Brompton Design District 2021

Design destination, now there’s a tantalising thought.

It’s not one that’s been at the fore of our minds over the past 18 months or so, but thankfully, that’s about to change with the expanded return of the London Design Festival. Taking place across the city in actual physical, real time locations, from 18-26th September, the show will include some familiar but much missed destinations. At the epicentre of the event is the Victoria & Albert Museum, which will once again house large scale and cutting edge installations, and just around the corner is a LDF stalwart and absolute must-see; the Brompton Design District.

The District was set-up in 2007 to help revitalise the heritage of the area as a place where people come together to share, enjoy and learn about design in its broadest sense, including culture, fashion and food within the remit. And as ever, the District itself will be made up of series of spaces and showrooms in which innovative temporary exhibitions and events will take place. Coordinating such a breadth of creative input into a coherent and enjoyable package takes some doing, but the District has had strong curatorial leadership since its inception. That responsibility is bestowed upon experienced curator Jane Withers, whose passionate belief in the power of design to instigate positive change has led to some phenomenal presentations down the years. With a particular focus on environmental issues within her own practice, the influence of Jane Withers Studio upon the show has steadily become more and more apparent too; cementing it’s reputation as a focal point of sustainable design within the entire festival.

I caught up with Jane to find out more about her exciting plans for this years event and what to look out for around South Kensington in September.

JB: From Here Onwards, the theme of this years BDD sounds sensitively positive; acknowledging the tough and unusual times we’ve experienced but gently optimistic for what is to come. Can you tell me a little more about how you came up with it?

JW: We’re living through a period of seismic change and an extraordinary opportunity to challenge entrenched attitudes and think differently. As we face up to the Post-Normal, it’s time to hear from emerging designers, creators and unorthodox thinkers who could be shaping our lives ‘From Here Onwards’.

RCA In Material Union – Andu Masebo

JB: It sounds really fascinating, so what can we expect when visiting in September?

JW: Centre-stage is an exhibition titled New Contracts by MA Design Products students from the Royal College of Art. Here, graduates who have spent the majority of their studies away from the physical university will present their work in real life for the first time. Through their graduation projects, they examine their role as designers, challenging the return to ‘business as usual’ and exploring what the future could look like.

Salvaged steel scrap furniture – Andrew Scott

JB: I’m so pleased to hear that graduates will once again have a public platform to showcase their work and that the District is still committed to doing so. Will there be any other familiar elements to the showing?

JW: SEEDS Gallery will return and showcase a positive response to the theme with an installation entitled Joy, which posits that Joy is a critical tactic in this rather dark era and includes works that incorporate the power of colour, the unexpected, the unconventional geometric, the inclusive, the playful and poetic messages of happiness.


Alongside the forward-thinking curated programme, a major catalyst behind the success of Brompton is the network of iconic, international design stores that make the district their home; and numerous brands will be taking part.

Italian brands Cassina and Molteni & C. pay homage to two generations of the Scarpa family. Cassina will reissue Soriana by Afra & Tobia Scarpa with a contemporary material palette. While Molteni & C’s new collection is a tribute to two great protagonists of Italian architecture; Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella, alongside additions of the heritage collection by Gio Ponti.


Elsewhere, the iconic Conran Shop has commissioned French artist Damian Poulain to create The Magical  Value of Shapes, a playful graphic backdrop to the store’s exclusive new collections. High-end interiors emporia Oka, Meridiani and Poltrona Frau will open their doors, presenting new collections and unveiling intriguing installations alongside our experimental design and digital programmes.

Dzek, Verdigris Landscapes, Post-Normal Domestic

JB: And what about new collaborations and exhibitions spaces; can you offer us a sneak peak of some of the latest elements that we can expect to see?

JW: We’re excited to announce that Brompton exhibits will also be hosted in the district’s new gallery hub, Cromwell Place. Here Dzek will present Verdigris Landscapes for the Post-Normal Domestic; a new collection of tiled furniture modules by Formafantasma using ExCinere, their volcanic ash glazed tile system. 

Design Exhibition Scotland. Dixon drinking fountain by Mirrl of Glasgow with internal workings by Neptune Fabrications, commissioned by DES. Photograph Johnny Barrington.

JB: Given your previous work, I also expect that there will be a specific focus on sustainability within the District? 

JW: Yes, in fact, I think it is woven through all the exhibits but one notable presentation will come from Design Exhibition Scotland, who will present a material-led exhibit with four projects that rethink material applications with circularity and sustainability as their driving force. These sustainable material research projects will include mycelium tree protectors, furniture made from whisky distillation waste, and bricks made from construction waste. 

For more information about the Brompton Design District visit the website


About Jim Biddulph

Jim Biddulph is a freelance materials, colour and interior specialist with over a decade of experience working with architects and interior designers. Communicating ideas about design through creative copy has always been at the core of his work, something he has shared with Design Insider for a number of years.
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