The East End girls have given their undercuts a fresh buzz, the sun has finally made an appearance, and every boutique hotel in town has been booked up for months. It can only mean one thing.
Okay, two, as London Fashion Week also begins this week. But more importantly for our purposes: it’s the kickoff of the London Design Festival (LDF), a nine-day mega-event that celebrates interiors, industrial design, graphic art, technology, craft, and the future of our environment.
For a city that barely even had a design weekend a decade ago, it’s extraordinary what London has been able to conjure. Not only is the trade fair 100% Design still powering through, this fall it moved to a bigger venue in Olympia after outgrowing its original convention center. And there are equally vast and inclusive fairs across town to entice design tribes, from Tent London in the East End to Design Junction at the old Central Saint Martins building in the West End. Meanwhile, some 400 exhibitions pepper the city, making “design centers” out of little-known neighborhoods like Peckham, Stoke Newington, and Wandsworth.
Fans of graphic art and design have lots to ogle this year at galleries like Outline Editions, which appears at Design Junction with a special new collaboration with London Transport Museum. Last weekend “Graphics Weekend” began with a lecture by Tony Brook of Spin, who launched his book Spin 360, published by Unit Editions. And it ended with a talk by Harry Pearce of Pentagram. And soon paper-maker G.F. Smith will start up its new Make Book bespoke service.
The pace picks up this this week with several launches at the Victoria & Albert Museum, a perennial festival hub. In the lobby, Norwegian designer Kim Thomé unveils Zotem, a 60-foot totem embedded with a grid of 600 oversized Swarovski crystals that change color and intensity with the moving background and the natural light. And avant-garde designer Faye Toogood launches her Cloakroom, where visitors can “check out” one of 150 bespoke coats lined with maps that lead them to other sculptural and site-specific garments crafted for the festival.
Somerset House, a 300-year-old Thames-front palace and the latest to join the festival scrum as a main venue, features 10 rooms specially redesigned by 10 different teams comprised of veteran and up-and-coming designers. Throwing a new dimension into the mix is Odyssey, the festival’s first virtual-reality exhibition. Designed by Tino Schaedler with United Realities, it allows you to experience the room using a virtual headset.
Up in Islington, London’s latest graphic design darling Camille Walala transforms the three-story Aria design boutique inside and out with her Memphis-inspired murals. She also launches an exclusive collection of furniture and ceramics, created in collaboration with contemporary ceramicists CoBaltum and furniture designer Dale Kirk.
Capitalizing on the excitement around his wildly popular Dismaland faux-fair, Banksy displays his 2007 Donkey Documents series at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour. The monochrome murals were originally created on a concrete barrier dividing the West Bank and Israel, and appear in the UK for the first time this week.
After launching their first monograph to much fanfare (and a mobbed opening party), Grace Winteringham and Anna Murray, graphic designers behind the pattern consultancy Patternity, roll out a collection of 10 contemporary invitation designs in collaboration with Paperless Post. The duo also hosts a five-day schedule of pattern-themed field trips and exhibitions at a space on Redchurch Street.
Down the road at Factory, Lindsey Adelman shows her graphic Power Plant line of ceramic plates. And Friday morning on Old Street in Hoxton, industrial designer Samuel Wilkinson installs Ommatudium, a gargantuan street lamp made (in consultation with neuroscientist Beau Lotto) with 1,500 crystal-glass lenses.
As usual, it’s all free of charge. But if your pounds are burning a hole in your canvas gift bag, there’s Tom Dixon’s pop-up department store Multiplex, selling local, experimental brands in a derelict former hotel behind Selfridges. The Conran Shop debuts the trippy, iridescent Shimmer side table by Patricia Urquiola. And Hem, a new furniture brand that’s a cross between IKEA and Hay, launches a temporary (for now) shop in Covent Garden for its customizable pieces from Nendo, Max Lamb, and Luca Nichetto.
Stay tuned for more of our favorite events and projects at LDF.