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Design festival Designers’ Saturday hits Oslo this weekend — here are the highlights

It’s time for Norway’s primary design festival, as well as the main happening for its design industry. Open for both the public and professionals, this year’s edition highlights responsibility as the theme.

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Words: Johan Magnusson

Designers’ Saturday’s chairman Jonas Stokke — who’s also a designer and head the urban lifestyle app Livly. — describes how the event, since it was launched in 1986, ”has turned into the longest Saturday ever”. It actually begins tomorrow Friday and ends on Sunday. Saturday is for professionals — architects, designers, producers, retailers, and press — and on Sunday they invite everyone to take part in the festival.

— The unique thing about the event is that the exhibitions by international and Norwegian brands are spread all around Oslo as we invite visitors into the showrooms and shops of around 175 brands that take part in the event. Visitors can jump on and off our buses that transport the public between the 14 stops on the route, which makes it easy and fun to go from one place to the other, he says.

What’s new for this year’s edition?

— First of all, we have chosen responsibility as the theme for the 2019 edition, and have implemented it in different ways. For Designers’ Saturday, responsibility is about sustainability in regards to the environment, working conditions and how we take care of the next generation of designers who try to succeed in a tough business. A very practical and down-to-earth way of turning these ideas into something real is our DS Academy programme, where design students and designers fresh out of school can meet and collaborate with well-known brands. We have also made responsibility the staring point for the Design Talks session on Friday afternoon, where Paul Bennett from design company IDEO and Sadie Morgan from architecture and design practice dRMM will give speeches. These two international stars have also led the jurys of the DS Awards for best interior and best talent that will be concluded with a prize ceremony just before the Design Talks.

And what are the highlights?

— There are so many; the mix of informal meetings, great design and a day traveling around beautiful Oslo is one long highlight in itself. Except for the Design Talks, the student-brand collaborations that are on display at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. And the grand finale of the design festival is the Unika Auction, where prototypes and other unique design objects by Norwegian designers, including Andreas Engesvik and Peter Opsvik, are auctioned off Sunday afternoon starting at 15.30. A curated selection of objects will be on display at Oslo National Academy of the Arts throughout the festival, and can also be seen at the website of Norwegian auction house and our collaborator blomqvist.no.

Which exhibitors would you like to highlight?

— Well, it is more a question of who is not showing! And full disclosure, as I am launching a new sofa for LK Hjelle, but I would like to highlight them. Family-run on the third generation, always open to new ideas and never compromising on quality. They produce furniture in the heart of Western Norway and ship it all over the world. We are also happy to see well-established brands such as Arper, Flos, Montana, Dinesen and Fjordfiesta taking part alongside newer names such as Frama, Friends & Founders, Eikund, Northern, and Elementa.

For Northern, the event has become a semi-annual highlight for the Oslo design scene.

— It’s a really good mix of exhibitions, events, social activities and lots of architects and professionals busing around the city for inspiration and talks, says founder and CEO, Ove Rogne.

The brand was established in 2005 with a selection of lamps and a handful of employees. Growing over the years, they ended up with a wide selection of lamps within all categories; from pendant, wall, floor and table lamps, to candleholders and oil lamps. In February 2018, they thought it was time to move on to something new.

— We challenged ourselves and pushed our own limits, by launching a total of 24 new products, expanding our portfolio with two new categories – furniture and home accessories, says Rogne.

What will you show at Designers’ Saturday?

— We’ve invited two of our good friends, Kvadrat and Nichba, to come join our showroom and co-exhibit this year. With the responsibility theme for this year’s edition, we have of course renewed our exhibition with this in mind. We’ll also introduce our new autumn launches together with our friends. We focus on creating a warm and homely office setting making sure we bring the best out of each product in the right settings, but also to surprise our audience with doing something unexpected. We are dressing a room with fabrics where Loud is the only product in the room flashing its mirrors to 70s music. Together with our latest colour updates, our novelties for Autumn/Winter will also be an important part of the exhibition.

The aim for Designers’ Saturday is to be a meeting point for the design industry in Norway — both domestic and international brands as well as designers and architects.

— And also providing a scene where the latest products and innovations are presented to a larger audience, says Jonas Stokke, continuing: We are also very aware of the unique opportunity that this event gives us to focus on issues that place design within a larger context and try to use this chance in the best way possible. We see so much forward-thinking and innovation in the industry at the moment, and Designers’ Saturday is a great way for visitors to learn more about this. With the challenges to the climate becoming ever more pressing, I find it inspiring to see leading brands do deep environmental analysis of their products and services. Fully understanding the lifecycle is not an easy task, but it will be vital if we want to continue producing and selling furniture.