Review: Clerkenwell Design Week 2022

It is usually always sunny for Clerkenwell Design Week and so I wasn’t completely prepared to be welcomed to this year’s event with a downpour of rain! That being said, I was warmly welcomed by the now familiar bright pink branded signage as I left Farringdon station and by all of the showrooms and event spaces I visited across my two days in Clerkenwell.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Clerkenwell Design Week has always been the strong element of participation. As an attendee for many years you have been able to have your own role in the event through workshops, talks, in-showroom activities and of course, parties! It was a joy to discover that our experience with Covid did not take this away from this year’s event. 

Within this review I will share with you the new product launches, talks and workshops which I particularly enjoyed and for those who weren’t able to attend this year I will look at the event as whole and pose a few questions on how the event can step up even further for 2023.

Clerkenwell Design Week New Product Launches

Davison Highley used Clerkenwell Design Week as an opportunity to launch the El Work Modular seating system which extend their existing El collection and bridge the gap between banquette seating and a workplace sofa. They accompanied their new launch with two additions to existing collections, an increased size option for the Bertie pouf and the Bee-Fluted option for the Bee Modular range.

Boss continued their pledge to address the sustainability of every item in their portfolio by launching 3 new collections.  Flo, an inviting sofa and armchair collection, takes into consideration the next life of the product by enabling easy re-upholstery and disassembly. 

The Boss team looked at an array of colourful sustainable table top options for their Sol collection, and took inspiration from design icons Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe’s when selecting tubular steel for the structure of their easy going Rosa lounge chair.

I would like to say an enormous thanks to the team at KI who allowed me to make use of their lockers throughout my visit.  The team also used their KI House as an opportunity to showcase a wide collection or new and recently launched products.  Colonnade took centre stage (strewn with an eye catching floral display by McQueen Flowers) under which was positioned their battery powered height adjustable meeting table and 6 Ruckus chairs – perfect to sit in when the table is at its lowest and perch on when the table is at standing height.

Christian Watson unveils his debut sofa & armchair designs, featuring an exclusive new fabric designed by Kirkby Design in partnership with London print & fashion studio Eley Kishimoto.

Morgan added to their popular Oslo collection with an elegant cane back option and expended their Pimlico collection with a barstool featuring a generous seat and a slim line metal underframe.  New designs were showcased in front of a set of striking wall installations by artist Olly Fathers whilst guests enjoyed live jazz and a glass of fizz.

Altro showcased their Orchestra custom collection, choosing to highlight their ability to incorporate photography and create a biophilic product. They also displayed their Whiterock Imagination wall panels, in celebration of the product’s 40th birthday, highlighting the wipeable nature of the product through an interactive illustration.

Milliken highlighted their expertise with colour and pattern through their Coastline collection and their brand new collection, Modern Movement.

Vescom shared a glimpse of their Rebun and Grenby designs due to be launched imminently alongside a wonderfully striking display of their recently launched Wilson, Avon, Norfolk and Harding designs.

At the centre of Workbench’s first floor showroom was their Space Shifter room divider which elegantly combines storage, privacy with the opportunity to grow plants within the workspace.

Table Place Chairs was a hive of activity throughout the event, with many recently launched collections to discuss alongside the extremely exciting announcement that the quickly growing brand is due to open a fixed showroom in the heart of Milan.  The newest launch being displayed was a rope addition to the Clarkson Family.

Post pandemic several showrooms took the opportunity for a refresh, Camira and Modus’ newly updated spaces particularly caught my eye.

ILIV has launched two new sustainable collections which look in depth at the options available to the sector in sustainable base materials.  Sustainable Plains 1 and 2 do not rely solely on recycled bottles with the inclusion of textiles made from recycled polyester, bamboo viscose, BCI cotton, organic cotton and linen content. The team didn’t stop at only considering the sustainability of their base materials, they also considered the carbon footprint and the sustainability of the dyeing process for each product. 

Chieftain’s new collection Earthly is their first product to be manufactured from 100% recycled fibres. Incredibly, there are no dyes used in its manufacture. This process is very complex and time-consuming involving pre dyed cotton scraps which are then sorted by colour.

William Hands chose to use their space at Project to display their Gordon Russell designs which they are re-positioning for the high end domestic and commercial market.

Burgess also made Project their home whilst at the event, sharing information with their visitors on the Adatta stacking chair which stacks 15 chairs high.

Several brands explained to me that they were using the event to show designs which were originally launched 2019/2020 but which they had been unable to showcase due to the pandemic. Others gave me a heads-up that they were keeping their new collections for launch in September as part of the London Design Festival.  Has Clerkenwell Design Week 2022 done enough to give brands confidence that their event is the best platform for launching new products in 2023?

