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ICFF 2024 marks a new dawn for design trends and practices at NYCxDesign
ICFF 2024 at Javitas Center; Right: Tav Ceramics' Oyster Lamps and Pearl collection
Image: (Left) Courtesy of STIR; (Right) Courtesy of Tav Ceramics

ICFF 2024 marks a new dawn for design trends and practices at NYCxDesign

As the New York design industry’s most celebrated week comes to an end, STIR dives into the 35th edition of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF).

by Sunena V Maju
Published on : May 30, 2024

This year’s spring was short. While it’s still officially spring, New Yorkers have started their summer activities. The city bid goodbye to spring last week and also winded up New York design industry’s favourite time of the year, an annual design festival, which goes by the name NYCxDesign. This year's design week was, as I overheard one of the visitors call it, “chirpy.” One has to agree because the calendar of every design week enthusiast from May 16-23, 2024, was overflowing with events, exhibitions and talks. From iconic American and international brands to new designers and design schools, every creative had a show to put up, which spread not just across Manhattan but the adjacent borough of Brooklyn. At the centre of the New York Design Week celebrations was The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF).

Even the design lovers who can’t make it to other events visit the grounds of ICFF anchored in the Javitas Centre in New York. The 35th edition of the design fair witnessed over 450 exhibitors from 35 countries come together to present their trailblazing designs and aesthetics. Besides the design booths, The Main Stage and The Oasis hosted panel discussions, talks and keynote presentations by over 75 design changemakers.

Similar to last year, Marcel Wanders and Casper Vissers’ Moooi took the opening spot of the fair with Welcome x Moooi plus NYCxDESIGN Info Desk. From there, it was a journey through an overwhelming number of brands and studios. It was almost like Charlie’s Chocolate Factory for designers but with furniture, products, and art. It’s extremely easy to get lost and feel greedy about the things you want, and not everything will be your cup of tea.

This year, the design fair witnessed many new brands debuting at ICFF, while most of last year's brands and studios returned with their latest collections. At the forefront were the design initiatives brought through creative means of booth design. One of the most interesting was that of molo, a design and production studio based in Vancouver, Canada. They displayed their paper softwall partitions and spacelights in a curved maze-like exhibition design, making it an experiential space for visitors to walk around, also winning the ICFF Editors Award for Best Exhibition Design. German company Grohe’s The Water Studio x Grohe Lounge immersed visitors in a multisensory experience emphasising not just their products but the ambience created around their designs. Another interesting interplay between art and design was seen in the wallpaper called Iconographic by Astek in collaboration with Terry Crews. Handpicked pioneers and changemakers across entertainment, art, architecture and sports were illustrated by both Terry and Astek’s design team through the use of playful graphic elements layered atop the portraits. This year also saw a rise in international participation from national booths, including Morocco, Italy and Brazil. Additionally, an overwhelming amount of participation came from designers from China, France, Canada, Mexico and Norway. This rise in international participation raises the question of how ICFF plans to expand the fair in the years to come. Will we get more national booths, curated events or installations?

Apart from the main exhibitors of the design fair, The Crossroads and WantedDesign presented a wider selection of designers, most of whom engage in bringing forth new discourses in design.

The Crossroads

While the fair gives a platform to designers from around the globe, The Crossroads focuses on highlighting established and emerging American designers. The showcase aims to kick-start a conversation on what American design means and can mean. Reaching the bright-coloured horizontally spanning backdrop of The Crossroads was a refreshing feeling indeed. Liora Manne’s SUPERBLOOM marked that first visual frame this year. It was pink, playful and floral and grabbed every passerby's attention. In front of it was a series of furniture by various designers who experimented with inventive materials and socially responsible design approaches. Focused on the way designers seek to preserve long-honoured craft traditions, the exhibition spotlighted how they push the boundaries of circularity to consciously re-think the legitimacy of material use.

MushLume Lighting displayed its bio-fabricated lighting design collection created from hemp and mycelium, which won them the ICFF Editors Award for Sustainable Design. Like Minded Objects brought forth a celebration of denim and t-shirt waste-covered furniture and placed the blues against the SUPERBLOOM. Kamilla Csegzi presented her Cultivation collection, a series of furniture made from mycelium. Designtex, Skram, Alexis & Ginger, thehighkey and Daniel Michalik also had their innovative design pieces on display at The Crossroads.


