Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ambiente, The Frankfurt Fair (Part One)

Ambiente Fair, Frankfurt, February 2012

Coral At the Pomeroy Showroom, Atlanta

While the Ambiente fair, held in Frankfurt,  Germany each February, is the single largest design event in the world for retail buyers and sellers of home categories, it holds particular interest for a small group of people who both participate in, and create for the various companies exhibiting there; Designers.
If I was going to compare it to a food related event (as I often do) then I would have to say it’s like Mario Batali going to a farmers market;   you can enjoy an tremendous variety of raw materials on display and even try finished dishes cooked in the small eateries which always seem close by.  Ambiente for the designer is like a wonderful cacophony of textures, smells, colors, and form, all positioned nicely in eleven buildings with multiple floors. Fortunately they do have moving sidewalks!
For myself, there are two main aspects to Frankfurt; aside from the fact that Pomeroy shows there for our international customers, as a designer my focus is twofold;  to meet any factories that I am currently working with; as well as new ones,  to see if they have any new finishes or materials, which I can use in my collections; and to visit the European designer exhibits; which are usually impressive, if not only for the fact that they are of a scale like nothing we can ever imagine in the United States.  
Indeed one can become intoxicated by the sheer enormity of these exhibits; not only by their physical size but by their vision of the design story they are telling.  Herein lies the seduction, which is easy enough to spot; there will be a theme for the exhibit and everything will support that particular theme; worked out to the last detail, including great design, rich and sophisticated color stories, and of course, cocktails!  The Champagne notwithstanding, it is easy, as an American, to become swept up in the strength and dynamism of these displays, but we always have to use our American filter to analyze the viability of the product.  That is to say, on the whole a presentation might be incredible,  but what happens when you take an item out from its cozy display and put it on a table by itself; is it still as interesting; is it still valid (at least for the American market)?   And while I do love these exhibits and at times cannot seem to get enough of them it is always the pull of my home market that drags me back kicking and screaming to the central question: “ Can we sell a vase that modern?”  If I teleported it to Dallas, Texas would it still “fit”.  Is orange really the new pink anywhere but Europe?  Why exactly does it appeal to me anyway?   These are all important and thorny questions which must inevitably be answered with cold hard analysis, and sometimes relaxing with your feet up, sipping an orange cocktail, like a mimosa.