It happens to everybody. There are times when you just have to stop and ask yourself: do you give up and cut your losses? Or is it all worth the effort? When it comes to Stockholm’s annual furniture fair and a citywide design week, some design studios and furniture companies have chosen the former option. Among the brands that have decided not to participate in the fair at Stockholmsmässen this year are Källemo and Carl Hansen & Søn. Many cite a lack of financial incentives as a factor, as well as the rise of Copenhagen’s rival event 3 Days of Design, a citywide design showcase with no trade-fair component.
Fair fatigue is nothing new. Many firms are now skipping Salone del Mobile in Milan and Maison & Objet in Paris, and focusing instead on city-based design gatherings. But creating that kind of buzz across the frosty Swedish capital isn’t easy. “This is Stockholm in February and we’re competing with Copenhagen in June,” Adam Kubar, sales manager at Källemo, tells me at the brand’s showroom in Södermalmsallén. Many of the brands participating in Stockholm Design Week, which runs until Sunday, seemed to be limiting their efforts to hosting a drink on Thursday evening.
Thankfully, there have been some exceptions. Earlier this week, Finnish stalwart Iittala, under the creative direction of Janni Vepsäläinen, put on an evening showcase deep underground in the former nuclear reactor hall KTH R1. In the cavernous space, guests gathered around a bag of sand slowly emptying out into the concrete depths below. In sculptural black outfits, sipping champagne from Iittala glasses, the crowd wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Rick Owens fashion show. There were moments of pretension (including a 20-minute experimental cello and glass-horn set) but at least the evening was memorable and provoked discussion. After all, isn’t that what these gatherings are about?
The fair itself has proved to be a rewarding visit too. Italian design studio (and guest of honour) Formafantasma has installed a reading room with Artek stools, pink drapes and a selection of books on ecology. Swedish bookseller Konst/ig Books and Copenhagen-based New Mags have set up shop with desirable reading materials for your home. A new section of the fair, New Ventures, gives young designers from around the world a platform to exhibit their work, providing visitors the chance to unearth a host of emerging talent. And, of course, the Scandinavian penchant for raw, wood-heavy design and sturdy steel is on show in the fair booths. Despite all of those understandable reasons against participating in trade fairs, Stockholm’s event proves that it can still be worth the effort.
Grace Charlton is a Monocle writer. For more from Stockholm Furniture Fair and design week, tune in to ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.