History in the making

100% Design may have started small, but over its ten-year life the event has become an international showcase for furniture design. Hannah Booth leafs through the archives


100% Design, a ‘furniture and accessories’ show, according to Design Week, makes its debut on 1 October at the Duke of York’s Headquarters on London’s King’s Road. Many of the exhibitors are ‘craftsfolk’, we report, but contemporary furniture stalwarts such as Viaduct and SCP, which that year ‘shunned’ Spectrum and its political wranglings, give the new show a go.

Exhibitors include Jane Atfield’s recycled plastics and Sebastian Bergne’s work for Aero.

In the wider world, there’s a gas attack on the Tokyo underground, and Nick Leeson is arrested for his part in the downfall of Barings Bank.


According to DW, 100% Design is transformed from what was ‘a crafty event’ into ‘a showcase of largely [young] British design talent, interspersed with work by a few Continental greats’. Its strength is the fact it is aimed as much at consumers as specifiers. Talent such as Jasper Morrison and Matthew Hilton are given a leg up by SCP before ‘they become international stars’.

Simon Pengelly takes a stand at 100% Design for the first time, and proves to be one of its enduring celebrities.

Elsewhere, mad cow disease ravages Britain, and it stages the Euro 96 football contest.


A hike in stand charges forces out many smaller designers, such as Pengelly, who exhibits down the road at Habitat (thus sowing the seeds for the 100% Guaranteed satellite event).

But there’s still much to see. Philippe Starck shows his Miss Trip chair and Miss Trap table for Kartell, Allermuir launches an upholstered tub chair by Mark Gabbertas, and Ness Furniture unveils its Antler chair by Shin and Tomoko Azumi.

Outside, Dolly the sheep is cloned, Princess Diana is killed and Tony Blair enters 10 Downing Street.


100% Design moves from Chelsea to a bigger home at Earl’s Court 2, as exhibitor numbers double to 300. The result is an influx of international talent, particularly from Italy and Scandinavia, including Luceplan, Driade (showing Ross Lovegrove tables and seating, and Hilton’s Transformer table) and Lammhults Mobel. Bursaries are established for ‘worthy first-time exhibitors’, which include Michael Sodeau, Sharon Elphick and Tom Kirk.

The Azumis unveil a shopping basket-inspired Steel Chair, and a trend emerges: prototypes in Milan launching in London as the real thing.

International news includes Bill Clinton’s impeachment and an end to Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s era in Germany.


100% Design is ‘gaining a reputation as a venue to view the avant-garde and spot emerging design talent’, DW reports. And interest in the London furniture scene is escalating as affordable shops spring up, and the media pays more attention to interiors.

Against this backdrop, overseas visitors grow in numbers, including Droog Design, Cassina and Cappellini. Designersblock features the likes of Hella Jongerius, Snowcrash and Michael Young. Helen Yardley, Inflate and Studio Orange’s Rock Galpin all make a splash too.

The end of the 20th century sees the introduction of the Euro and the shooting of Jill Dando.


A bumper Millennium year. The show is 30 per cent bigger, with 400 exhibitors, and talented designers who emerged in earlier shows are now making huge waves, such as Young, Sodeau, Michael Marriott and Inflate.

Big names are supporting design. Keen, fronted by one-time Vitra London head Charles Keen, emerges as a major backer of young and established designers, from Matthias Bengtsson to Robin Day. Wedgwood turns contemporary with pieces by Nick Munro, Paul Costelloe and Sodeau. TwentyTwentyOne introduces work by Gitta Gschwendtner – spotted by DW in 1998 as a talented Royal College of Art graduate – and Barber Osgerby, alongside new pieces by older hands such as Day and William Plunkett.

At Habitat, head of design Tom Dixon adds Hilton and other talents to his team, and Vittorio Radice starts to turn Selfridges into a serious promoter of contemporary furniture. But DW believes it’s ‘still the younger designers and makers who lend 100% Design its particular flavour’.

From abroad, exhibitors include Starck’s XO, Zanotta and Cappellini (at the newly opened Tate Modern), and those from as far afield as Thailand and New Zealand.

In the wider Millennial world, the Millennium bug fails to materialise, the Dome flops and the Millennium Bridge wobbles.


The show’s sixth year and companies continue to harness design: Wedgwood commissions four more designers for one-off pieces, including Carrina Field and Vicky Shaw, and Mathmos persuades the likes of Gschwendtner, Nick Crosbie and El Ultimo Grito to come aboard.

British manufacturers are on a roll – Hitch Mylius unveils pieces by the Azumis, Young relaunches his Magazine range with TwentyTwentyOne and Keen presents the Supporto system, designed by the late Fred Scott.

Spain, in the form of the Sidi collective, makes its debut alongside Finland and Sweden, and German manufacturer Walter Knoll launches a new sofa by long-time collaborator Pearson Lloyd.

But young talent is lacking this year – the Crafts Council bursary doesn’t award all its money as the quality is undeserving, so passes it back to some of last year’s winners.

Elsewhere, President George W Bush is finally sworn in, prior to Blair winning a second term in office. There are race riots and foot-and-mouth disease in England, and terrorists strike the US on 11 September.


As 100% Design continues to grow and develop, DW chooses to go talent-spotting at the younger end – perhaps a reflection on last year’s paucity. Eskimo Design – Phil Ward and Ed Dimmock, both former DJs – chooses the show for the world launch of its contemporary, stainless steel radiators. And Bobo Design, master of Perspex acrylic, receives a Crafts Council bursary to launch its Marriage of Materials project. The work combines Perspex with traditional materials and techniques. Isokon Plus launches Pengelly’s Stretch dining table and James Harris’s Plybowl.

Outside design, it’s the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, as well as the deaths of her sister and mother; and the Commonwealth Games take over Manchester.


This year sees the launch of the London Design Festival, an eight-day extravaganza of events, including within it 100% Design, Designersblock and London Open House. The festival’s centrepiece, the World Creative Forum, aims to attract delegates from abroad, and complements 100% Design’s now established international contingency.

Perhaps because of the buzz of the festival in town, the major players choose satellite events to launch their wares: Alessi shows Stefano Giovannoni at its Brook Street showroom, Aram exhibits the new Cassina range at its Drury Lane HQ and B&B Italia opens its doors on Brompton Road to launch Antonio Citterio’s Marcel sofa.

In the news, coalition forces invade Iraq in the wake of massive anti-war marches, and England win the Rugby World Cup in Australia.


Ten years in the business, and it’s an international affair. Crafts Council bursary winner from last year, Argentinian group Perfectos Dragones is back, bringing several other South American groups with it. Russian designer Konstantin Larin will have a stand, the prize for winning Best Design of an Interior Object at the inaugural 100% Design Moscow this year. 100% Norway, a collective, rolls into town. And the show’s bursary scheme sees the introduction of an International Foundation Award.

And the next ten years? Keep watching.

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