The end of May saw the welcome return of Clerkenwell Design Festival after a pause for the pandemic. As usual, we were out and about exploring the latest trends in the industry for our clients and to stay at the forefront of important developments. This year there were over 400 events that took place across the festival, plus over 150 resident showrooms and 10 exhibition venues to explore, as well as topical talks at Conversations at Clerkenwell.
We visited many of the fascinating installations around the area, including the exciting and colourful collaboration between artists Lois O’Hara and innovative London design studio Duffy London showcasing her bright and colourful patterns on a swing seat that encouraged people to view colour and pattern differently.
Habbio had ‘The World’s Most Sustainable Sofa’ and shone a direct light on sustainability and its impact on furniture – “90% of furniture in the UK currently ends up in landfill and sofas can contain up to 20% harmful chemicals. Habbio’s products are made from 100% recycled or sustainably sourced materials and are 100% recyclable at the end of their life. They are also 100% comfortable and stylish. Sustainability played a big role in the festival for 2022, with brands pushing the limits using natural materials, recycled products and using eco-focused manufacturing and distribution.
Our client Croft was also in attendance and had a stand in the Elements area. Croft, a British hardware manufacturer based in Willenhall, West Midlands, launched their new collection called The Racing Series, which is inspired by 1950s motorsport, and they enjoyed the interaction with visitors who were very engaged by the new collection and commented on the good footfall despite the weather and were happy to be involved for 2022.
There was also a series of engaging conversations at the event, including panel discussions on the issues of the day. Of particular note were discussions of diversity in design and the furniture industry and the circular economy.
Diversity in Design: Are we missing the point?
Morag Ofili, founder of Diversity and Inclusion consultancy Kiltered, was joined by a panel of design professionals to discuss whether the industry has lost its way on the diversity journey.
Diversity is about a whole range of communities including race, disability, gender, age and LGBTQ+, among others, and design needs to take this into account. Understanding your audience is key.
Decide whether you are designing to be inclusive of everyone or whether you are designing for a specific community. If you are designing for someone in particular, you need to know what they are looking for.
Doing as much research into the community you are designing for is imperative. This can be difficult if you are someone outside of this community. So, immersing yourself into their world, such as having focus groups with individuals from the community is critical if you don’t live it yourself. For example, designer Simon Hamilton had to tour museums in a wheelchair following an injury. This showed him that museums are often not designed for wheelchair users as the pieces are at eye level. Since then he has always remembered that and tried to be inclusive as possible with his designs.
One architect designed a sleek, minimalist park, which involved removing all the handrails. When the park opening disabled users struggled or couldn’t make use of it, isolating them from a public space.
Designers need to make inclusiveness a core part of their process, integrating it into their approach, so it doesn’t end up being an afterthought that stands out.
For example Tommy Hilfiger is in the process of making 50% of its collection wearable by the disabled by 2025.
There are positive steps being made, but the design sector as a whole still has a long way to go.
Closing the loop: What is the furniture industry doing to marry a circular vision with the reality of a sector which thrives in part, on fashion and change?
This panel focused on the steps the design and furniture industry can take to adopt a circular, more sustainable approach. Much like fashion, the furniture industry thrives on new trends and innovative products that are constantly being updated and refined, so choosing circular methods can be difficult.
Recently we have seen more and more furniture brands introduce sustainable materials such as recycled plastic bottles or used fishing nets in their pieces, whilst interior designers have been specifying vintage or second-hand furniture for their projects. Other companies have been focusing on creating long-lasting, quality pieces that go beyond trends. Utilising recycled materials, vintage pieces and timeless furniture gives spaces a history and much more character overall.
The panellists agreed that, at the moment, creating rental services for furniture, inspired by fashion rental, seems too complicated. Production and repairing costs are unfortunately too high to justify a rental system. However, this is the direction the industry is moving in, to become more sustainable and to keep up with our busy, ever-evolving lifestyles.
It was a welcome return for the Clerkenwell Design Festival and the event has lost none of its charm, excitement and innovation. It’s a must-attend for anyone interested in the industry – roll on 2023!
Written by: Sydney Davidson, Account Manager