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Design September kicks off in Brussels with more than 100 exhibitions and events
The month-long event takes over major exhibition spaces, quirky downtown shops and venues across the city. Running until September 30, Design September shows off work by emerging and established designers within an international context that perfectly suits the capital’s eclectic culture.
And it’s not only for design buffs - public interest is always a priority for organisers and is centred this year on the creative meeting point D | Platform. A firm favourite on the festival calendar is the retro Design Market at Tour & Taxis, full of furniture and objects from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
New artistic director
The 7th edition of the event focuses on graphic and textile design, two areas that are frequently overlooked, says new artistic director Delphine Vercauteren. “Graphic and textile design are forgotten because the press links design to furniture. But design isn’t just about furniture and never has been.”
While many people think they can do their own graphic design, Vercauteren points out, “we are leaving some people who are really specialised in graphics by the wayside”. This is one reason for Design September’s new image-led communication package, which extends to the website and a new magazine distributed at all events.
The 24-year-old from Kortrijk is a graduate in design and interior architectural studies who has assisted at Design September since 2007. Another innovation she has introduced is the fusion of the usually separate elements of culture and commercialism. This was characterised by Designers Weekend, one of the highlights of last year’s festival.
The event had existed for 25 years, but Vercauteren found its emphasis on the culture of design confusing. “I thought, design is not only cultural, it is also commercial; the point is to buy design, to use it, to feel it.” So the event has been replaced by Shops, a series of month-long openings for the general public and a specialised tour for architects and interior designers.
Design in action
The international component continues with guest lectures, sharing inspiring stories and a passion for good design. These include Michael Young, the British-born Hong Kong-based designer who, in a timely move, is ready to open his trademark EOK store in Brussels’ Zennestraat. “His furniture and product designs are so refined because of these cultural influences.” She respects Young’s fine attention to detail as well as his humour and intelligence.
Paris-based French designer Ionna Vautrin, on the other hand, is appreciated for her low profile and poetic approach to creating pure, simple and colourful objects. Vercauteren: “She’s a girly designer with an industrial touch.”
Other guests include the creative director of the long-established Finnish textile and fashion company Marimekko, in a nod to Helsinki’s role as the current World Design Capital. Famous for its bold, simple and colourful prints, it is particularly successful in Flanders and Vercauteren is enthusiastic about the company showing off the trademark “happiness” of its range here.
Known worldwide, the UK’s Benjamin Hubert specialises in industrial design, particularly in furniture and lighting. He is particularly interesting, says Vercauteren, for his close relationship with design production. “He always finds a very original way to use materials.”
Defining Belgian design
Belgian design escapes definition, she believes, due to the country still being relatively young, and every designer appearing to have his or her own identity. “What I think is important about Belgian design is that designers are always looking for challenges, new materials, new forms. They really think of everything from A to Z, so the process or construction of an object, textile or a drawing is as important as the finished product. Local design is really modest, rather like the country, and that is quite beautiful. We don’t want to shout out the name of the designer, but we want to see the product and how it is made.”
Our top picks:
Kleur: De Invasie La Fabrika, 182 Rue Antoine Dansaert
Dentelle de bois The Dominican, 8 Rue Léopold
Belgian Design Edition The Gallery, 17 Rue de l’Ecole Moderne
Intersections#2 Atomium, Square de l’Atomium
ApertoChiuso Design Vlaanderen Gallery, 19 Rue de la Chancellerie
Homologie Espace Wallonie, 25-27 Rue du Marché aux Herbes
Michael Young for EOK 25-30 Sept, 19 Rue de la Senne
Els Vansteelandt & Sophie Heymans, 15 Papenveest
Saskia Schutt Centre Dansaert, 7 Rue d’Alost
Ludovine Lechat, 153 Rue des Palais
Michael Young 17 Sept, 21.00, Flagey, Place Sainte-Croix
Marimekko 19 Sept, 20.15, Flagey
Benjamin Hubert 27 Sept, 20.15, Flagey
Ionna Vautrin 27 Sept, 20.15, Flagey
Markets and more
D | Platform TAG city, 23D Passage Charles Rogier
Brussels Design Market 8-9 September, Tour & Taxis, 86C Avenue du Port, register ahead for free entry
MAD Bike Customisation 16 Sept parade, 22 Sept auction
Pecha Kucha 19 Sept, 19.00, BIP, 2-4 Rue Royale