Wanted (previously WantedDesign Manhattan) returned as a centrepiece of ICFF with Look Book, Launch Pad, the Schools Showcase and the Design Schools Workshop. Inside, the creative rush of design spanned from material experimentation and traditional crafts to tech-assisted designs. Among them was Vy Voi, a design studio based in New York and Sài Gòn by Steffany Trần’s Rễ Cây (Vietnamese for root) collection with lampshades made of Dó paper—a historic paper handmade in Bắc Ninh, Vietnam and 9&19’s furniture design, which was recognised for their craftsmanship by the ICFF Editors Award.

Wanted also had awards of their own where Reggyyy (for Furniture/Home Accessories) and Another.World (for Lighting) were named Best of Launch Pad Winners 2024. Reggyyy’s Tom was a play on how objects and furniture are often considered inanimate things. Another.World’s Butter Fly was also an intriguing approach to re-imagining design for function and fun. Furthermore, Black Oveja from the Wanted Launchpad won Lumens People's Choice Awards 2024.

ICFF Talks

Alongside the many products, displays and booths, ICFF also had designated spaces for conversations. During the three-day design fair, The Main Stage and The Oasis witnessed many relevant talks about where the design industry is heading. On the first day, designers Luca Nichetto and Daniel Germani engaged in a talk about ‘The Art of Designing and Creating Meaningful Products,’ moderated by Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat, Brand Directors, ICFF. The opening day also saw designers Lindsey Adelman, Minjae Kim, Jean-Marc Bullet, Hlynur Atlason, Colin Martin, Giulio Cappellini and many other renowned names from the industry bring in important discussions on the practice of design and designers’ responsibilities to the planet.

Across the many presentations at the ICFF 2024, it was hard to determine what design trend we are heading into for this season. There were minimalist designs alongside baroque-inspired ornate pieces and pre-fabricated and mass-produced furniture in booths adjacent to traditional craft-inspired objects. There were internationally renowned brands collaborating with celebrated designers and also new and emerging designers. The design schools with student-designed creations also occupied the same space. The fairground was nothing less than an organised dilemma, one that might remind someone of New York Fashion Week of the 1950s. It was a lot, spread all over the place with diverse styles colliding with each other, but at the end of the day, it is a place where the industry comes together to try and create an identity for American design.

However, the best part of the 2024 edition was how the industry was uplifting, involving and collaborating with the design schools. From New York schools like Pratt and Parsons School of Design to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and Universidad Anáhuac Mexico City, every single design and architecture school present at the fair brought their most innovative creations forward. This past fall, Pratt students had a course called ‘Prototypes I: Kikkerland Design Challenge’ where they were tasked with designing an object for book enthusiasts. The output designs debuted at ICFF 2024, with statements that a few among them are expected to become available for purchase in Barnes & Noble stores by next fall. From the diverse works displayed, Lutum by Eduardo Sampson, Universidad Anáhuac Mexico City was awarded 2024 Best of Students Winner, and Material Opulence by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was named 2024 Best of Schools Winner.

ICFF has, for years, been an important stop in the design week’s days-long schedule. This primarily comes from the reason that fairs and exhibitions are an American favourite to invent and identify ongoing and upcoming trends. Whether it be the New York World's Fair of 1939 or MoMA’s Machine Art exhibition of 1934, the city has a thing for wanting to bring the best of a time together and determine the style of the era (sometimes to follow it and sometimes to break it). Post-war American design has been a surprise; anything from the past can make a comeback anytime. While earlier, a design aesthetic lasted decades, now it lasts seasons. Therefore, fair visitors are not on the lookout for a new design style but a new design trend. Along those lines, at the fairgrounds of Javitas Center, there were many different design approaches, reiterating that designers of the 21st century are striving to find solutions for the problems their precursors raised—some economical, some socio-political, some cultural and some climatic.

While ICFF 2024 raised the bar much higher than its previous editions, the next season is sought after with expectations. With the curtains down for this year’s design fair, the questions to address for next year are many. With the rise of national booths at ICFF, will we see more international participation in the coming years? Will the design week expand to more boroughs, indulging communities, creating design districts and reaching an audience beyond design enthusiasts? Beyond the walls of the fairground, galleries and flagships, can future design weeks celebrate different sectors of the city and not only the design community (most of whom have yet not recovered from Milan Design Week)? What is NEXT for ICFF and NYCxDesign?

What do you think?

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