Chloe Macintosh: Fashion Week vs. Design Week


This week fashion and design go head to head. Made.com co-founder Chloe Macintosh reveals why it pays to look beyond the flashbulbs of fashion to the more welcoming land of design.

September is a great month for the creative industries showing two very different sides of the same coin: Design and Fashion. Although both artistic fields have a prominent place in London, one event works hard to become increasingly accessible to the public, while the other deliberately retains its privacy and elitism.

Maybe fashion, unlike design, cannot walk with the masses without losing its appeal?

This elitism amongst the fashion world was taken to a new height in November last year when Tom Ford celebrated his return to fashion with an unprecedented degree of mystery.

Only 100 devotees were allowed into the ashram. A handful of photographers made it in too, but had their photos heavily embargoed. The video of the catwalk was released in a grand fracas a few months later leaving the fashion crowd looking like the dogs out of I am Legend.

The intimacy was accentuated by a very narrow catwalk which meant that models, actresses and singers – icons of all ages – had to delicately wiggle their way through.

A model walking down the runway during London Fashion Week

And while London Fashion Week takes place in exclusive venues, with A-listers crammed together vying for a glimpse of that new dress made of jelly, anyone with an iota of interest in design can simply pass by and see the latest innovations, up and coming designers and installations scattered around the streets of London this month.

Since the middle of the 20th Century, design has been more accessible to a wider audience. The designers responsible for what today is called ‘mid-century classics’ changed how furniture is perceived and made it their mission to vulgarise what had been only available to the privileged few for centuries. By connecting beauty and function and challenging the current status quo, they managed to impact everyday life and these designs are still a reference today and seem to always remain current.

“Philippe Starck and Terence Conran have repeatedly told me that good designs need to be desirable and adventurous. But, more importantly, good designs are the ones that most people can access”

Clothes have a shorter lifeline, and therefore haute couture designers need to make a stand and stay on top by coming up with new ideas every season. This is challenging and results in impressive events. Unfortunately it remains more about the aesthetics and who’s there than the function or the ingenuity, and certainly uses the exclusivity of the set up to explicitly make the point of excluding the ones not invited.

About ten years ago, designers like Ron Arad and Mac Newson experimented with the concept of “design-art” and created one off pieces for galleries that sold for up to £1m, but just a few years on this trend seems to have passed and seems to stand as a contradiction for what design is. Philippe Starck and Terence Conran have repeatedly told me that good designs need to be desirable and adventurous, but more importantly good designs are the ones that most people can access.

The organisers of the London Design Festival (driven by the vision of Sir John Sorrell), have been pushing for the democratisation of design while ensuring the 280 events that take place this month will all be as visible as possible to Londoners and visitors as another demonstration of the incredible British talent in design.

My top 3 places to see:

  • 1. This is a great opportunity to explore the V&A. The entrance has been wrapped in a lattice spiral made of red oak by architect Amanda Levete. And if you want to lie down while watching Raphael, you must try the fabric installation from Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec (Raphael Court at the Victoria & Albert Museum).

V and A

  • 2. Visit the Finnish Institute in Bethnal Green where the designer Aamu Song has created a 20m-diameter dress, which will be worn by a performer for the duration of the festival. Visitors are invited to sit and wrap themselves in the fabric. And in case this wasn’t surreal enough, Finnish folk music will be playing live in the evening.

Designer Aamu Song has created a 20m-diameter dress for the London Design Festival

  • 3. Access to the South West Tower staircase of Saint Paul’s Cathedral will be granted for the duration of the festival. This area has never been open to the public and under the direction of architect John Pawson has been especially installed with a metal and Swarovski crystal half-hemisphere.
  • See our exclusive pictures of John Pawson’s installation here

The South West Tower staircase of Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Design Week, takes place between the 17th and the 23rd of September.

London Fashion Week takes place between the 16th and 21st September.

Chloe Macintosh is the creative director for online furniture retailer made.com as well as a founder of the business. Having gained a degree in architecture she worked for Foster and Partners for many years before joining Brent Hoberman and launching mydeco.com. Chloe’s passion and knowledge for design was honed at an early age when she visited antiques and flea markets across France to source pieces for her mother’s shop in the Parisian market, Les Puces. She spends most of her free time researching and gaining inspiration through the interiors and design network.