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The business of design needs a better grasp of trends

A superficial understanding will not do anyone any favours

Gulf News

On my trip to Salone del Mobile in Milan last April, the fair took on the presence of a design festival rather than a trade show for the first time.

The city welcomed all guests to experience a number of satellite events around design. I found the fair to be incredibly valuable for those of us looking for new developments and exciting products in one accessible place.

A highlight was an installation by Eileen Fisher called ‘Waste No More!’, made from old scraps of apparel. Fisher’s innovative thinking, in response to waste and recycling, has resulted in an interesting business model where her clients can return their old Eileen garments in exchange for a token payment. Fischer then repurposes these garments in her mill in New York.

I was inspired by a seminar led by Lidewij Edelkoort in conjunction with Liganova, with Tom Dixon as a special guest. One quote in particular from Lidewij stayed with me — “We need to be more flexible, more creative, more nomadic, more able to improvise.”

This seminar — ‘Spiritual House’ — offered an in-depth study into current trends; it was a useful platform to understand societies’ needs and issues. The seminar demonstrated how important it is for the fashion and interior design industries to translate these messages into relevant design manifestos, inviting all designers and decision-makers to seek new and proactive solutions.

I believe that adaptation is fundamental to designing on a global platform and that was definitely a key takeaway for this seminar.

It was equally interesting to hear Dixon’s thoughts about the furniture industry and the developments made by specific manufacturers. Due to the overwhelming demand on manufacturers, quality and innovation have been compromised by our time-poor society. The impression from this insightful topic was for us to slow down, think and dedicate time and quality to develop ideas and products.

Many visiting Salone del Mobile expect to walk away with “trends” — for me this concept is tricky. Trends can be perceived as a general direction in which something is developing or changing and not necessarily specific to a particular thing such as new colour or pattern.

I think it’s important to recognise the design industry should continue to depart from any kind of superficial understanding of trends. As interior designers, we strive for one-of-a-kind concepts that meet our clients’ vision and not led by industry trends.

However, global events like Salone del Mobile are an effective platform for designers to step outside of what they do and open themselves up to new possibilities. I was relieved to see sustainability becoming more relevant than ever in the production process and product chain.

I think one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is that it really requires time to develop ideas and concepts and these perfect prototypes. I feel the industry needs to slow down and develop proper proposals and enjoy design direction longer.

There’s also a growing emphasis in design ethics, which means a greater awareness of human consumption and equality within the design industry and that is extremely positive.

Our studio is always open to new ways of doing things, remaining agile, and providing our clients with the best service and original ideas. We implement sustainable practices where possible and always approach projects with an ethical impact in mind, from material choices to encourage the protection of designers’ and manufacturers’ intellectual property. We develop concepts from scratch — we love that.

We create stories and live through them while we are in the midst of design. We explore emotions through our interior design and there isn’t a specific trend that we follow. Instead, we create design narratives, specific ideas and schemes for each project.

Continuing with this idea, I believe it’s important to maintain a sense of locality to appreciate projects in context and promote local economies. A project should discreetly release hints to you of where you are without theming the spaces.

We have reached a crucial moment in which designers are playing a key role in the future of our planet. Our choices have an impact on the people and the environment. It is an exciting time for any decision-maker in this industry as we challenge the design practice to make a global difference in the various ways the world is moving.

— Hilda Impey is with Wilson Associates’ Dubai Studio.

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