IMM Cologne 2017 - the highlights

With both IMM Cologne and Maison & Objet both behind by this time of year, all eyes are on the next major trade fair in Stockholm next week (February 7-11). Design daily has done roundups of all three together tin the past but these tended to become mammoth unwieldy affairs. The Cologne destination might not have the romantic allure of Paris or Milan but many industry insiders suggest that Cologne is where the real business is done in the furniture and lighting industry. This perhaps isn't that surprising as Cologne is in Germany (just in case you didn't know) and we all believe that Germany is some sort of well oiled machine, pumping out products in tune with its triple AAA rated economy. While there might be some element of truth in this notion, the reality is that IMM Cologne suffers from a perceived lack of pizzazz. We imagine German design as being from the Dieter Rams school of perfect minimalism - beautifully proportioned and executed but with little in the way of gratuitous novelty. I bet everything is ready on time in Cologne and that there is a distinct lack of the chaos that seems to be an inevitable part of every Salone in Milan. Not that waiting in a frustrated crowd for security to let you through the turnstiles is glamorous or in any way artistically fulfilling but it does build a certain level of anticipation.

 The  Colour of Hair  collection by Fabio Hendry and Martijn Rigters turned heads with the decorative component coming from a radical printing technique using human hair.

The Colour of Hair collection by Fabio Hendry and Martijn Rigters turned heads with the decorative component coming from a radical printing technique using human hair.

Cologne is therefore a surprising place to find a concept like The Colour of Hair, a collaboration between two former Royal College of Art students, Fabio Hendry and Martijn Rigters. (you can see an earlier Design daily post on Fabio Hendry's work as Studio Ilio here). The designers met while studying the Design Products programme at the RCA. While each runs their own studio, the duo came together on this project and their belief in the concept is so great that they have created a stand alone website dedicated to it. The process involved in The Colour of Hair collection is lengthy to explain but basically involves the transfer of hair's natural keratin onto aluminium flooring and objects through the application of heat.

 Side tables from the 'The Colour of Hair' collection by Fabio Hendry and Martijn Ritjers.

Side tables from the 'The Colour of Hair' collection by Fabio Hendry and Martijn Ritjers.

What results is a fascinating decorative component on the aluminium surface, that has none of the 'ickiness' associated with other products featuring human hair. When the objects are placed in an industrial oven sprinkled with fine hair trimmings, the hair it carbonizes in seconds, leaving an indelible mark on the aluminium and thankfully no hair residue (PHEW!). The treatment is delicate and can be highly controlled using laser cut mesh that sifts the hair into various predetermined patterns. First shown as a flooring tile and a small table at Decorex during the London Design Festival last September as part of the Future Heritage exhibition, the collection has now been expanded to include several small tables, artworks and small decorative objects.

 'The Colour of Hair' collection by Fabio Hendry & Martijn Ritjers.

'The Colour of Hair' collection by Fabio Hendry & Martijn Ritjers.

While The Colour of Hair was a standout in terms of its innovative concept and material, all twenty of the exhibitors selected for IMM Cologne's annual Pure Talents contest and exhibition were of an exceptionally high standard. Now in it's 14th year, Pure Talents shows that despite the proliferation of expensive stands designed by big names for brands like Minotti and Molteni & C, the real excitement is to be found in the young designers with just a couple of highly innovative designs to their name. A few of examples of Design daily's favourite pieces from Pure Talents are shown below but for a more comprehensive view take a look at Yellowtrace's great coverage of the event here.

 The T'errazzo' tables of Alberto Beliamoli revealed how the age old material can be taken in many different directions.

The T'errazzo' tables of Alberto Beliamoli revealed how the age old material can be taken in many different directions.

The 20 participants were selected from 444 entries by a prestigous judging panel of Sophie Lovell (Journalist, Berlin), Rianne Makkink (Designer, Studio Makkink & Bey, Rotterdam) Tobias Lutz (Managing Director and Founder Architonic AG, Zurich) Sebastian Herkner (Designer, Offenbach) and Harry Paul van Ierssel (Designer, Studio Harry&Camila, Barcelona). Only designers who are still studying or have recently graduated are eligible.

