Let’s not kid ourselves; the design season only ever truly begins in April, with the preordained pilgrimage to Milan, come Salone del Mobile. While there are many design capitals in the making — Toronto, Singapore, Shanghai, Dubai — the Milanese design week is ‘the’ place every designer wants to present at, and where every design professional and Instagram ‘influencer’ wants to be mid-April.
Having barely recovered from Maison & Objet (Paris) and the Stockholm Design Week, I too am looking forward to Milan, but other commitments mean that this year, I will only experience it from afar. That hasn’t stopped press-packs and teasers from clogging my inbox. No doubt, it will be a stellar edit yet again, but with every design brand already claiming it’s right over the next big design trend for 2018 and beyond, it’s put in me a ‘taking stock’ mode.
Are design weeks just well oiled commercial or promotional vehicles? What do they mean for people outside of the creative bubble? And why should we care for these events?
Truth is, design weeks train global attention on the act of creation. In doing so, they allow for the sustainability of the inquisitive mind, livelihoods, the crafts and continued investments in technology and infrastructure.
Design weeks not only celebrate the talent, culture and opportunity available to the host city, but in bringing together a global network of designers and creatives, these events become something bigger than the marketing ploy. They truly build communities.
In putting together diverse streams of design — furniture, textile, accessory, material, technology, product to name a few — and presenting established and emerging designers on the same platform, these annual events set new generations of designers on the path of success, year after year.
Design weeks are happy to share the glory too — they support satellite economies of the host city. Dubai for example, has some of the highest hotel occupancy rates during Dubai Design Week. Not to mention the millions that are pumped into the economy via sponsorships, parties, even Uber rides.
Salone del Mobile will engage Milan with the global design community from April 17-22, but here are some other design weeks that you simply shouldn’t miss out on.
CLERKENWELL DESIGN WEEK (London, May 22-24)
Clerkenwell is home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else in the British capital. In a way it is what Shoreditch was before rampant glamorisation eroded its edge. To celebrate this rich and diverse community, CDW has created a showcase of leading the UK and international brands and companies presented in a series of showroom events, pop-up exhibitions and special installations that take place across the area.
DESIGN MIAMI/BASEL (June 12-17)
Each edition brings together an elite roster of collectors, influential gallerists, designers, curators and critics from around the world in celebration of design, culture and commerce. Occurring alongside the Art Basel fairs in Miami, USA each December and Basel, Switzerland each June, Design Miami/ has become the premier venue for collecting, exhibiting, discussing and creating a collectible design.
HELSINKI DESIGN WEEK (September 6-16)
Founded in 2005, Helsinki Design Week is the largest design festival in the Nordic countries. Presenting design from a number of fields as well as fashion, architecture and urban culture, the multidisciplinary festival unfolds a variety of event spaces spread throughout the city: from museums to markets, from seminar halls to secret shops.
DUTCH DESIGN WEEK (October 20-28)
More than 2600 designers present their ideas to more than 335,000 visitors from home and abroad, making this Eindhoven based programme the biggest design event in Northern Europe. This event sets itself apart with a strong focus on the designs for the future. Across the varied disciplines of design on offer, the emphasis is on experiment, innovation and cross-overs. Exceptional attention goes towards the development of young talent.
THE SALON: ART+DESIGN (November 8-12)
The Salon is the only New York fair of its calibre to combine styles, genres, and periods. Other fairs allow art, but no design or conversely design without art. The willingness to consider all material — historic to contemporary — is based on the belief that today’s designers and collectors insist on a vibrant mix — as long as the quality is impeccable.