Feeling 100 per cent

The 100% Design show is gaining in size and prestige every year. Jessica Cargill Thompson profiles three of the exhibitors who have grown up with the show.

Three years ago, in a marquee half way up London’s Kings Road, a motley group of 140 designers gathered together under the auspices of 100% Design in the name of promoting (and selling) cutting edge design to the trade and, ultimately, the public. A few of the bigger names were there – SCP, Conran, and Viaduct – but mostly the participants were young unknowns looking to get noticed.

Since then, the exhibition has gone from strength to strength, taking some of those unknowns with it. This year it officially joins the big league with a move from its atmospheric but restricted marquee into London’s Earls Court 2. Exhibitor numbers have more than doubled to 300, the spread evening out between big and little fish, and attendance has risen from an initial 7000 in 1995 to what is hoped, judging from the number of registrations to date, will be in excess of 20 000 this year.

Perhaps most exciting of all is 100% Design’s increased standing on the international scene. Last year saw an increased number of visitors from abroad, with the event widely covered by the foreign press and media. Last year it was voted Exhibition of the Year in the Ambassadors for London awards in recognition of its promotion of London around the world and encouragement of foreign investment.

The result is an influx of international talent particularly from Italy and Scandinavia. Among the southern Europeans, expect large crowds round the stands of newcomers Luceplan (which will be showing new outdoor lighting designed by Ross Lovegrove), Driade (exhibiting independently for the first time), Brunati Italia (sure to cause a stir with its brightly coloured upholstered chairs in weird shapes), and Marzorati Ronchetti (which has been working closely with Ron Arad). Meanwhile, the latest Scandinavians to invade London include Elmo Calf (leather), Belyningsbolaget Sweden (lighting), Lammhults Mobel (furniture) and Bla Station (contract seating).

Although 100% Design may still not be Milan or Cologne, that is probably a good thing. While the emphasis is on quality (a selection panel approves all new exhibitors), younger and smaller designers are actively encouraged, adding a unique rawness and excitement to the mix. Despite the move to the more illustrious Earls Court, stand prices were frozen at 945 for the smallest stand (6m2). In addition, a bursary has been established this year to assist worthy first-time exhibitors in financing their stand. This year’s chosen few are: Bodo Sperlein, In Situ, Janet Stoyel, Michael Anastassiades, Make Design, Michael Sodeau, Richard Dewhurst, Salt, Sharon Elphick, Stafford and Tom Kirk.

Coinciding this year with London Fashion Week, 100% Design is also generating quite a party spirit across the capital, prompting a host of spin-off exhibitions in London’s increasing number of design stores and gallery spaces. That unstoppable self-publicity machine JAM has collected together a group of like-minded contemporaries from all areas of design (homewares phenomenon Inflate, graphics group Fly, photographers at LOMO, and fashion designer Luc Goidadin), which will be showing under the title Crossing Borders at Urban Outfitters.

Innovative new design store/gallery Same has conceived Designers’ Block, a showcase of innovative new European product and furniture talent featuring a strong Dutch contingent. Sixty of the design companies located at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre will be exhibiting to the public in Focus ’98. Or, for something a little more out of the ordinary, retailer Aero has invited a selection of designers to customise its aluminium clock collection, as part of Walk ’98 in west London.

To date, 100% Design has enjoyed a unique atmosphere of intimacy which has made it one of the least stressful trade shows to visit. Whether this will be swallowed up in the vast hall of Earls Court 2 remains to be seen, but the promise of “a few surprises” from exhibition designer Tim Pyne bodes well. The presence this year of a Pret Manger café and Mezzo restaurant should also help ease any pain.

Information

Crossing Borders, at Urban Outfitters, High Street Kensington, W8

25 September – 1 October

Details: 0171-278 5567

Designers’ Block, Same, 146 Brick Lane, E1

24-27 September

Details: 0171-247 9992

Focus ’98, The Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, Lots Road, SW10

25-30 September

Details: 0171-351 4433

Walk ’98, Westbourne Grove, W2

Details: 0171-229 6533

Procter Rihl

Like many architects of their generation, Chris Procter and Fernando Rihl came to furniture design as a sideline to their architectural pursuits, only to be overtaken by the popularity of their designs.

