take a Seat’ which featured classic chairs from maestros such as Gio Ponti, Alessandro Mendini and Piero Lissoni.  Although not quite on par with Salone di Mobile, LDF certainly has its high points and is continuing to grow in the right direction.  

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All images by Donna Casey, thatssocool unless otherwise stated.