It might come as a surprise that visiting a design fair in one of the most fascinating cities in the world feels more like a get together of a small group of befriended furniture manufacturers. If you have been to Milan, London or even Cologne the real treasures of a New York Design Week do obviously lie beyond the ICFF. And only by walking the city and experiencing shows from overseas hosting in New York, showroom openings from European brands and luxurious gallery cocktails it becomes clear that New York may not be able to compare itself with Milan. But since it is one of the most expensive cities in the world people are willing to spent a lot of money on decorating their multimillion worth apartments.
Showcase at ICFF
The J. Javits Convention Center hosting the ICFF is located in the far west of Manhattan between Hudson River and Penn Station in an area that is undergoing a radical makeup just now. Surrounded by massive construction sites the cascading glass structure seems like an alien 1980’s reminiscence of the Crystal Palace at the London World Expo in 1851. Once inside the visitor doesn’t stay in the good tempered spacious entrée but is heading down one of the narrow escalators to enter the lower of only two exhibition floors provided for the ICFF. I was prepared to stay a whole day, walking around to meet famous European brands side by side with unfamiliar ones from North and South America. But walking through half empty isles along moderate and surprisingly shy presented furniture collections the tour ended almost too fast. The number of exhibitors – 700 from all around the world as announced by the ICFF – is less than a third compared to the Rho Fiera exhibition in Milan, Italy, where you could spend three days browsing booth by booth coming face to face with the most successful designers in the world.
International brands as Vitra and Tom Dixon presented their collections next to young designers like Souda, Volk or Hinterland from Brooklyn and beyond, who broadcast new perspectives for a younger generation. The most impressive moment however was a booth fully made from a recycled paper structure. Walls, benches, tables, stools and lampshades by Vancouver based molo design can easily be installed and removed by collapsing each object into flat layers of paper.
Form follows fun
As it is always a pleasure – at least for newbies – to walk Manhattan on foot gazing up where the buildings meet the sky even long distances are covered in no time. At Sight Unseen’s annual talent show I did meander among an illustrious mixture of DIY kitchen designs, turquoise colored Escher patterned interiors and more furniture, lamps and art that looked like Memphis’ offspring. Everyone seemed to agree on bright colored surfaces, wood, copper, brass or bronze as seen a lot lately. At London based design show designjunction familiar brands from Europe showcase along with natives and again a brand from Brooklyn catches my attention. Rosie Li Studio features a satin brass cluster lamp that cherishes the era of voluptuous chandeliers but arranges it in an appealing and modern way.
Design Legends Legacy
After visiting Wanted Design Manhattan and walking many more blocks of the checkered streets my day ended with a cocktail at Gallery Ralph Pucci on west 18th street where Vladimir Kagan is displayed and the legend himself signed his new book „A lifetime of Avant Garde Design“. As I walked through the spacious and wonderfully furnished gallery loft on the 9th floor I realized where the greatness of this profession gets its nourishment from. Furthermore tall windows surrounding the open space gave a great view of the night city. A little later I sat next to a ‚Miroire Sorciere‘ by Herve Van der Straeten on an adorable Andre Puttmann chair facing the Empire State Building and I realized I just got a glimpse of the incredible luxury Manhattan offers to some, knowing I had to get back to my apartment in Brooklyn anytime soon. After all the New York Design Week may not be the hot spot for new furniture trends – yet. But the city’s breathtaking attractions already are unbeatable.