When 100% Design launched its first show, the Canadian/Brazilian duo had already developed their Ozone and Strata tables (a small- scale manifestation of their interest in layering and transparency, and the beginning of a long-term relationship with coloured Perspex) and decided to take them to the show. Coinciding with a trend for acid colours, their designs caught the attention of every homes editor and haven’t been out of the lifestyle press since.

Meanwhile, Procter Rihl has gone on to develop its interest in folding geometries with honeycomb Topo shelving in intersecting acrylic sheets and the Space Lily fruit bowl (recently bought, by the hundred, for the Museum of Modern Art shop and catalogue).

The designs being launched at this year’s exhibition continue these themes, but also emphasise the qualities of practicality and flexibility: “We like the idea that we don’t control the object,” says Rihl. The beech ply Flow shelving, a more flexible development of the Topo shelving, slots together in different configurations allowing a range of shelf heights. The Synapse vase, comprising a central cylinder with three radiating arms, can stand alone or with others to create different effects.

Where previous tables have sandwiched acrylic between glass for protection, the new Web table exposes the material and celebrates its tendency to scratch. A web of lines is laser-etched into the surface, representing “a web of connections between the people sitting around the table” and “connections between cities and countries that mean something to us”.

“We are interested in something that is definitely not craft and although it is mass produced, is still very individualised,” says Rihl.

“We’re trying to do something that is commercial and meets certain needs, but that also does something beyond,” continues Procter. “A lot of inspiration for our furniture comes from what’s going on in the architectural world. We’re looking at discontinuous space which is what a lot of architects have been doing.”

As far as the furniture arm of the practice is concerned, Procter Rihl hopes to develop some ideas for seating. Last year’s Glacial chaise longue never made it to production as the introduction of upholstery made it too expensive and complicated for a two-man outfit.

Although June to September tends to be focused on preparation for 100% Design, an imminent office expansion should afford more time to work on their architectural projects. These include two houses in Rihl’s native Brazil, the reworking of a Seventies house in Esher; a small intervention in a listed house in Hampstead; and reworking of their own house/ office in north London.

More of their flexible folding forms will be seen at London Fashion Week (also held at the end of September) in the form of an exhibition stand for Johnny Rocket jewellery.

Alex Macdonald

Furniture maker Alex Macdonald, set himself up ten years ago as a one man outfit operating from a workshop in Shoreditch (“it’s great for suppliers”), constructing pieces for SCP, Michael Marriott and Andrew Stafford. But, the itch to design eventually took hold and Macdonald chose the first 100% Design at which to launch himself.

His primary exhibit, a round teamed beech table, was deliberately crude and chunky. ©

Since then, he has been refining his work, following the table with a much more delicate ply chair, sprung wooden display shelving, and, last year, a long low boxy sofa.

“During this early time, the idea was that I’d be the manufacturer of the products, designing and making them myself,” explains Macdonald. “I’m getting away from that stuff now. I can get really bogged down in the manufacture and the way I’m set up here [one man in a shared workshop], I’m not extensive enough. What I want to do is make the prototypes and persuade someone else to manufacture them for me.”

As part of this change of tack, this year he will be limiting himself to one or two new pieces while rethinking some of the old ones. Simplicity is the key, with each component thought out so that it could easily be made by someone else without threatening the overall design concept. The star piece will be a glass-topped table which will sit on an elegant bent laminated wooden stand – two simple elements that can be subcontracted to other manufacturers.

So what inspires his designs? “A lot of it just comes from mucking about,” he says self-effacingly. “Because I can earn money by doing stuff for other people, if I see something that I’m interested in, there isn’t any pressure for me to make something of it immediately. I can store it away in my mind and when the time comes, it will coalesce into something.”

All of Macdonald’s pieces share the hallmark of someone who understands wood as a material and is as interested in how a piece is put together as what it looks like. The popular plywood shelves, formed from sprung uprights clamped at one end like tweezers and held apart by the horizontal shelves, underwent 15 prototypes before Macdonald found the shape and height that would bend the right amount and still be stable. A round-topped side table supported on a pole slotted into a cross base became an exercise in how to put together a table with the simplest joint, and the ply chair painstakingly avoids any conventional mortice or tenon joints, with everything butted or screwed together instead.

Nor is he blind to practicalities. “With the sofa, I wanted to do a piece that sat lightly in a room and I wanted it to come apart because so many people have trouble getting their sofa upstairs. It comes apart and you can fit the whole thing in the back of an estate car,” he says.