 The 'Paresse' daybed by French designer Guillame Morillon offers a jaunty beach aesthetic for your loungeroom.

The 'Paresse' daybed by French designer Guillame Morillon offers a jaunty beach aesthetic for your loungeroom.

Sebastian Herkner who was part of the judging panel for the first time this year commented that "The designers’ contributions were very inspiring, experimental, unconventional and, taken as a whole, incredibly multifaceted”.

 Pieter Peulen's 'Flexit' sleep and work space design answers the prayers of many a student.

Pieter Peulen's 'Flexit' sleep and work space design answers the prayers of many a student.

Its true that a fair percentage of what is on display in the main halls of IMM Cologne are not particularly new, with much of what is described as 'new' consisting of range extensions from the year before or the introduction of new finishes. Among the sea of beautifully presented stands however there are always some hidden gems that have been overlooked in the hoi polloi of previous fairs. Such was the case with Pietro Russo's 'Selene' table mirror (below) for Italian brand Gallotti & Radice. Design daily visits the brand's stand at Salone each year for their interesting treatment of retro inspired style combined with beautiful materials yet I had previously failed to notice Russo's exquisite mirror that brings together a soft cone of stone and a decorative brass circle.

 Pietro Russo's 'Selene' mirror for Gallotti & Radice.

Pietro Russo's 'Selene' mirror for Gallotti & Radice.

Young lighting brand Vita Copenhagen showed several new lights that play with simple concepts based around the Edison bulb. As the marketing for Vita points out, the Edison bulb is 170 years old yet continues to be an inspiration for lighting designers. The 'Alva' is an obvious case with its droplet shape given a gentle twist to create ribs of highlights and shadow.

 An evocative image from the catalogue of Danish lighting company Vita Copenhagen. Their "Alva' lights apply a lovely twist to the classic edison bulb shape. (Poet sofa by Finn Juhl)

An evocative image from the catalogue of Danish lighting company Vita Copenhagen. Their "Alva' lights apply a lovely twist to the classic edison bulb shape. (Poet sofa by Finn Juhl)

 Vita Copenhagen's 'Acorn' pendant light previously only available in black now comes in white.

Vita Copenhagen's 'Acorn' pendant light previously only available in black now comes in white.

One of the genuinely exciting and genuinely new things on display at this years IMM Cologne was Stefan Diez's minimalistic take on office lounge chairs 'Dondolo D1' and 'Dondolo D2' The designer has reduced the components of an articulating office chair to a new level. The result is extremely clean but retains all necessary comfort. Shown below is the mesh version of Diez' lounge design which blows the Eames' aluminum group out of the water in terms of desirability.

 The lounge chair variant of Stefan Diez's 'Dondolo D2' for Wagner. Extraordinary simplicity.

The lounge chair variant of Stefan Diez's 'Dondolo D2' for Wagner. Extraordinary simplicity.

If you were feeling nasty you might say it has elements of Konstantin Grcic's 'Waver' chair for Vitra (Diez was once Grcic's assistant) yet to my mind the Dondolo is far more poetic, less radical but ultimately more successful. The task chair is also excellent removing all the clutter normally found on the base of work chairs leaving just a beautiful outline and see through mesh sling.

 Stefan Diez's 'Dondolo D2' task chair - a stripped back racing model sans all the bulbous bits.

Stefan Diez's 'Dondolo D2' task chair - a stripped back racing model sans all the bulbous bits.

Defending the concept of showing how products often evolve for the better after a little public exposure, the 'Holo' table by Kensaku Oshiro for Italian brand Kristalia was originally launched in April last year in an all black form. At IMM Cologne 2017 Kristalia launched the timber topped version which makes the design immediately more appealing for residential use. While the previously launched all black Fenix-NTM top (a innovative laser cured resin) probably pushed plenty of architect's buttons, the more traditional timber top shows the beauty off the sculptural base far more by way of increased contrast. The base is made of moulded sheet steel with the table becoming extremely minimal on other viewing angles where the hole is not visible.

