London Design Festival 2011

The Union Jacks are flying high at this year's London Design Festival as British-based talent leads the world with innovation and flair
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The ninth London Design Festival (LDF) opens on 16 September and runs until 25 September. It is better than ever - and furiously waving the flag.

Its motto for this year, "March of the Makers", was first coined by Chancellor George Osborne. "Design is the engine that will drive us forward," adds LDF founder and chairman Sir John Sorrell. "Design is central to society and culture - but also to the economy, to growth and to the future."

At last, "Made in Britain" is again a badge to wear with pride. Our art schools - the best worldwide - have bred a brave tribe of daring creatives with their sustainable design and a genuinely new aesthetic, many using UK workshops and factories.

Sir Terence Conran (celebrating his 80th birthday with a Design Museum show in November) sees a new Brit style emerging, with cool, well-crafted furniture in solid woods. For example: Another Country at designjunction; Method, Kay + Stemmer, and Pottinger + Cole at 100% Design, and Matthew Hilton at Case and Tramshed).

Then there's sculptural lighting (Innermost at designjunction) and ceramics made once more in Stoke; The New English at Designersblock, and Emily Johnson bone china lighting in Pimlico.

Glass is another British forte - for example, Bob Crooks at 100% Design. For textile texture, see Margo Selby at Origin, Sonya Winner at Tent, and Melin Tregwynt at 100% Design.

Vacavaliente's origami-style pencil holder
Vacavaliente's origami-style pencil holder in leather, at 100% Design
Britain historically excels at pattern, and this is true as much today as ever. A quirky example is Mini Moderns at Tent, while Cole & Son do grand geometry at the Andaz Liverpool Street hotel. Kitsch lightens the mood - how about Denise O'Sullivan at 100% Design, and Beyond the Valley at the V&A?

Our technology is back on track with LEDs by Jake Dyson and computerised woodcutters at Benchmark, both at designjunction. There's also digital printing (wallpapers by Kirath Ghundoo at 100% Design) and laser cutting - for example, balustrades by Grace & Webb at 100% Design.

For clever new eco-materials see Suzie Button's latex-covered newspaper and electro-conductive paint by Bare (100% Design). "Upcycling" is the mode of the moment: Paul Firbank (aka the Rag and Bone Man) bike-trawls east London and transforms discards into smart lighting. See it at Tent.

Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark, for Moooi
Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark, for Moooi
Our shops, too, are in on the act - London is ace at selling design. Many stores have festival fun, often with an international edit. Capital retailers include Ruth Aram of Aram Store, Lina Kanafani of Mint, Sheridan Coakley of SCP, Chrystina Schmidt of Skandium, James Mair of Viaduct, Priscilla Carluccio of Few & Far, and Tony Cunningham/Simon Alderson of TwentyTwentyOne, plus newcomers such as Chris Curtis and Laurent Nurisso of Lifestylebazaar.

Their global gleanings up the international ante, as do the national stands/pavilions at the big shows (Israel, Palestine, Slovenia, Chile and Romania are among the nations coming to town).

Vix plate by The New English, £95, at Designersblock
Vix plate by The New English, £95, at Designersblock
A happy hybrid is our own African & African-Caribbean Design Diaspora (AACDD) joyously celebrating art, product and design on the South Bank and at 100%. Download its festival guide at aacdd.org. This sets out the cultural background to an inspirational initiative from Kew-based Karin-Beate Phillips, long-time, tireless advocate of the British European Design Group.

How to do the route


The London Design Festival has more than 280 events at about 150 venues. Thankfully, many are packed close together, which makes walking easily the best way to get around.

Start at the V&A, SW7 - go in from Exhibition Road for an info "hub"/free bag/guide). Round the front, a huge wood sculpture by Amanda Levete hugs the main museum door. Inside, scattered amid the priceless treasures are the latest wonders of 3D printing. Then work the adjacent Brompton Design District.

Pole Bench by Sebastian Cox, £420, at Tent
Pole Bench by Sebastian Cox, £420, at Tent
Go east for action, including the Shoreditch triangle, the Tramshed group show, and the bravura of Brick Lane/Tent. Clerkenwell is furniture land with its cluster of trade showrooms (Cappellini, Moroso, Vitra, Kohler, Flos, Viaduct et al), all putting on their best festival style. Head for the Farmiloes Building, where the multiple exhibitors of Designersblock inimitably do (often deviant) design.

Head west for Tom Dixon's canalside The Dock - you could make a day of that, with on-water frolics, takeaway art, good food and mermaid rooms at Moooi.

Covent Garden, a "design district" this year, has giant Lego on the Piazza and lots of shopping. In Holborn, designjunction is in a basement where glamour meets grunge. Find details of all events, venues, shops and designers at londondesign festival.com.

Bob Crooks vase, £1,990, at 100% Design
Bob Crooks vase, £1,990, at 100% Design

Don't miss


The big shows which open September 22: 100% Design, Tent London, Designersblock, Origin Craft Fair, designjunction and Tramshed. See our previews in Homes & Property on 21 September.

John Pawson's "Perspectives" of the Geometric Staircase of St Paul's, not usually open to the public. A huge lens plus mirrors creates an illusion of architectural beauty.

The 100ft-long soft textile floor of the Raphael Gallery at the V&A. Take in those famous "cartoons" (working drawings made for tapestries).

Beau McClellan's 16ft chandelier with 200 mirrored coloured lights flashing in sync with an app on your iPhone. (designjunction).

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