When Lidewij Edelkoort was asked last year to be one of the three ambassadors of DDW20, she said “I think it is important to connect the local design community with the international design community and create more togetherness. There are so many good people involved, and things being done already, we don't have to do much." She now says about the latter, "Nobody knew then..."
In the meantime, Lidewij has been far from inactive as DDW ambassador. She curated several exhibitions and launched the World Hope Forum on October 24, which brought the global design community together. “Weirdly, it's good that there's been a pause, although it has hurt a lot of people,” she says, referring of course to the pandemic. New designs are emerging from the reset; independent designers no longer want to continue with a crammed in one week Salone del Mobile in Milan or a DDW with as many designers as visitors. It no longer suits their taste. Dutch Design Foundation can change things up by organising a less commercial, smaller route with more attention and content. Maybe there will be an autumn or winter DDW”, says the curator, former director of Design Academy Eindhoven (1998–2008), trend forecaster and former Dean of Hybrid Design Studies and founder of the MFA Textiles Masters of Parsons in New York. The fact that for every newly launched car, watch or smartphone during the Salone, an installation of a few million euro was built, those days are over. And the egocentric designers are less front and centre.
What is of this time is collaboration. Designers learn more from each other, doing an internship together, sharing knowledge through workshops, taking part in round table discussions, and (free) courses. The industry is at a standstill, so designers are taking the initiative to produce smaller series themselves.
Hitting the jackpot
Even though we are facing enormous world problems where the entire chain has been disrupted, Lidewij is an optimist. She can see that solidarity is emerging across the board, that many good initiatives come to live; she has confidence. “As a young designer, you're hitting the jackpot,” she said. “Old laws and regulations no longer apply; it is precisely this generation that can change the future, bring about profound change. And that is already happening; social involvement, circularity, sustainability, ecology, it's all part of their very nature.”
Now that we're experiencing 'The age of the amateur' in which we use our creativity to become more self-reliant, and everyone has started baking, woodworking and making music, designers (non-amateurs) are going to design more things with what is available and focus on the countryside. She said it to her students in New York: "Go to smaller towns, to the countryside. Find a place where you can relax, where you can reinvent yourself, where you can regroup as designers. Create, teach, collaborate. During the lockdown, my students are inventive and creative; they can make a loom with branches, wool comes from local sheep, dye from berries and roots. There is a better balance, more peace and quiet, and there are smaller-scale events because in the big cities there is far too much; it is so over the top that nobody can pay attention anymore. According to Lidewij, this doesn't mean that we no longer consume, create and buy beautiful things. “Beauty is also important for the soul, things with and without a function can coexist. We need to improve production methods and keep production in check.”
In rural areas, awareness of how to deal with crops and raw materials in a better way is also growing stronger, by allowing the earth to rest and produce on a smaller and healthier scale. Even while millions of garments are overproduced in the fashion industry, there are now large pioneering fashion companies that are already involved in agriculture for supplying their material. Sustainable fashion brand Stella McCartney, for example, works together with European forest management so that the company can be certain that their viscose comes from a sustainably managed forest.
A place at the table
But designers often do not have a voice, creatives survive and are exploited by marketing departments and the management at companies, Edelkoort says with some concern. “We need to humanise and streamline the business world more,” she says, “and listen better to the designers who are often correct. And so, they should more often get a place at the table.” These words are reinforced by the DDW20 ambassador by setting up the worldwide World Hope Forum. A kind of counterpart to the World Economic Forum in Davos, that is open to everyone and was launched with international success via Zoom on Saturday 24 October.
This new community of creatives is aimed at the new world that should arise after the corona pandemic: a fair, sustainable world with attention to the social, economic and environmental impact of our way of life. Lidewij is involved in the programming, and Petra Jansen from Social Label is the ambassador from the Netherlands. That there is an enormous need for it, is already apparent from almost 2000 registrations from all over the world. With Zoom, there is no limit to your reach. We can follow online lectures on all kinds of interesting topics, concepts and scenarios that concern sharing knowledge, innovation, other ways of producing and selling, etc. For example, Rodney Lam spoke, entrepreneur and co-founder of Daily Paper about his inclusive management and designer Tord Boontje is a special guest who spoke about his open-source Do-It-Together (DIT) way of designing furniture. As soon as it's once again possible, the intention is to hold a longer physical conference once a year.
“Actually, it's about listening to what already happens, but all the fragmented information is finally bundled together," Lidewij explains. "WHF should inspire, challenge and incite young creatives to find solutions and serve as a catalyst for more joint exchanges and initiatives,” she says. She has a high opinion of creative minds. “If you grew up and are raised as a creative person, you have no fear. You can save yourself in any situation and tackle a problem by designing something. You have the ability to improvise, something that every child should learn in every society.”