Review: Clerkenwell Design Week 2018

Charlotte Arnold, global creative manager at Karen Millen, takes in the sights and installations of Clerkenwell Design Week and shares her highlights.

Now in its ninth year, Clerkenwell Design Week is a key main stay in the design annual international calendar. In the heart of historic Clerkenwell design district, the three-day festival is an opportunity for established designers and agencies to open their studios and showcase their latest work and developments. This year’s feast of displays and installations did not disappoint.

Throughout CDW, reporting for Retail Focus, we saw a diverse pool of trends, including the continued importance of maximalism, reinvention and natural themes.


During the festival we observed a conveyed sense of sustainability for design and responsibility to create something with a more lasting experience.

Kinetech Design pop-up

Kinetech Design demonstrated this in their pop-up installation in St Johns. Foldable kinetic structures developed using aluminum and LED light. A beautiful origami design that mixed hard metallic textures with soft ambient lighting to create this eye-catching design. The result was a very tactile sculpture with endless potential applications within interior retail and art outputs.  

The strongest trend and overarching mind set was for experiential design practice, being much discussed this year. As within all the creative industries and wider retail landscape, now the increased drawn from consumers for unique design and experience, is driving designers to tell their process and individual story.  

We noticed the interest in the back story for the development process of how products come to launch is paying a much more critical and interesting role in how designers market their products.

Camira loom

This was certainly evident at Camira Fabric’s showroom that chose to tell their brand stories through live and interactive displays. Camira offered a great show – ‘farm to fabric' – showing the whole process. This included a live sheep farm pop-up and an interactive loom.


Capturing the increasing trend for consumers seeking out holistic elements, expressing the connection to nature and the need to express oneself individually and not simply following trends for the sake of it. Sharing in the processes required to create.

Nina Beresford's display

The display by Nina Beresford was also a fun and interesting sculpture celebrating Camira’s leading product, Blazer.

A Piece of Sky by Sky Frame

The pop-up installation 'A Piece of Sky' by Sky Frame explored just that, allowing people to discover a unique, singular experience. A few seconds of peaceful contemplation in a 360-degree mirrored illuminated light tunnel with sounds of reflections of an astronaut looking down on earth.

Print Club London pop-up

The interest in reinvention and sustainable and responsible design was also apparent over at the Garden of St James Print Club London’s pop-up – Your Tote Counts encouraged people in a fun way to bring their old tote bags along to recycle and redesign with screen printing live on site.

Graypants’ Chroma pendants

Over at the lighting exhibition there was a fantastic mix of handmade, small-scale design and technology advancements with LED.


Exciting new developments that stood out were Graypants’ Chroma pendant designs and LED motion walls from Vexica.

New lighting and textile designer Naomi Paul

As well as the celebrated iconic designers, CDW is also increasingly a springboard for new UK talent to showcase design practices. New lighting and textile designer Naomi Paul, who’s enchanting handmade crocheted lamps stood out, had a wonderful retro feel and colour palette.

Eporta x WGSN discussion

In the Design Fields, there were a series of talks and workshops run, discussing the latest trends and future outlook for design. The Discussion run by Eporta x WGSN explored the future trends for Interiors, discussing if trends actually influence designers and the need to produce interiors for commercial and private social spaces that have a story, and journey. Allowing people to experience something special, with the new luxury is not about designer brands but onus is on the experience and providing people with Insta moments.

Behind Closed Doors by Hakwood and Shape London

At the entrance to Design Fields was a highlight from the expo; Behind Closed Doors by Hakwood and Shape London, exploring a miniature streetscape with tiny doors concealing the interior scenes.


Also seen at Design Fields was a surprising treat in surface design, Haru 'stuck-on design' offers a huge range of amazing repositionable tapes that can be applied to any surface to add individuality and a fresh design approach.

Lincrusta wallcovering

Other standout surface design products was Lincrusta's wallcoverings; beautifully crafted leaf embossed coverings.

Timorous Beasties

At St Johns, the final highlight from enchanting and beautiful Timorous Beasties' third collaboration with Britons was very well received. Set in a wooden purpose build pavilion, a wonderful capsule collection of bold and uplifting carpet designs titled Craigend. Named in tribute to the road their studio resides and inspired by the old Gaelic word ‘creag’ meaning rock. A rich collection of textured and botanical patterns. Tapping into both the maximalist and natural trends. Exploring patterns created in nature, taken from an aerial view.

CDW 2018 wrapped up leaving us with thoughts of what is to come and the evolving trend of the blurring lines between social public and private spaces and how we interact with the spaces around us. Reinforcing the importance of immersive and experiential design in the market and key trends for the next year ahead focussing on these themes.

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