northmodern only just finished its second run but has already established itself as one of the most important events for new and emerging nordic design. northmodern is still a rather small trade show (4400 visitors by the organizer’s account), but despite or perhaps because of its diminutive size, northmodern is more relaxed and free of all the clutter and energy draining distractions that large shows and fairs entails. The site is Copenhagen’s Bella Center, a rather unimaginative but utilitarian events complex on the Metro M1 line, next to Bella Sky, a recent addition to the city’s skyline by 3XN.
northmodern has a fairly conventional layout with a main section for furniture and interior design by established brands and another large section for textile and wellness. In between there are sections for emerging talents, smaller brands and producers both nordic and international. There are also a couple of curated exhibitions such as Fritz Hansen’s 7 Cool Architects and Re-Framing Danish Design commissioned by Frame and Danish™.
The exhibitors range from established manufacturers to brand new startups, from the formal to the weird, but the main theme remains with showcasing contemporary and up-and-coming designs. With some notable exceptions like Fritz Hansen, PP and Onecollection there is not a large presence of mid-century iconography. Instead brands like Muuto, Design House Stockholm, Menu, Nomess, Paustian are all associated with recent revitalization of design from the north with their focus on affordability, flexibility and certain shared aesthetics. Particularly Menu got some interesting new additions to their catalogue, Shrine in collaboration with Note Design Studio and the modular brass candleholder by Studio E.O.
Among the more recent additions to the design scene there are Munk Collectice and Design Nation both of which produce smaller interior items, furniture makers Novel Cabinet Makers and Friends&Founders and of course retailer-turned-producer Please Wait to Be Seated debuting their latest product, Wall Box, a modular wall mounted shelving system by Ludvig Storm. Idiosyncratic New Works launched their first collection earlier this year and for northmodern they expand their portfolio with a textile collaboration with Malene Birger. Equally idiosyncratic Makers With Agendas brought their modular living solutions exemplified by the Knot table, Knot shelf and Pivot chair.
A fair share of producers and brands are making their debut at northmodern. Handvärk’s first collection seems to be more informed by Mies than Wegner with its black steel and brass details combined with polished marble. Similarly both Sixten&Erfurt and Deform’s collections are based on powder coated steel frames, but each to their own ends. Deform is mainly concerned with flexibility with several items containing interchangeable parts like the customizable coatrack or the combined sidetable/lamp/flowerpot. For Sixten&Erfurt the pursuit of elegance is key, particularly with Moon chair and its unusual suspended blue leather seat.
The larger international brands like Tom Dixon or Innermost are mainly present though their local agents, but there are also some other smaller brands of particular interest like Eindhoven based Vij5 and British International. Vij5 seems to have a similar strategy as for instance Hay or Muuto producing both furniture and smaller interiors items and lightning for reasonable mid-level retail prices. Their product portfolio is however decidedly of the Dutch design scene, like the Framed cabinet made with newspaperwood and Strap Table, flatpacked and assembled with nylon straps without tools.
There is also a rather large envoy from the Benelux region, especially in the new talent section. Lex Pott, probably the most well-known in this category, also has the closest links with the nordic design scene designing the Pivot shelf for HAY last year and this year the True Colours Vase for &Tradition and a small scissors for Nomess. Other familiar names from the European design circuit are rENs and Floris Wubben, known for their unorthodox approach to traditional manufacturing processes. At northmodern Wubben is present with his Globe Project, a series of porcelain lamps that are made though a negative process, etching away at the surface with a gas burner, making sure that each pendant is unique. rENs showcase a number of chromatic experiments, all with the color red as theme such as the up-cycle carpet project Re-Vive and Reddish, a ceramics project. Pleunie Buyink gained a lot of attention at last year’s DAE graduation show, her enigmatic mirror-like pieces are truly otherworldly in appearance. A new acquaintance is Visser and Meijwaard, a studio incorporating industrial grade PVC tarp, to make playful and colorful stools and cabinets.
All said and done, as a tradeshow northmodern has taken some decisive steps to showcase and contribute a platform for new and emerging brands and talents to be seen and see. To further develop and grow as an arena for design talent it would perhaps be worth considering dedicating a section for design schools and other educational institutions to exhibit their works.