 The 'Halo' table by Kensaku Oshiro for Kristalia. It's amazing the difference a wood top makes.

The 'Halo' table by Kensaku Oshiro for Kristalia. It's amazing the difference a wood top makes.

Pulpo is a German brand that has been steadily growing in recent years, in part thanks to the designs of Sebastian Herkner. The latest piece shown at IMM Cologne was an extension of Meike Harde's interesting 'Miro' mirror collection. Previously shown in Milan in a floor version, the mirror mounted in a skewed fine metal frame is now also available in a smaller wall mounted form.

 Meike Harde's new wall mountedversion of her'MIro' mirror for German brand Pulpo.

Meike Harde's new wall mountedversion of her'MIro' mirror for German brand Pulpo.

German heavyweight brand ClassiCon released three new products at the fair: a new dining table version of Victoria Willmotte's popular 'Pli' side table, a collection of brass lamps by Neri & Hu called 'Lantern' (below) and a reissue of Eileen Gray's wonderfully graphic Centimetre rug.

 Victoria Willmote's 'Pli' table design for ClassiCon now comes as a dining table with the same mesmerising faceted base. Shown here with the new Neri & Hu designed 'Lantern' floor light.

Victoria Willmote's 'Pli' table design for ClassiCon now comes as a dining table with the same mesmerising faceted base. Shown here with the new Neri & Hu designed 'Lantern' floor light.

I'm not sure how but Eileen Gray managed to design a rug that is both graphic and soft and minimal. The rug is perfect for contemporary architect designed space that just need a slight element of whimsicality without going into texture or a mix of colours.

 Eileen Gray's 'Centimetre' rug reissued by ClassiCon.

Eileen Gray's 'Centimetre' rug reissued by ClassiCon.

Dutch designer Roderick Vos and his partner in life and design, Claire Vos brought a strong visual identity to the stand they designed for Dutch brand Pode. Established in 2008, Pode asked Studio Roderick Vos to reinvent the brand's image. With influences from paintings by Dutch masters and from the television series Mad Men, Studio Roderick Vos have come up with some very different imagery that pushes colour to the fore. The studio are the art directors of the label and are responsible for the design of new products going forward.

 The 'Batch' table from Dutch label Pode comes in four shapes and many colours. It was designed and art directed by Studio Roderick Vos.

The 'Batch' table from Dutch label Pode comes in four shapes and many colours. It was designed and art directed by Studio Roderick Vos.

French designer Alain Gilles presented a number of new designs at Cologne 2017 and has several new pieces launching virtually concurrently at Maison & Objet (220th to the 24th of January) for La Chance, Vincent Sheppard and Ligne Roset. He also designed a entire collection of cooking accessories for new French label EVOLUTION.

 Alain Gilles' 'Buzzifloat' chair for Belgian brand Buzzispace was released last year but appeared as part of an exhibition of products selected forBrussels project.

Alain Gilles' 'Buzzifloat' chair for Belgian brand Buzzispace was released last year but appeared as part of an exhibition of products selected forBrussels project.

On show as part of an installation showing the furniture and lighting selected for a Brussels co-working space MAD, Gilles' 'Buzzifloat' chair for Belgian brand Buzzispace was inspired by railway guard rails. All the pieces selected for the MAD project were by Brussels based designers and were finished in black, white or grey colours and fabrics to compliment the office's all white gallery-like interior.

The two pieces by Gilles shown below were actually on show at Maison & Objet, not Colgne but were too nice to resist including in this post.

One of Milan's premium rug companies, cc-tapis, released two new designs by Venice based Studio Zaven (Marco Zavagno and Enrica Cavarzan). The designs reference African tribal masks but utilise soft colours and rigid geometric shapes.

Next week's post will highlight the best of Maison & Objet which concluded on the 24th of January. Stockholm will be done and dusted by then but there really is far too much to cover in January and February and the Nordic fair will just have to wait its turn!