by Alexandra Polier
As ICFF kicks into high gear this week in NYC, so do a number of satellite design fairs showcasing the work of hundreds of talented international designers. Alternatives to the ICFF provide a venue for the many independents who find the big tradeshow prohibitively expensive, but not all the offshoots are necessarily created equal. Some, like Model Citizens, have a few years of experience that positions themselves as a serious outlet for independent design. Other less-established exhibitions as well as more critically-minded formats make for showcases with more edge then standard fare.
Since starting three years ago, Model Citizens has grown to include 100 designers from Holland to DUMBO. Founder Mika Braakman hopes to track the trajectory of these strong individuals, who will no doubt be trend-leaders a decade from now.
Brooklyn-based John D'Aponte playfully weaves history into his designs, upcycling vintage textiles into bags and luggage.
Boston-based artist Debra Folz designs and manufactures contemporary furniture and tabletop accessories. Her Whole Story Photo Albums are a hybrid of traditional bookbinding and contemporary engineering that allow them to stand independently but also to expand.
Industrial designer Emily Rothschild, whose work has been displayed at Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, brings whimsy to jewelry with "pinky wings" and flip-book necklaces that create a low-tech animation when spun.
Brooklyn-based designer Niels Cosman's handcrafted CMYK Cabinet features highly-decorative doors composed of hundreds glass hexagons. The RISD Glass Department adjunct and alum took inspiration from Shaker furniture and traditional farm-style furniture that used chicken wire in place of glass.
Most inspiring at Model Citizen were Mike Seto and David Kim of Click Boom Pow, whose holistic design approach focuses on user experience and cultural impact. Their NRM Project (New Role Models) are benches that have been painted by a select group of artists including Milton Glaser and installed throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. The idea is to give New Yorkers a place to sit and reflect this summer, while inspiring others to donate good design.
Snug-it, a modular furniture system, uses three joiners to configure wood or glass planks into a variety of pieces—from beds to shelves—that can then evolve with your needs.
Shown as part of Duran Vanderpoort’s “How it’s made, and why it’s so f*cking expensive,” this “Ready-Made” ($11,410) by Dutch designer Borre Akkersdijk is the result of his use of mattress-production machines to create prefab pattern pieces that he then sews into garments.
Just a few blocks down from ICFF is another new independent, WantedDesign. Sprawled out over most of the first floor of the Terminal Building, this hardly looks like an independent design fair and more like a well-styled showroom, complete with a coffee bar from Le Colombe.
Founders Claire Pijoulat and Odile Hainaut brought their French sensibility and 29 established designers together to create a stunning event. From lighting designers like Les Heritiers, Francois Brument and Triode to furniture-makers Tabisso and Olivier Dolle ("Bibliothèque Branche" pictured above), the French genius was well represented.
Ligne Roset showed off their new Philippe Nigro-designed collection, which included a series of metal pendant lamps that can hang solo or be clustered together to hang as a chandelier.
The dramatic lighting of David Trubridge, whose colorful Seed System packs flat and then expands to all sizes—including floor to ceiling.
Voos, the Brooklyn shop devoted to work by local designers, introduced two items that bring a little nature indoors. Fort Standard’s Terra terrarium ($6,550) is a free-standing icosahedron for 360-degree viewing of the 20-year-old bonsai inside. The Dino Lamp by Deger Cengiz combines a flexible neck with a small container, all covered in felt for the fuzzy ultimate in practical desk accessories.
A transcontinental collaboration between Vienna-based designer Christiane Büssgen and Mexican designer Jesús Alonso led to Project Avolution, an experiment in food resulting in a beautifully simple set of wooden serving dishes and a ceramic bowl modeled after an avocado.
Finally the Whyte Label by Joe Doucet, a new collection of bespoke furniture and objects that pushed the boundaries of concept and craftsmanship, was a standout.
Doucet also had on view his Presence piece, which highlights the "rarefied craftsmanship of porcelain artisans," as well as a beautiful marble puzzle that is as perfect for some grown-up fun as it is displayed on a coffee table.
The idea of concept was very much on everyone's mind, as a few of the participants at Wanted (including Doucet) have also worked to create the Brokenoff exhibition at Gallery R'Pure in tribute to their friend, the late designer Tobias Wong. Blurring the boundary between conceptual art and design, Wong's work questioned the value system of objects and pretensions of designers with wit, satire and humor.
Wong launched onto the scene in 2001 with "This is a Lamp"—a take on the famous Philippe Starck chair. Ten years later he was gone. Doucet and other celebrated NYC-based designers such as Brad Ascalon, Stephen Burks, Josee Lepage, Frederick McSwain, Marc Thorpe, Dror Benshetrit, Todd Bracher and David Weeks spoke in a round table about their tribute exhibition, sharing their favorite Tobi moments with the crowd, a rare insight into the personality of the young designer.
The group had been working together with Wong in 2010 to create an exhibition of their own just weeks before Wong's tragic death. "When we started meeting and talking about this exhibition we weren't sure what the outcome would be," said Thorpe. "Now we know, this is the point, this is the outcome." Doucet adds, "He wanted us to get uncomfortable."