Across a dozen designated design districts, four official big shows and many spin-off events, the London Design Festival is where the capital shows its creative mettle. An increasingly international event, the week sees thousands of new products launched as well as independent galleries and designers offering thought-provoking work. Here are some highlights.
M.A.H Presents: Prototypes with Dellostudio
16-22 September, 10am-7pm. 2b Vyner Street, London E2 9DG
Interiors stylist Laura Fulmine’s east London gallery M.A.H hires out contemporary art and design, whether for one-off film and photo shoots or longer-term for private interiors. Now she’s commissioned brand-new work for the first time, collaborating with Dellostudio, founded by designers and artists Oscar Piccolo and Charlotte Taylor. Called Prototypes, the collection’s table, screen and four chair designs, to be revealed at LDF, have a sculptural, cartoonish quality, and can be made in many different materials, from marble to resin.
Rick Owens: Glade
16 September-25 October, weekdays 10am-6pm. Carpenters Workshop Gallery, 4 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4GA
Fashion designer Rick Owens’ deviation into furniture is more than just a side hustle – his work commands couture-like prices and he is represented by the illustrious Carpenters Workshop Gallery. His newest limited-edition work, Glade, consists of modular seating units made from plywood and covered in French wool army blankets, which will make its debut during LDF. There will also be an “explosion” of aluminium Prong stools, a recurring design in Owens’ catalogue that has in the past been clad in camel hide, cast in concrete and carved from foam blocks.
King's Cross Design District
14-22 September. Various venues
Anchored by Designjunction, King’s Cross is for the first time an official LDF Design District. Head to Coal Drops Yard to see Bill Amberg’s digitally printed leathers, all startlingly different thanks to collaborations with a broad range of designers including artist Matthew Day Jackson, whose hide depicts the surface of the moon. On the same theme, Lara Bohinc continues her exploration of all things celestial at Lunar House, the designer’s first solo show in London. Taking over a townhouse (viewing by appointment only), it will feature work such as her Apollo chair and Planetaria floor light, plus a new accessories collection.
Tangent Works 2013-2019
14-22 September, Mon-Sun 9am-9pm. Paddington Central, London W2 6PT
Hitting its stride in its second year as an official LDF Design Route, Paddington Central has its own hub in the form of co-working members’ club the Storey Club, and some global design names to explore. Highlights include a retrospective of the work of Tangent, a studio founded by Hideki Yoshimoto that interweaves design, technology and craft. The show will feature Inaho, a delicately swaying interactive lighting installation, inspired by the movement of ears of rice in the breeze; and Here, a 3.5m-diameter globe made from triangular solar cells, originally commissioned by Hermès for Geneva’s watch fair.
19-22 September, 10am-8pm (closes 6pm Sunday). Saatchi Gallery, King’s Rd, London SW3 4RY
I-Made is a major new show at the festival, with a succinct brief: to exhibit the best of Italian design. The creation of architect and designer Giulio Cappellini, the event should have plenty of space to spread out over the Saatchi Gallery’s three floors. Many of Italy’s big brands are present, from Molteni&C to Poltrona Frau, but with Italian design experiencing a renaissance, this is also an opportunity to explore some less familiar names, such as the experimental Imperfetto Lab. The talks programme is also impressive and includes Patrizia Moroso and artist Richard Woods.
Brompton Design District
14-22 September. Various venues
Independent galleries and big brands make Brompton an intriguing mix. Tackling the district’s overarching theme of nature/nurture, SEEDS Gallery is exploring identity with Masters of Disguise, a show curated by M-L-XL Studio that features masks made by 20 designers and artists including Martino Gamper, Bethan Laura Wood and Nathalie du Pasquier. Mint focuses on sustainability and circular design with its show, Raw, which includes work made from coal by Jesper Eriksson and Georgian brand Rooms’ furniture carved from green subvolcanic stone. Over at The Conran Shop, in-demand interior design studio Sella Concept has taken over the window displays for a mirror-filled installation that will allow visitors to see the products from a new perspective. Italian furniture company Cassina has extended its showroom space in time for the festival, which means more room to create imaginative roomsets, including a dining area dedicated to Pierre Jeanneret’s furniture for Chandigarh in India, plus new pieces by the Bouroullec brothers and Patricia Urquiola. And fellow Italian brand Tacchini has a pop-up showroom to be explored: entitled Be Whole, In The Name of Beauty, it will showcase both new work and re-editions of design classics.
