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London Design Festival: Discover London’s Female Design Talent

London Design Festival: Discover London’s Female Design Talent

The annual London Design Festival, held this year from 17 – 25 September, celebrates London as design capital of the world and showcases both British and International designers making headway in their fields. Here’s a look at four women who stand out at this year’s festival.


Alison Brooks

Architect Alison Brooks is the creative brain behind one of this year’s Landmark Projects at the Festival: The Smile.  In partnership with engineering firm Arup and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), this pioneering “live experiment” uses industrial panels of cross laminated timber (CLT) for the first time, heralding, according to the AHEC, a revolution in the use of timber in construction. The AHEC gave Brooks the license to “stretch the material to the limit” according to Brooks and she used this freedom to break away from architectural conventions.

The Smile, a magnificent self-balancing 34m curved form constructed of tulipwood is dynamic and undulating, pure, yet so revolutionary that myriad names have been given to its structural form: pavilion, mega tube, installation and giant lantern are just a few descriptions. Reminiscent of a fun fair ride, and at night, a giant lantern, the simplicity of its form gives both creators and viewers the freedom to see in it what they please.

The optically simple structure belies its intricacy: it is said to be the most complex CLT structure ever made, and some of the 12 tulipwood panels of which it is comprised are the largest ever made. It is a feat of engineering – motionless despite its two swooping 12m cantilevered sections that appear to defy gravity.

Brooks studied at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and, after moving to London, became a partner at Ron Arad Associates. In 1996, she set up Alison Brooks Architects and has won three of RIBA’s most prestigious awards. Brooks is known for her original, elegant and sensuous modernism as well as for the construction of architecture which is enjoyable to inhabit whilst fitting harmoniously in its surroundings. Her reputation for creating imaginative housing, innovative use of materials, and sculptural approach to construction are mirrored in the intelligent, elegant and serene “The Smile”. 


Camille Walala

At the other end of the visual spectrum, graphic and textile artist Camille Walala is known for her use of bright colours, powerful patterns and bold geometric shapes. Walala will feature twice in this year’s festival. As part of Bankside Design District’s Southwark Street’s Avenue of Art, Walala will transform a pedestrian crossing into a Colourful Crossing using her signature style: expect an explosion of geometric prints and loud primary colours. Across town, in Clerkenwell, the Vinyl Lounge will be animated with her signature tribal pop art.

Walala describes herself as a “purveyor of powerfully positive digital print”. She is influenced by an eclectic mix: the Memphis Movement, the optical art of Vasarely and the bold and colourful prints of the Ndebele tribe of Zimbabwe and northeastern South Africa. Walala is driven by the desire to make people happy – ecstatic even – by the use of colour, pattern and light. The result is the creation of a cartoon-like hyper-reality, brimming with energy. Look forward to reinvigoration and euphoria on visiting these installations.


Bethan Laura Wood

Globally acclaimed innovative designer Bethan Laura Wood’s work is as wonderful, eclectic and unique as her flamboyant appearance. Wood studied Product Design at the Royal College of Art and burst onto the London design scene with her fantastically coloured ranges of furniture, lighting, accessories and tableware. Wood succeeds in transforming the mundane and quotidian into original designs by focusing on pattern, colour and patination.

Last year Wood’s show, her first solo exhibition, was one of the highlights of the Festival. Among many accolades, she has since been named by W Hotels as one of the Designers of the Future, and a Rising Star by Design Week.

Wood will be participating in Tord Boontje’s Electro Craft exhibition, an exhibition of electronic products demonstrating the craft of electronics and electronics as craft. Wood will be one of the 28 designers taking part in the exhibition, marrying technology with her creative design.


Ariane Prin

It’s hard to believe that French-born product designer Ariane Prin only graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011. She has exhibited internationally, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and has worked with Jasper Conran to produce pieces for Waterford and Wedgwood.

Prin launched her eponymous PRIN London Brand and her highly acclaimed RUST homeware collection at last year’s London Design Festival and she returns this year to feature in two exhibitions: Tord Boontje’s Electro Craft exhibition in Shoreditch and Particle Particular on Redchurch Street. In both of these exhibitions, Prin will be showcasing one-off pieces from her celebrated RUST collection.

The RUST collection is a compilation of unique, handmade household objects, coloured by a process Prin developed named RUST. RUST was born of Prin’s love of experimentation and reinterpretation of everyday waste products and the bi-products of manufacturing. Prin uses metal dust from key cutting which oxidises to create varied patterns, hues and textures. The objects themselves - trays, boxes, vases and more - have a simplicity and purity of form, accentuating the beauty and originality of the material.

For Electro Craft, Prin has developed a clock comprised of 12 parts which have each been through the oxidization process for differing periods of time, highlighting the variety born of the process and illustrating the material’s relationship with time. Expect intricate and varied texture juxtaposed with simplicity for the home.

NEXT: Get to Know Heather Fleming »

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Photo Credit: London Design Festival