Design shopping at London design festival

Posted on October 12, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

My last entry on the London design festival is related to shopping... As someone who is involved in the retail business, shamefully, I don't think I am out and about enough, and so the design festival was gave me an opportunity to see what is happening in the design retail world.


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The Saturday Market Project


While I was in East London, I made my way to Shoreditch, where many shops, galleries took part at The Shoreditch Design Triangle, an event in conjunction with the design festival. I first visited The Saturday Market Project's pop-up store on Leonard Street, which is all about making and experimenting. On their website, there is a marketplace where you can find high quality supplies, tools and raw materials. There are also instructions on how to make crafts at home.

At the temporary space, there were masterclasses, material experimentation, demonstrations, workshops and a temporary shop. The most eye-catching though was the Himmeli installation at the back. Himmeli is wheat straw that has been used for centuries as the material for traditional Scandinavian harvest decorations. At the event, visitors were invited to create their own himmeli creation using traditional methods and technology.

I love the concept of the project and what it aims to achieve. Ironically, after seeing so many 'polished, thoughtful and beautiful' designed objects at the festival, I felt slightly 'anti-design'. This project reminds us that design does not have to be that way, and everyone has the ability to create. All you really need is some good tools, materials, instructions and passion!


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Top right & 2nd row middle: 'The Formal Beauty Of Type' exhibition; 2nd row left: Glyphics shop display; 2nd right & bottom: The Goodhood Store; 3rd row: The art of skateboarding exhibition


On the same street, I also visited The Book Club where I saw the typographic exhibition 'The Formal Beauty Of Type' (until 16th Nov) by Susanna Foppoli. The exhibition is comprised of a series of typographic abstract compositions, designed using a restricted colour palette of black, white and red. I like the simplicity and boldness of the work, and in our image-driven world today, it is refreshing to see typography being the only focus here. Long live typography!

My next stop was The Goodhood Store, one of the coolest independent fashion and lifestyle shopping destinations in East London. The shop recently moved from Coronet Road to this new 3000 square foot site on Curtain Road (151) that spans over two floors. The ground floor is dedicated to fashion and accessories, and in the basement, you would find beauty and grooming products, stationery, homeware and a small cafe. There is also a small exhibition area at the front, and 'The art of skateboarding' was the exhibition during the design festival. The exhibition payed homage to this subculture by asking leading artists and designers, including Jake & Dinos Chapman, Will Sweeney, James Jarvis etc, to contribute to the creation of skateboards. The designs were then auctioned off and the proceeds were donated to the Long Live South Bank charity.


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Top left: Material shop; Top right: Tokyo Bike; Main & bottom: Tord Boontje's shop


There are many cool design and lifestyle shops in Shoreditch, and one of them is Material (3 Rivington Street), where you can find interesting design led prints, books and stationery. Another one is Tokyo Bike (87-89 Tabernacle Street), where not only you can find minimalistic bikes and bike accessories, but also Momosan's wonderful pop up shop (I think the shop may have moved to Serpentine Sackler Gallery for the time being).

Dutch designer Tord Boontje's shop (23 Charlotte Road) is also a popular destination for design lovers. After the success of his iconic Garland light for Habitat in 2003, the designer launched Bouquet light at the design festival as a successor to the Garland for Habitat’s Design Reunion, a collection to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary. At his shop, you will find the designer's signature romantic and delicate lighting, as well as tableware and other home accessories.


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Top left: Luna & Curious; Top midde: O'dell's; Top right: Leila's shop window: Main: Maison Trois garcons' fun window display; Bottom left: Charlene Mullen; Bottom right: Larache.


On the other side of Shoreditch, I visited the cute lifestyle and fashion shop Luna & Curious (24-26 Calvert Ave), where daily extrusions and firings took placed at their open ceramic workshop. The shop is connected to O'Dell's, which stocks a a range of minimalistic menswear, lifestyle accessories and homewares.

If minimalistic style is not your cup of tea, then walk down a little you will find the exotic Larache,where owner Hassan Hajjaj sources  and colourful and well-made home furnishings from Pakistan, Morocco and India. Or cross the street where you will find Soboye, an African-inspired shop full of colourful yet contemporary fashion, accessories and lifestyle items.


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The RIBA Regent Street Shop Windows Project: Mobile Studio for Jack Spade


Back in the city centre, RIBA's Regent Street Windows Project matched RIBA architects with flagship retailers to create stunning architectural installations in the windows of shops, restaurants and cafes around Regent Street for 3 weeks to coincide with London Fashion week and The London design festival. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to see all the shop windows, but you can find the photos of these installations via the weblink above.


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Top left: Skandium; Top right, 2nd row: Mint shop; 3rd row: 4th left: Han Jungeun's ceramic stools; 4th row right: Alcarol's Fisheye stools; 5th row: Squint; Bottom: The shop at Bluebird on Kings Road


After spending hours at the V & A museum in South Kensington, I had a bit of spare time to check out the shops nearby including the institute for cool Scandinavian designs, Skandium on Bromptpn Road (245-249 Brompton Road), followed by Mint (2 North Terrace, Alexander Square). For more information for design shopping in the area, you can also check out Brompton design district.

In order to compete in the highly competitive retail sector, independent retail shops need to have quite distinctive characteristics. And I think high-end design shop Mint has always been one of its kind. While many retailers prefer to play safe or stock according to trends, Mint has always been willing to take risks. Aside from supporting emerging designers, their eclectic selection of furniture, lighting and interior objects often showcase skilled craftsmanship, and many can even be viewed as functional art objects rather than design objects. If you visit their store, you will see that the boundary between art, craft and design is almost not distinguishable. And this is what makes them stand out. During the design festival, shop owner Lina Kanafani curated an exhibition focusing on the influence of craft in design. The shop was filled with classic pieces from the 70s & 80s, together with over 40 established and emerging designers to create a visual harmony of contrasts. I was particularly intrigued by Italian design studio Alcarol's FishEye stools, featuring sections of timber poles dredged up from Venice's canals. By filling the gaps of the wood left by shipworms with a transparent resin, the log was given a new life and function. Cool.

For the more eccentric types, Squint next door (1 North Terrace) is ideal if you want something rich, decorative and bespoke. Most pieces are made to order by long-established independent workshops in the UK. My final stop in the area was The Bluebird shop on Kings Road (350). It has been a few years since I visited to 'this end' of Kings Road, so it was interesting to see how much Bluebird has changed since. Aside from stocking many cool fashion brands, the 10,000 sq ft space also offers design-related books, stationery, beauty products, interior/ home accessories and it even has a spa. This design-led concept/lifestyle store injects a younger and 'hipper' vibe in a rather grown-up and sophisticated neighbourhood, which is quite welcoming.


This post was posted in London, Shopping, Shopping guide, Graphics & illustrations, Design festivals & shows, Design, Visual merchandising, Pop ups and was tagged with London, art and design exhibitions, shopping, pop up shop, Shopping guide, visual merchandising, London Design Festival