Vienna’s Blickfang design show is one of the most exciting events on the city’s creative calendar, showcasing both established and emerging talents from all areas of design, from fashion to furniture. We speak to Blickfang CEO Jennifer Reaves about what to expect from the autumn/winter 2017-18 edition
What makes Blickfang stand out?
‘The thing is that you have to apply to get into the show every time,’ says Thomas Poganitsch. ‘You can’t just buy your way in. But that’s good. I have one product and want to reach the right audience, one that’s design literate and wants a “design” product rather than anything twee.’
Poganitsch knows twee. The product designer wanted to get away from factory making and start using his hands again, and so he created a line of coat hooks in a subtle bird form, made of satin-finished ceramic or concrete. But he found himself touting them at craft fairs big on twee and ill-suited to his aesthetic. Then he discovered Blickfang Vienna, a design show with a difference: each of its 130 exhibitors is vetted by a jury which assesses the quality, innovation and originality of their products – homewares, fashion, furniture or jewellery – as well as their suitability for the local market.
How are designers selected?
‘That’s really important,’ says Jennifer Reaves, CEO of Blickfang, which, over its 20 years, has built up an annual calendar of events in different cities across western Europe. ‘Around Vienna, for example, people tend to like more experimental products and anything with a humorous twist. We had one exhibitor who made bowls from vintage records. Here they loved it. But other markets Blickfang shows in would look at one of those and and say “What is that?”!’
When we speak, Reaves and her jury are currently sorting through 800-plus applicants to the three shows of their autumn/winter 2017/18 season. They attempt to ensure that some 40% of exhibitors are new to the show on each occasion, providing there is enough fresh local talent to make such numbers work. Often there is more than enough and this is when selection gets really tough. And with standards creeping upwards, Reaves concedes that for coming years it would be good to get a bigger venue for the Vienna show, in order to better showcase what’s available.
What can visitors expect?
‘Of course, anyone can “design” something,’ says Reaves. ‘But this is not your traditional craft fair. The products here are design-driven, even if some may still be made by hand, and tend to be at a relatively high price level, which reflects the fact that the they don’t have serial production. Often designers have been working on a prototype for 10 years before it finally gets shown at Blickfang.’
Something else that distinguishes Blickfang is that those dedicated designers are on the spot, available to explain their thinking to an interested would-be customer, rather than behind the scenes, letting a salesperson front the stands. ‘That means that, while most of the people who come to the show are consumers, we also attract a lot of buyers and design press who are looking for the next interesting thing in design too,’ says Reaves. For the Vienna event in October, she enthuses about two designers: Anastasiya Koshcheeva, who designs homewares using birch, and Silvie Luběnová of Maestrokatastrof, an illustration studio that applies drawings to ceramics.
What counts as ‘design’?
Each Blickfang event covers a broad range of design disciplines and wares. The most recent Blickfang Vienna, for example, included recommendations such as local fashion designer Romana Zochling of Ferrari Zöchling, who makes feminine, contemporary womenswear including photo-printed silks and shows a sophisticated use of highly textural fabrics. Also on show were graphically simple precious metal jewellery by Monir Kienzl and pieces by Ontwerpduo, a company specialising in lighting, from delicate glass globes to factory-style systems to candles (with a twist). Look out too for fashion label Roee; Blickfang will be hosting a pop-up store in Vienna with its designers Rene Pomberger and Michael Mairhofer. Find it at Bandgasse 14 from 27 October to 31 January.
A presence at Blickfang conveys a genuine advantage, says Thomas Poganitsch. Getting into the Vienna show was a real step forward, says the designer, who now shows at every Blickfang. ‘Blickfang forced me to look at what I was doing and put it on a much more professional level, from the packaging to the presentation. I even felt I had to rethink the product itself. And being there is a learning process. Visitors tend to know a lot about design. They ask questions. They want to engage with you and what you’re selling. And that’s great.’