Made of Waste/Jane Atfield

Made of Waste, the plastic sheeting company started up by furniture designer Jane Atfield with Colin Williamson, is one of the decade’s most notable rubbish-to-riches success stories. Its product – multicoloured plastic sheets made from recycled waste – caught the Nineties obsession with environmental issues.

Atfield, a practising furniture designer who also teaches at Goldsmith’s College, has used the material in her own designs, while at the same time the material has captured the imagination of other designers who have used it on a range of interiors and products. It can be seen in the children’s basement of the Science Museum, Bristol’s Out of This World eco supermarkets, and most recently in lighting on show at Christopher Wray.

The material uses processes of heat and pressure to compress flakes of recycled plastic into sheets up to 25mm thick. To achieve different effects, rubbish has to be sorted by hand into colour types. What has attracted many designers to the material, apart from the jazzy colours, is that the sheets are very easy to work and require no finishing or edging.

Over the past four years, Atfield has been developing the material, constantly searching for recyclers and processors with the capabilities of creating different physical properties and a wider range of colours.

One of Atfield’s personal favourites, the HIPS Range, was introduced two years ago at 100% Design – a collection made from high-impact polystyrene products such as coat hangers (tortoiseshell), yoghurt pots (terrazzo effect) and vending machine coffee cups (a creamy brown with flecks of black) which offer more muted tones than the original brightly-coloured sheets. “What I like about HIPS is that it’s not so explicit,” she says. “With the Bottle Range, it was more obvious where the material came from. With this range, it’s more mysterious.”

Sadly, legal wrangles with her former business partner Colin Williamson mean that Atfield, who will be taking over control of the company, will not be launching as many new products this year as she’d hoped, but a new silvery-grey sheet developed from recycled crisp packets sounds promising.

She will also be showing a table and chair originally designed for Newbury Arts Centre – the former is “a tressel table but with the folding mechanism reworked so that it is stable”, and the latter is “a reworking of a director’s chair”.

100% Design product round up

Englender

Michael Young’s MY088 seating collection, shown in prototype in Milan in April, will be on display in its final form. Plus a new range of seating and coffee tables by designer Gerard Taylor, to be shown in prototype form.

Amtico

On the flooring front, Amtico continues to produce innovative designs aimed at the more adventurous specifier. Its new ranges will be on show: Stardust, with a glitter effect; Snow Tiger in a bold animal pattern; and Iced Glass, the first faux-glass tile. Designed in-house by Loughborough-trained Debbie Munden, Iced Glass gives the illusion of a real glass tile in standard 305m2 size with 25mm2 or 50mm2 tile modules.

Azumi

Inspiration for this new collection has apparently come from shopping baskets in supermarkets. The lightweight steel wire frame chair is stackable and designed so that two stools can be tucked away underneath it. The stools can also be used as footrests.

Driade

Exhibiting independently for the first time, Italian group Driade brings to England its latest collections seen in Milan in April, mostly by British designers. Ross Lovegrove has designed a collection of tables and seating, Matthew Hilton introduces the Transformer table, and Platt & Young brings the King Tubby rattan armchair, part of Driade’s Atlantide collection.

Allermuir

New designs from Danish architect Pernille Svane Hansen will be on show, which also marks the first UK showing of new chairs by Neil Poulton. Also look out for the launch of the Surf range of stools designed by Peter Christian, with formed ply seat in clear lacquer or a range of vibrant block colours.

Fusion Glass

This design-led company specialises in contemporary glasswork for interiors – sandblasting, lamination, gilding, and kilnforming. Recent work includes the lamination of decorative papers and fabrics between layers of glass, for use as partitions. Check out the samples on display.

Helen Yardley

It is always a delight to see what new designs Yardley is producing. Her latest rugs, in 100 per cent wool, form part of The Matt Collection, the newest addition being Jelly Roll, a contemporary design in layers of dark and pale red with a simple abstract leaf motif.

Marzorati Ronchetti

Italian company Marzorati Ronchetti is perhaps best known in this country for its metal-processing work with architects and designers, whether it’s in producing furniture – the Ron Arad-designed tables at Belgo – or in metalwork for special projects – Waterloo International station with Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners. But it also has its own portfolio of products. The Kubo occasional tables, seen earlier this year in Cologne and designed by Studiooltre, are shown here in polished steel and beech wood.

100% Design is at Earls Court 2, Warwick Road, London SW5 from 24-27 September

Latest articles