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Made in Russia: a new wave of design talent hits London

Made in Russia: a new wave of design talent hits London

Emerging designers are proving there's more to Russian design than kitsch and Kalashnikovs. We picked six of the brightest prospects showing their work at London Design Festival

12 September 2013

Think of Russian design, and chances are you’ll picture matryoshka dolls, folksy khokhloma handicrafts or the Kalashnikov machine gun. But things have moved on in the world of Russian design, and to prove it the Russian Design Pavilion will be debuting at 100% Design London on Wednesday 18 September. 100% Design, which has been running since 1995, is considered to be one of the key events of London Design Festival, and provides Russian designers with a chance to prove themsleves on the world stage. The pavilion’s organisers hope the four-day event at London’s Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre will break down assumptions by showcasing the creativity and quality of contemporary Russian design. On show will be a group of emerging and established designers and brands exhibiting a range of furniture, glassware, lamps and fashion accessories that combine innovation, style and usability. Here are some of The Calvert Journal’s favourites.

Woodi Furniture

Taking inspiration from mid-century modern and Scandinavian design, Woodi Furniture has been creating retro tables, chairs, cabinets and much more since 2011. “My feeling about contemporary Russian design is that it’s still at an early stage of evolution,” says co-founder Polina Balashova. “But we can see some positive progress. Each year good brands and designers are emerging in all areas of design.”

Flex Shelf by Nikolay Nikitin for StoryStore

Nikolay Nikitin, a 29-year-old designer from Tolyatti now based in Moscow, has produced a range of ash-wood shelves that come in a variety of lengths, shapes and colours, allowing you to create any pattern of shelving you require. From a simple grid of floating boxes to shelves that spell out I Love You, the only limit is your imagination. The Flex Shelf was designed for StoryStore, an online home furniture store that sells a range of up-and-coming designers.

Alex Petunin

Architect and product designer Petunin embraces the wonder of 3D-printing technologies to realise his vision: a retro-futuristic range of furniture which recalls the Atomic Age of design in the Sixties. For Petunin, 3D-printing technologies represent the future. “It will spark a revolution like the internet or electricity,” he told The Calvert Journal. “Soon we will be able to print anything we want from jewellery and tableware to ready-to-use spaceships. From drinks and food to animals and human organs … it’s about more than future technology, this is our future material world and I want to be a pioneer in this sphere.” Petunin’s 3D-printed, multicoloured Lay-r Table will be making its first appearance at the London event tomorrow.

Mikhail Belyaev’s Black Square Shelf

Also making its debut is St Petersburg-based designer Belyaev’s shelving unit: the Black Square Shelf. Based on artist Kazimir Malevich’s painting Black Square, the simple black shelf against a white frame turns any objects displayed on it into works of art. The award-winning designer is best known for functional designs such as the Atis, a two-legged bench suitable for slopes, and the Lamprella, an umbrella for streetlights to provide shelter from the rain. He told The Calvert Journal: “Contemporary Russian design is not in a good condition now because, throughout the past century, Russia paid more attention to weapons, space, basic industry and natural resources than to consumer goods.”

NardDecor’s Acapulco Chair

First designed in the Fifties when Acapulco was the destination of choice for the beau monde, this handwoven chair is a design classic. According to legend, the Frenchman who designed the chair took inspiration from the string structure of traditional hammocks. Now thanks to NardDecor, Russians too can enjoy the comfort of this iconic piece of furniture in a variety of bright colours. When they’re not making chairs, the team behind NardDecor occupy themselves by making giant pouffes for their clients to sink into.

Alexey Chugunnikov’s seamless wallet

Industrial designer Chugunnikov’s designs are all about functionality. “I try to use the minimum means for maximum expression,” says Chugunnikov. In 2009, he picked up a Red Dot Design award for Little Helper, a spool of cotton topped with a magnifying glass to help with threading. A couple of years later, he designed the Rollerpohone, a wristband that doubles up as a watch and phone complete with internet. Now, Chugunnikov, and his new brand F.O.R., is back with a stylish leather wallet that has no stitching, but is rather assembled with some deft folding and fastened with a strap.

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