Pre-Fall, End of Summer. Whatever you call this transitional time of year, it’s a major moment for fashion, art and design. Throughout the months of August and September, fashion weeks are staggered in major cities around the globe, followed by Paris Design Week, Maison & Objet, the London Design Festival and the increasingly fascinating Frieze Art Fair.
Both Paris Design Week and the London Design Festival are highlights of the season, delivering the perfect mix of art and design. These shows have so much to offer: access to showrooms, museums, curated exhibits and site-specific installations for you to stumble upon between cappuccinos. CDH x Geronimo created a psychedelic light exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery, while Waugh Thistleton Architects’ Multiply was an inviting modular playground outside the V&A, but my absolute favourite was Scholten & Baijings Time for Tea installation set up at Fortnum & Mason’s flagship store.
The design world is a deeply entangled web of all things beautiful. Naturally, a few common themes emerged among this year’s presentations.
Design has always been focused on solutions. The process-driven experimental approach reveals itself in materials, pattern, colour and shape. A breath of hopefulness manifested in uplifting and inclusive design. Interactive installations, recycled materials, and quirky large-scale patterns played out across different mediums that brought joy to onlookers. Our collective attention shifted toward more approachable soft, curvilinear shapes in mixed materials and finishes.
Sustainability has become a more approachable subject for designers. Across shows, designers took on new material streams and innovations to showcase their unique position regarding the environmental impact of design. An emphasis on process-driven design resulted in experimental material applications that presented what is possible rather than a final product.
Innovative material reuse was a common theme throughout the shows, with additional attention drawn to repurposed single-use plastics. The London Design Fair highlighted plastic as its “Material of the Year,” which naturally lead to even more experimentation.
These days, materiality has diversified. New sources for raw and repurposed ingredients blend bio-based materials, recycled plastics and engineered surfaces into exciting new categories for designers to play with. Envisions, in collaboration with Finsa, presented a curated exhibition of material palettes in unique textures, patterns and colours through various wood composites. Designers like Juli Foos, Charlotte Kidger, Kodai Iwamoto and Weez & Merl elevated recycled plastics with innovative new processes. Many designers sought inspiration in terrazzo-like flecks of colour when merging plastics.
Fairs and fashion weeks around the globe promoted our rediscovered optimism by depicting colour as emotion. Numerous colour-based installations took place throughout London including Liz West’s Colour Transfer in the newly renovated Paddington Central, a sensory colour bath at Mycoocoon’s Colour Energy Hub and, of course, Chroma Yoga in (you guessed it) Shoreditch.
Everyone is a colourist, or at least has an opinion. This year, studios and designers were not shy when it came to saturated colour. Palettes were bright, featured in oversized playful patterns that consistently demonstrated a whimsical approach to design. Colour ranges were built through intentional layering. Overlapping transparent materials provided complexity and depth of shade to otherwise flat materials, as seen in Poiret’s Spring 2019 RTW presentation in Paris.
While some exhibitions served commentary on the current state of global politics, most studios and design houses took a softened and optimistic approach to design this year. Ultimately, their point of view focused on experimental solutions, happy use of colour and pattern, and material innovation.