When you´re thinking of going to a design fair it´s often difficult to decide which one. Here are our impressions of 3 fairs we visited on the 21st to 23rd September 2013 and images of some of the stands.
by Anna Champeney Estudio Textil, Spain (exhibitor at TENT 2013)
Held at the Old Truman Brewery an 8 minute walk from Liverpool Street. We were exhibiting as part of the Artesania de Galicia stand with our new collection of hand-woven textiles with natural dyes, “Soft Urban”. The fair featured larger brands on the ground floor in the Superbrands section with smaller stands and more designer-makers and first-time exhibitors (ie – new designers breaking into the design fair scene). The atmosphere was very friendly and open and it was great to be able to exchange information and experiences with other exhibitors. There were quite a few textile stands including weave, knit and printed textiles.
See images of us and our stand at the Anna Champeney Estudio Textil blog here
Laura is a first time British exhibitor with a range of both hand-woven and mill-woven cushions. She prototypes her work by hand on a small-size computer loom and has the work made up by machine looms locally. This is now the dominant way of working for hand-weavers in the UK who find that hand-weaving functional textiles is simply not profitable enough. Design skills are fundamental in order to be able to succeed with this model of working.
Louise is trained as a weave designer but the range presented at Tent used basketry techniques. Each piece is designed and hand-made by Louise and retail at 800 pounds. This is a revelation for most traditional basketmakers who often find it difficult to charge a realistic price for their work. This shows how important design, choice of product and context are to craft today.
These are two more established British textiles designers whose work is produced nationally by small factories. In both cases they are small companies directed and managed by their founders. They have had more time to grow their product range than the new young designers, however, and their stands tend to be larger and more shop-like in appearance. Tori´s designs are simple but the focus on achromatic and neutral tones and simple geometric stripes, zigzags, stars, gives it a unified brand-like “look”. Seven Gauge Studios, specialising in knit, have a very characteristic colour palette with muted colours and neutrals. Their blankets retail at over 200 pounds, which is quite a common priceband amongst small independent design houses and reflect the individual design process and production costs and necessary markups in order to be able to sell wholesale to upmarket interiors shops and boutiques. Entry price – As an exhibitor I had free entry but I think the show cost around 10 pounds.
Design Junction is a newer and larger design fair situated on New Oxford Street in central London, giving it a distinct advantage over TENT in some ways, although it´s my guess that it´s more expensive to exhibit at. Smaller companies and designer-makers are featured on the ground floor in a section billed as the shop section – where one can buy direct at the fair. I recognised Welsh blanket makers Melin Trygwynt there. There were both designer-makers and larger companies exhibiting there. The second and third floors had larger stand spaces and a more sophisticated feel to them and they were more directed at trade buyers. The cost of entry was 10 pounds.
Favourite brands of mine included Eleanor Pritchard, Wallace & Sewell and Cristian Zuzunaga of Barcelona whose design range includes hand-woven textiles by Teixidors, the veyr high quality Catalan weave studio whose weavers are disabled.
This third fair is held at Kensington Palace just off the Bayswater Road in the Notting Hill Gate area of London. Unlike the previous two fairs this is more orientated at Trade only clients although the last day, Tuesday 24 September, was open to the public. Entrance to the fair is considerably more – 25 pounds. I´d have preferred to have paid less and not had the free fabric bag for collecting info at the fair (!). The fair is far more classic in feel than Tent or Design Junction and I got the impression that exhibitors are far more focussed on attracting the attention of interior designers than shops as clients. Bespoke carpet design and specialist tecno-textiles rubbed shoulders with blanket producers but the fair mainly featured furniture suppliers, fabric suppliers-by-the-metre. Two exhibitors caught my eye, being smaller producers / designers. However they were not as cutting-edge as designers at TENT and Design Junction.
Twig UK features over a dozen new blanket prototypes designed by the TwigUK designer-founder and then made up at a British textile mill using a standard twill pattern and rolled fringes that characterise such work. She takes orders at the show and then liaises with the mill to make the orders up. The distinguishing factor in the designs was the use of coloured bands in different proportions. Pure Lana is a British-based company whose designer works with Argentinian suppliers who use hand-makers to produce the work. I was pleased to see tea being used as a natural dye in some of the work.