Clerkenwell Design Week Talks

Specifying with Integrity

Ultrafabrics hosted a vibrant discussion, joined by Oyuna Tserendorj, Founder and Creative Director at OYUNA, Lucy Bagshaw, Associate Director and Sustainable Designer at tp bennett, Daphne McMahon, Sales Director at Morgan, Nicole Meier, Director of Branding at Ultrafabrics and moderated by Jessica-Christin Hametner at OnOffice.

The panel discussed materiality, the importance of material selection as part of the product design process, and Daphne McMahon explained Morgan’s reduce, reuse and recycle model. Lucy Bagshaw explained a commercial interior designers requirement’s from a sustainable material and expressed the danger of using sustainability only as a marketing tool.  

Explore the Routes Design Story

Guest were invited to join Teknion UK and leading design office Pearson Lloyd for a ‘Workplay’ afternoon tea exploring the design story behind their playful ‘Routes’ collection.

Tom Llyod took the lead for this informative talk which outlined their change in approach from the pre-pandemic start of the project to the collections post-pandemic launch. Pre-covid the leading design studio started by looking at comfort, utility and performance, sustainability was also a key design consideration, realised through mono material selection and limited tooling. Post-covid the design pivoted to be a tool which brought people back to the workplace by offering a ‘toolbox for play ‘ through the creation of a family of individual characters with a shared energy.  When speaking about uncertainty Tom said: 

‘We are living through uncertainty. We need to embrace this uncertainty and get into a mindset where we need to thrive through it.’

An Exploration of the Challenges of Power

WOD (Women in Office Design) in partnership with Teknion UK, presented a conversation with four incredible and accomplished women leaders – Beate Mellwi, Senior Principal at HOK, Gurvinder Khurana, Director at Mmoser, Angela Dapper, Principal at Grimshaw Architects & Emma Mitchell, Director at Teknion UK.

Moderated by Harsha Kotak, Founder of WOD & Projects Director at K2 Space Ltd, the panel explored the varied issues faced by women in the design industry throughout the recent decades and offered insights into the challenges, successes and the journeys that got them where they are today. This personal and intensely moving debate deeply touched the packed audience who appreciated hearing such engaging & fascinating work stories.

Design Guild Mark Award Presentation

After covering the Design Guild Mark on Design Insider this year we were excited to be invited to attend their awards presentation. 

Presenting the awards was Tom Lloyd, Co-founder & Director of Pearson Lloyd and Master of the Faculty of Designers, who spoke about the impact of the pandemic and the uncertainty it has created:

‘2-3 years ago we were nibbling at the edge of change, now change is all around us as we’ve had to look at everything we do.’ 

Clerkenwell Design Week Workshops

I had a wonderful time at selection workshops during my visit to Clerkenwell.  Workshops have always played a role in this event with an aim to educate and inspire designers, giving them an opportunity to be creative.  Some of the workshops I attended welcomed designers as guests but several were primarily enjoyed by staff and press. Which workshops are Commercial Interior Designers particularly interested in attending or has the focus of Clerkenwell Design Week moved to far towards experience and too far from a product focus?

When scrolling through the comprehensive, and copious, event programme I was struck by how many workshops had a wellbeing theme with a particular focus on the benefits of sound and breath.

I joined two separate immersive sound classes, the first with Gong Stories hosted by Altro and the second by Mikk Healing hosted by Havwoods. Both gave a wonderful experience and provided a space to find relaxation during an extremely frantic week. Both flooring brands looked at the senses with their flooring solution providing the touch sense.

In the evening my colleague and I were treated to a gin workshop with Greenwich Gin hosted at KI House. The extremely informative class not only taught us something new, allowed to taste several different gins but also gave the founder the chance to explain the wonderful concept behind his lockdown-developed gin.

MDD invited guests to create a moodboard which includes the latest 2022 trends. A short presentation was followed by time to create a textured moodboard with guidance on colour palette and material selection.

My final workshop whilst in Clerkenwell was hosted by Hansgrohe where again we looked at the senses, this time the sense of smell was explored through apothecary candle making with the London Refinery. A glass of fizz and meringue treats made the session even more enjoyable!

My experience at Clerkenwell Design Week was thoroughly enjoyable and I could see many designers enjoying themselves in the showrooms, event spaces and at the parties. I know that designers will have left Clerkenwell having discovered products they have been searching for, gained knowledge from workshops and talks, and built relationships within their sector.

Since it’s launch Clerkenwell Design Week has grown considerably and not for the first year I was unable to see everything I had wished to during my two day visit. I would not have been able to cover everything even if I had been able to attend on the third day, is the event now too big?

The commercial interior, and product, sector has taken huge strides towards a sustainable future, many products featured above demonstrate the sectors commitment to improvement, but did this event represent the sectors sustainable ambitions? Although I recognise the immersive nature of the event, partially due to the event’s branded wayfinding, is there still a place for printed tickets, lanyards, heavy printed booklets and large scale wayfinding signage at events which represent our sector?

We would love to hear about what you enjoyed at this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week, tell us about anything that we should have included in our review? What did we miss!


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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