This year’s Decorex International at London Olympia revealed collective optimism that sustainability is now a non-negotiable design feature for the majority of the more than 250 brands that exhibited. Front-of-house Vinterior set the tone with its fully sustainable demountable and reusable structure (other brands such as Soho Lighting Company also featured recyclable stands). The sustainability theme was reflected not only in material choices and techniques, but in the prevalence of motifs borrowed from the natural world.
Birdsong soundscaped the central champagne bar which was enhanced with three rugs from Matthew Wailes London. Fading Reef is described as ‘a powerful depiction of the fragile state of our coral reefs’. Woven from fibres made from ocean waste plastic, the rug’s pale palette reflects coral bleaching due to rising ocean temperatures. Intended by MWL as a call to action to protect our planet through considered consumer choices, they were joined by Anna Ray’s Offcut Tuft wall hanging created with Aquafil fibres and repurposed tufted carpet.
The bar’s calming birdsong floated over to Wendy Morrison Design where she presided in iridescent green boots that quite possibly were magic like Dorothy’s shoes in the Wizard of Oz. How else to explain Morrison’s jaw-dropping hand-knotted wool and silk One Hundred Birds One Hundred Flowers rug which surely required her to click her heels together to magic it into reality? Underfoot was her hand-tufted One Hundred Flowers. Its irregular border followed the contours of dozens of floral blooms.
Brand sustainability—innovative ways rug companies can market themselves and increase leads—was aptly demonstrated by Tania Johnson Design and Matthew Wailes London. Each excels at sustainable production and each honours the natural world in their designs. TJD rugs based on Johnson’s nature-based photographs included handwoven silk and wool Breeze, which created the sense real trees were casting a shadow through a window onto the wall of her booth, such is the verisimilitude of rugs in her Glass Collection. MWL gave visitors the opportunity to touch the stages a discarded plastic water bottle goes through to become the silk-like fibre featured in several of their rugs. Both TJD and MWL loaned rugs as brand ambassadors. Their clever ‘passive’ marketing included MWL rugs in the champagne bar, and TJD’s Tree Mist rug on the Samuel & Sons stand where it was an eye-catching addition.
Ukrainian Product Design‘s inaugural foray at Decorex, organised by Oksana Tverdokhlibova, provided a powerful demonstration of multiple facets of sustainability. Under the banner ‘Between art and nature’ the stand featured nine Ukrainian brands representing rugs, furniture, lighting and decorative objects. Collectively described by UPD as ‘an optimistic and slightly fairy-tale world’, the objects expressed visual monumentality, even when created out of delicate materials. Defiant reuse of discarded objects to create objects of beauty contributed to the sense the stand was a collective declaration: ‘we are here; we won’t be discarded, defeated or denied our heritage’. Combating heritage erasure by Russia was captured in kilims woven by ZV`YAZANI workshop that reimagine Ukrainian folk art motifs to sustain and protect Ukrainian cultural identity.
Knots Rugs introduced a new addition to their Artist Collaboration collection which capitalises on Managing Director Bonnie Sutton’s studies at the Byam Shaw School of Art and her ability to translate art into weave. Nat Maks used the Japanese marbling technique Suminagashi to create eight designs. Hand-knotted in natural fibres including wool, silk and linen, Low Tide evokes ‘mystical’ seaside ‘foggy mornings’, while Dawn captures the spirit of the Roman goddess Aurora.
Elsewhere, venerable Ateliers Pinton (established 1867) featured Gravitation, a hand-tufted wool, lurex, metallic thread rug designed by Alix Waline. Its superimposed shapes and organic fluid edges demonstrate how the growing demand for irregular rug shapes inspired by the natural world are often best realised with hand-tufting. Jaipur featured its collaboration with Vinita Chaitanya. The Inde Rose collection of hand-knotted silk rugs are described as ‘nature and heritage intertwined’. The collection features ‘coordinated carpets’—jalis (shadow) rugs pair with the narrative-based main rugs. Vandra Rugs featured a hand weaving demonstration by Victoria Ahatieva who is based at the company’s Ukrainian weaving atelier. Surrounding her were new designer rugs, and the Carpathian wool, cotton and wool felt collections.