Kam Ce Kam
17-22 September, times vary. 30 Redchurch Street, London E1 6JT
Making its debut in the heart of Shoreditch, furniture brand Kam Ce Kam means “at the very least” in Hindi, and is the brainchild of Jehanara Knowles, who grew up between New Delhi and London. Her aim is to revive Indian craft in a contemporary manner, with objects that incorporate age-old techniques such as cane weaving and stone carving, with an emphasis on natural and sustainably sourced materials. The debut collection includes a woven screen and a table and console topped by a surface of marble offcuts.
London Design Fair
19-22 September, times vary. Old Truman Brewery, 26 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR
The best place to see emerging international design, London Design Fair has 550 exhibitors from 36 countries. Irthi, a UAE-based crafts organisation with a remit to empower women and promote indigenous craft, is the fair’s special guest. It will be showing the results of its Crafts Dialogue collaborative programme, which saw Spanish designers from Barcelona-based non-profit Creative Dialogue team up with creatives from the UAE. Ghaya Bin Mesmar and Mermelada Estudio’s windswept-looking chairs made from palm fronds, and Adrian Salvador Candela and Shaikha Bin Dhaher’s bowls made from moulded leather are two highlights. Adorno is curating Crossovers, a show-within-a show for which it has invited independent designers from 11 countries, all working at the intersection of design, art, and crafts. Copenhagen-based Stine Mikkelsen’s avant-garde Luminous Shapes lighting will be on show, made from an irregularly bent tube of crushed granite held together by fish-glue, topped by a bulb. In addition, there are country pavilions from the likes of Portugal, the Czech Republic and Uruguay: the latter has taken the work of native poet Juana de Ibarbourou as the starting point for the work of nine creatives, who have taken a poem each to translate into product design. Look out for Estudio’s Claro’s arch-shaped terracotta vessels and Sámago’s rotating coffee tables.
14-22 September, 10am-5.30pm. Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
If ‘entrapment and confusion’ are your idea of fun, head to the V&A for Canadian designer Matthew McCormick experiential installation on the theme of climate change. Avalanche is a low lit, reflective corridor that becomes progressively darker, challenging visitors to find the safest route out. The brief pause between darkness and light emulates a moment of consciousness, says McCormick: “We recognise that a critical mass is required to instigate societal change when it comes to the shifts in our environment – however, this collective awareness has to start with the individual.”
Biodesign Here Now
19-21 September, times vary. Open Cell, Old Laundry Yard, Shepherds Bush Market, London W12 8EZ
The future of materials design can be found in this unlikely location, a cluster of shipping containers in west London: this is the home of Open Cell, a biotechnology hub for start-ups and designers. Biodesign Here Now offers an introduction to this compelling subject, with participants including RCA masters student Piero d’Angelo, who makes delicate garments from slime mould (much more beautiful than the facts suggest); and Kaiku Living Color, a petrochemical-free system that creates pigment from plant waste.
14-20 September, Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-5.30pm. The Study at LASSCO, Brunswick House, 30 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LG
Architectural antiques dealer LASSCO’s Palladian mansion in Vauxhall provides the handsome backdrop this show curated by designer Charlotte Kingsnorth. Phantasms explores the identity of objects and the hyperreal, with furniture and objects that offer a twist on the norm. Kingsnorth’s new furniture series, Barking up the Wrong, made from oak logs with a playfully painted exterior, is joined by monumental ceramic furniture by James Rigler, James Shaw’s extruded Plastic Baroque objects, and more.
12 September 2019-4 May 2020, Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Fenton House, Hampstead Grove, Hampstead, London, NW3 6SP
An invitation to take the weight off could hardly be more welcome after a few days exploring the festival. This one comes at the behest of Fenton House, the National Trust’s 17th-century jewel in Hampstead, where Gitta Gschwendtner has curated a series of new seating by different designers, each one responding to a particular detail of their chosen room. Gschwendtner herself, plus Michael Marriott, Nina Tolstrup, Carl Clerkin, Frith Kerr and Maisie Broadhead are the six taking part, with Kerr (a graphic designer) and Broadhead (a jewellery designer) being completely new to furniture design.
14-22 Sept. Westminster Cathedral Piazza, London SW1E 5BP
No strangers to LDF thanks to the attention-grabbing nature of their graphic monochrome aesthetic, Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham of Patternity are back with Life Labyrinth outside Westminster cathedral. The installation takes its cues from the building’s distinctive Byzantine-style striped brickwork, with alternating black and white blocks forming a low-level labyrinth (or simply a place to perch). Patternity’s work is more than just surface design, though, so the experience of walking its meandering paths is intended to be a reflective, meditative one.