Now an established, annual event in Olympia’s Autumn calendar, 100% Design started more than two decades ago as a low-key yet ambitious design fair housed in modest, temporary surroundings.
Since growing in stature and gaining the attention of the Architecture Engineering & Construction industry, a procession of dull, characterless products had been creeping onto the supplier stands in recent years – a consequence of today’s streamlined construction methods and ‘industrial’ manufacturing techniques resulting in the sort of slick, standardised products whose ‘perfection’, it’s now been recognised, poses a serious threat to the creative process. Dwindling audience interest had also caused suppliers to seek out alternative trade shows at which to show their wares.
This year’s show – part of the London Design Festival – was very different: we were pleasantly surprised to find that bespoke design seems to be having a renaissance, bringing with it an exciting mix of established brands and emerging talent whose sole focus is on good quality design and exquisite craftsmanship once again.
At the ‘New Artist’ stands, Air spotted a mutual interest with those exhibiting in the innovative use of recycled materials, as well as traditional manufacturing techniques with a modern twist. Most designs were driven by an understanding of the ‘cradle to cradle’§, circular approach of reusing, recycling and repurposing, skilfully addressing the hot topic of sustainability versus widely spread manufacturing techniques which currently see a large percentage of raw materials with short ‘life-spans’ ending up as landfill.
The rising industry trend of bespoke craftsmanship as a counter-wave against industrially manufactured products is likely due to people’s increased interest in how and where products are made, what materials they are made with, and whether they are ethically sourced etc. As consumers, we demand more and more that brands provide transparent production-process and retail information to help assuage our concerns about the state of the planet and its inhabitants.
In addition, we want to feel a deeper relationship with the products we use and to see the labour of love a craftsman or woman has put into their work: for example, the unique features; the natural, locally-sourced materials; and the unique story behind each one. Air’s favourite stand at the show to this effect was the workshop set up by Benchmark, which showcased the traditional bench joinery of timber stools and brought us much joy!
In conclusion: Air found 100% Design to be a fantastic event, with inspiring new products and practices on show and great networking opportunities to be had by all.
§ A circular process: reusing, recycling and repurposing. This process imitates nature, where nothing is left redundant and everything is repurposed, having been trialled and tested through millions of years of evolution.