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London Design Festival 2017: Highlights from the city’s annual design fair

In its 15th year, the English capital’s design fair steps up its game

A peek at fashion designer Peter Pilotto’s installation in the Brompton Design District.
Photo by Angus Mill Photography

London Design Festival (LDF), like New York’s springtime Design Week, generally takes a backseat to Milan’s higher-trafficked annual bacchanal of all things design.

But this year’s LDF marked the city’s 15th edition—and as the fair approached its final weekend, it was clear that the English capital was working to stake a claim to thought-provoking, visually arresting, flat-out-fun design. Here, we take a look back at this year’s London Design Festival highlights.

New Generation

A new guard of London designers united by their fearless approach to pattern and colour took center stage at London Design Festival this year. French by birth, but distinctly East London in spirit, Camille Walala created a pattern-covered bouncy castle in London's straight-laced Broadgate neighborhood. Covered in her unmistakable Walala graphics—a sort of modern day Memphis—the inflatable structure was one of the Festival's landmark installations.

Camille Walala’s Memphis-inspired playground in London’s Broadgate neighborhood.
Photo by Andy Stagg
Designer Yinka Ilori.
Photo courtesy Yinka Ilori

Also prolific was Londoner Yinka Ilori, whose distinctive, narrative-filled designs were the star of not one, not two, but three shows across the festival. Ilori’s work included in a brightly colored playground at Citizen M hotel, a series of one-of-a-kind chairs made with social enterprise Restoration Station, and an installation called “A Large Chair Does Not Make A King,” which was commissioned by London’s Africa Centre.

More is More

In a refreshing move away from the Scandinavian-inspired minimalism that has dominated for so long, Milanese designers Dimore Studio created five hedonistic rooms inside London art gallery Mazzoleni. Viewed through circular openings in the wall, each room set was crammed with rich pattern, color, texture, and vintage furniture. Empty beer bottles, pills, and playing cards were left scattered around, hinting at the debauched lifestyle of each room’s absent occupants.

Peter Pilotto took over three stories of a Victorian townhouse during London Design Festival.
Photo by Angus Mill Photography

Over in the Brompton design district, womenswear label Peter Pilotto commandeered three stories of a Victorian townhouse, filling it with vibrant work by a carefully selected crew of artists and designers. Set against a backdrop of clashing pastel walls and carpets were sumptuous rugs by Max Lamb, opulent glass chandeliers by Bethan Laura Wood, Button Top stools by Martino Gamper, and, of course, Pilotto’s own intricately embroidered clothes arranged across rails.

Monochrome

The theme of immersive environments continued with Faye Toogood and Lee Broom but in a distinctly more monochromatic fashion. In a disused garage space flooded with an ethereal natural light from its glass roof, Faye Toogood conjured an all-white show space filled with creamy colored furniture and artworks that evoked a sense of lightness. The pieces—each donated by a different designer in exchange for one of Toogood’s signature Spade chairs—included a hanging glass sculpture by Andere Monjo and series of Square Lights by Peter Marigold.

Meanwhile, in east London’s Shoreditch, Lee Broom created an atmospheric all-black installation in celebration of his studio’s ten-year anniversary. Called ‘On Reflection’, the pieces were displayed in a fire-lit black room at the designer’s studio. On the far wall, what at first glance appeared to be a grid of mirrors turned out to be an identical mirrored room set that only became obvious when visitors realized that their own reflection was absent in the mirror.

Plastic Fantastic

Jesmonite was named as the material of the year at London Design Fair but elsewhere recycled waste materials were used aplenty. At Design Frontiers, in Somerset House, new brand Pentatonic launched a range of customizable furniture made entirely from recycled materials, including plastics, cans, and smartphone screens.

New brand Pentatonic launched a range of customizable furniture made entirely from recycled materials.
Photo courtesy Pentatonic
Items by Michael Marriott, James Shaw, and Soft Baroque in the Ready Made Go show at London’s Ace Hotel.
Photo courtesy Ready Made Go

Over at the Ace Hotel, the third edition of Ready Made Go, curated by Laura Houseley of Modern Design Review magazine, showcased six new products by five London-based designers. A stool by Michael Marriott was made using Smile Plastics—a product manufactured from waste materials such as recycled food packaging; design duo Soft Baroque teamed with Alusid—a company that makes a natural stone-like surface material made from recycled ceramics and glass elements from old television sets; and a set of cake stands by James Shaw made from 100 percent recycled polymers that are melted and squeezed through a hand-held extrusion gun.

Culinary Delights

At the launch of Christopher Jenner’s new Epicurean silverware collection made in collaboration with heritage British silverware brand E&Co, the designer worked with culinary designer Ido Garini of Studio Appétit to create a series of five styled compositions.

Laid out across a vast dining table, each mise-en-scène was presented within a wooden frame, with the silverware arranged alongside the ingredients that inspired its design, such as cheese, honey, salt, and rice. In addition, Studio Appétit created a tasting menu of intensely flavored cubes inspired by the pieces; one such cube, crystalized honey, accompanied the honey pot. A cheese-and-stout cube represented the cheese knife.

Garini’s talents were also in demand over at the German Gymnasium in Kings Cross, where Conran + Partners hosted a food and design exhibition exploring culinary rituals. Centered around a black-and-gold, 20-foot-tall “food worship monument,” tastings ran throughout the week with guests tucking into killer cocktails served in hand-crafted cups and deconstructed black forest gâteaus eaten using bespoke cutlery designed by the Dutch studio.