Top Drawer is “The UK’s leading [trade] event for design-led gifts, lifestyle and fashion accessories”. It is held twice a year, in January and September. This season over 800 designers and suppliers were exhibiting at Top Drawer, in Kensington Olympia. This year, ‘Home’ was launched alongside Top Drawer. This event features home wares and accessories.
I try to visit Top Drawer at least once a year for inspiration and to see what’s new in the design world. As a graphic designer, with a background in illustration, textiles and screen-printing, I tend to gravitate towards designers’ work that features those techniques.
Exhibitors, as part of the main ‘Top Drawer’ exhibition, include well-known brands such as Caroline Gardner, the luxury greetings card designers, who were launching their home accessories range of umbrellas and egg cups; Anorak with their distinctive, repeat animal silhouette patterns, printed onto textiles and accessories; and Sass & Belle showcasing their take on this seasons trends of stag heads, Victoriana, de-extinction, teal-based colours and Liberty-esque prints.
The event has grown so large that this year I found it quite overwhelming. When I arrived at Top Drawer, the ‘Spotted’ area caught my eye first. It was set up to showcase brilliant and original, new design in the UK. “There is such a wealth of talent out there but many small companies and individual designer-makers simply can’t afford to do a trade fair. By removing these financial obstacles, Clarion Events enables these exciting businesses to introduce their work to an international audience of buyers and press.” says Spotted’s curator, Charlotte Abrahams. It was refreshing to see some completely new and original products…
Within the ‘Spotted’ area, Ginger Pickle stood out immediately, with their gorgeous and beautifully presented, laser cut wooden jewellery. Based in Northumberland, Ginger Pickle is an online boutique offering British, handmade gifts by Jade Murray and other carefully selected designers.
Jade explained that she designs her wooden animals using a computer program, like Adobe Illustrator, creating the ‘pattern’ so the laser engraver knows which areas are to be cut and which are to be etched. Each animal is then laser cut on FSC certified birch plywood and hand finished (made into earrings, necklaces, etc.) in Jade’s home studio. Ginger Pickle’s products would make perfect gifts for nature lovers. They can also be found on Notonthehighstreet.com and Etsy.
On the next ‘Spotted’ podium was Sarah Evans of London based print and textile design studio, Oscar Francis.
“We take typical architectural forms of the city, forms that are often considered as background architecture, and re-imagine then into beautiful prints and patterns… [We] aim to celebrate and revive those [forms] that are often derided and unappreciated, like the 1960s concrete tower block.”
I was drawn to the bold and striking, ‘Beautiful Estate’ range of prints which was inspired by elevations of London council estates. Each design is named after the London borough that inspired it; Lambeth, Islington, Hackney and Southwark. Sarah explained that the designs are initially hand-drawn before being worked on in CAD. These files are then opened in Adobe software, such as Illustrator, so that they can experiment with colours.
November 2013 saw Oscar Francis launch their debut collection and everything they produce is made in the UK. Their collection is currently available online on their website and in the Barbican Gallery shop, Royal Institute of British Architects and many boutiques, including a store in Australia! Perfect gift ideas for anyone interested in architecture.
Wick & Tallow
Tom, from Wick & Tallow, was a friendly chap! Based in Fulham, and along with his twin brother, James (Product Designer), and James’ wife, Alice (Interior Designer and “nose”), Tom has developed a sophisticated range of British, contemporary-looking, vibrant, luxurious scented candles. Pop over to Design Junction at The Sorting Office this week, between 17th – 21st September (Event #18 as part of the London Design Festival), to meet the team and check out their clever new technology involving apps and iPads mixed with scent!
Combining hand-drawn and paper-cut techniques, with subtle, pastel shades, Holly Francesca‘s screen-print style maps of London’s Kew Gardens and the sights along the River Thames are beautiful. Holly also takes on commissions for bespoke artwork.
Carola van Dyke
I was delighted to find the work of Carola van Dyke on display at Home + Top Drawer. I recently discovered Carola’s ‘Textile Taxidermy’ at Liberty, who had commissioned her to create some hares and deer out of Liberty print fabric which are on display on the ground floor of their Regent Street store.
Carola’s stand at the Home event mostly showed her range of cushions, appliqued with animal faces. They used more muted, rustic-style fabrics, like tweed, herringbone and wool, in neutral tones of mustard, greys and browns. In my opinion, a wise choice for a commercial product, complementing the characters themselves which have such charisma.
Review by Thomasina Smith, Graphic and Digital Designer, and Founder of Design Boutique UK.