The city that never sleeps was certainly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for this year's edition of ICFF, which was, without doubt, the most confident seen since the global economic landscape became much more uneven terrain towards the end of the last decade.
Architonic's increased presence in North America was marked at the 2013 edition of ICFF in New York with a stand – and a large number of visitors
It's been a tough five years for the US, with a large budget deficit, high levels of personal debt, and, of course, that troublesome fiscal cliff. Yet the clouds have parted Stateside, as growth once again returns to the New World. The deficit is set to fall to 4% of GDP in 2013 and further still to just 2.1% by 2015, while unemployment is falling and tax revenues are on the rise. Meanwhile, Europe – which continues to pursue a more austerity-oriented path, one that would appear, many argue, to be deferring to a large extent the return of sustainable financial growth – can only look on with envious eyes. (For Germany, at least, there's an upside to all of this – furniture exports to the States were up an impressive 38.2% in the first quarter of 2013, year on year.)
Let there be light: materials-focused Apparatus (top), whose studio is based in Manhattan, and Canadian brand Molo (above), with its innovative, space-defining paper constructions, were among the many lighting brands exhibiting at ICFF
It's perhaps no surprise then, against this backdrop, that both the number and the profile of design brands showing at the New York fair this year was high, along with the quality of the conversations and networking on the ground. Attracting this time round almost 30,000 visitors to Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center over a four-day period, ICFF boasted exhibitors from over 30 countries, and was supported by an engaging talks series, the Bernhardt Design-sponsored young-designers show ICFF Studio, and the always-popular designboom mart.
As the leading design fair in its region, it's no surprise that ICFF played host to many of North America's biggest and most creative brands: Emeco (top) and Rich Brilliant Willing (above)
Yet, while the ‘international’ in ICFF is no word of a lie, the presence of European manufacturers wasn’t as strong as it could have been. That said, with the fair under dynamic new management, who are actively working to encourage manufacturers from the other side of the pond, things are looking promising. (The new ICFF team are also working to improve a less than optimal awareness among visitors that part of the fair is situated in the slightly removed Javits Center North hall.) And with a much more curated feel to this year’s exhibition in evidence, plus the fair now sitting alongside the new citywide NYCxDesign events programme, which brings together an array of exhibitions, installations, talks, launches and open studios under one slick brand, there’s a clear momentum here.
Geometry rules: two California-based brands at ICFF, Bend Seating (top) and Nolen Niu (above)
Two definitions of what American design is were in evidence at the Javits. With its generous studio and workshop spaces attracting droves of designers and producers, the semi-industrial New York borough of Brooklyn has become a design-manufacturing village of sorts, a hub for some impressive new and developing brands. Indeed, it now enjoys its very own, pre-ICFF three-day exhibition, presented by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce: BKLYN DESIGNS showcases jury-selected furniture, lighting and accessories made or designed in the area. If it’s possible to identify a Brooklyn style, it could be said to display a strong focus on materials – in particular brass, wood and coloured glass.
North and South: Canadian design label Hinterland (top), as well as Mexican design collective Panoramica (above), both showed at ICFF with highly polished presentations
Also making an enthusiastic appearance in New York was American design of a different kind – design from the Americas. Both ICFF and other venues in the city, including Wanted Design, saw numerous designers and design labels from Latin America present their work and themselves. Strong on concept and on execution, and underpinned by a high level of craftsmanship, the many products on show from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala nicely eschewed any stereotype of how design from these countries should look. (Watch out for Architonic’s forthcoming feature on Latin American design during New York Design Week.)
A little bit of rain is nothing to seasoned sailors: Architonic welcomed its existing and future members to a party on board the historic expedition vessel The Cape Race, which was moored outside the ICFF; photo Margo Stankiewicz
Meanwhile, another enthusiastic group of design experts were drawing the crowds at ICFF with their own stand, as well as criss-crossing town: the Architonic team. Now with a permanent presence in the US in the form of our new New York-based sales representative, Kelly Steckel, we were able to talk in depth to a great many North American manufacturers, retailers, architects and designers about what Architonic can do for them, as well as catch up with our existing members. We’re looking forward to an increase in the number of US and Canadian brands represented on architonic.com in the next short while.
Conversation, cocktails and little bit of ad-hoc (and non-permanent) tattooing – guests at Architonic's floating party during ICFF had a chance to relax after a long day at the fair and to make new contacts and friends; photo Margo Stankiewicz
One thing you can never bank on, however, in spite of the best-laid plans, is the weather. Yet, regardless of the rain, we were delighted to mark the start of a greater Architonic presence in North America with a memorable party on board the Cape Race, a historic North Pole expedition vessel anchored right outside the convention centre. With the Architonic flag fluttering above, current and future Architonic members, plus a host of architects and designers, joined us and our friends for conversation, cocktails and bit of (non-permanent) tattooing. All in the name of design.
But if you weren’t in New York, you can still experience the fair and beyond for yourself thanks to our Architonic photo tours. Just follow the links below.
In the words of Frank Sinatra, start spreading the news…
Architonic at ICFF – Part 1
Architonic Facebook Photo Tours:
Architonic at ICFF – Part 2
Architonic at ICFF – Part 3
Architonic Arrival Party in New York
All images copyright Architonic AG