Stockholm Design Week 2021
As has become the norm over the last few months, the 2021 Stockholm Design Week returned as a mainly digital event this February. One of the first big design events to face the socially distanced test – is the digital design fair here to stay?
First held in 2002, Stockholm has cemented itself as the most important event in the calendar for discovering the best in Scandinavian design.
This time last year, many of us were still blissfully unaware of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on our lives. Stockholm 2020 went ahead as usual, with thousands of people travelling to the Swedish capital for exhibitions, talks and networking. How times have changed!
The 2021 edition of Stockholm Design Week looked very different, with a huge focus on the digital, and only a few real-life events taking place in the city – socially distanced of course. Whilst the team couldn’t physically be there this year, we were certainly excited to join in virtually.
Video calls & holograms
With Salone del Mobile 2020 being cancelled and LDF 2020 having a much reduced, but still mainly in-person presence – Stockholm Design Week has been one of the first large design events to try out a largely virtual format.
Unlike the tech or fashion industries, the furniture industry has sometimes been slow to respond to change in the way it communicates. Most of the industry still relies on in-person events which can be a huge burden in terms of time, energy and money. So, does a virtual Stockholm Design Week pave the way for change?
Tom Dixon had one of the more interesting approaches with their ’24 hours in Stockholm’ event – sending a hologram of Tom to various spaces in the city to launch new products and take part in talks.
And perhaps the most accessible virtual events were the Design & Architecture talks. These panel discussions and lectures featured some of the most interesting and creative speakers from Scandinavia and beyond including Rosanna Orlandi, Charles Renfro and Vo Trong Nghia. Focused on the themes of ‘Legacy, Heritage and Sustainability’ these talks covered everything from the future of Scandinavian design to the future of the city. Amongst all the discussions however, there were a number of themes that kept popping up – sustainability, flexibility and cosiness.
Sustainability in the spotlight
It’s no surprise that sustainability became the biggest discussion point in many of the talks at Stockholm. With the pause the pandemic has forced on our lives, it’s caused many of us to think harder about what we’re buying and how it’s made.
Whilst recycled materials are starting to be well-discussed within the design industry, Stockholm put the focus on some less well-known routes to ensuring sustainability. Localised production was perhaps the biggest topic, something that could be the key to the future of the industry. Sourcing materials and crafting furniture locally dramatically reduces the need for transportation and therefore carbon emissions – something which Swedish brands are particularly good at thanks to a love of wood and an abundance of pine, spruce and birch forests.
Design procurement consultancy Dodds & Shute have produced a really interesting report that assesses the holistic sustainability of furniture brands. They list 10 companies that have the best scores for sustainability, 7 of which are based in Sweden. You can find more information here.
Another topic that appeared across the furniture and architecture industries was the idea of ‘design for disassembly’ – making buildings and furniture that can be easily taken apart so if something breaks, you can replace one piece rather than the whole thing. Or alternatively, if something has come to the end of its life, the component parts have a better chance of being reused or recycled. This all ties into the idea of the circular economy, something we are only going to see and hear more of in the coming months and years.
The future of home
So, what is the next normal? In many ways we’re already living it, with our homes suddenly having to become far more flexible in the past few months – places where we relax, work and play, all in one. This flexibility looks like it will be here to stay as some form of home working becomes the norm for many of us going forward.
At this time of crisis, many of us are also seeking comfort and nostalgia within our interiors. Our home is now a place to retreat from the outside world, somewhere we’ve all been staying to keep ourselves and other safe. We’ve been nesting and cocooning and finding comfort in cosiness. It’s therefore no surprise that we’ve been seeing a focus on lush, natural textures such as sheepskin, cork and rattan as part of many new Scandinavian design releases over the past few months.
So, what can we take from this?
Although the format wasn’t quite perfect and doesn’t yet have the draw of an in-person event – a virtual Stockholm Design Week was a good first step in exploring how design fairs can take part in an alternative way. A virtual event does not yet have the capability to show off subtleties of illumination or the particular squidge of a sofa; so we’re pretty sure we will continue to see in-person events within the design industry. However, the industry does need to change and adapt, and we are looking forward to seeing how events such as Salone del Mobile respond going forward.