Brompton Quarterly | Edition 29 Autumn 2012

Upside To The Downturn

Lina Kanafani founded her store Mint to promote interesting pieces by emerging and established designers. Here, she tells us why the struggling economy means the work exhibiting at this years LDF will be particularly strong.

Brompton article1Brompton article2When Lina Kanafani arrived from Beirut in the mid-seventies, she was shocked at the capital’s backward-looking approach to design.

“By the time I came to London I was totally exposed and knowledgeable about contemporary furniture,” she says. “And to my surprise, found London lagging far behind.”

The Lebanese capital had been coming economically, with modern architecture and furniture everywhere. What’s more, the family home in Amman, Jordan, was (and still is) a modernist house her father had had designed by the Swiss architects George Addor and Dominique Julliard. He had worked in Swedish industry and she had grown up surrounded by modern Scandinavian furniture.

With this aesthetic sensibility in her blood, it’s little surprise Kanafani eventually swapped science for contemporary design. She has a masters degree in Biochemistry from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, but in 1998 launched the store Mint to promote new and established designers.

In doing so, she’s played a part in the remarkable design revolution that London has undergone since she first arrived. Today, Kanafani believes, London is a true hub for international design, especially for young designers starting out on their own.

“London by nature is a melting pot of nationalities, cultures and talent,” she says. “I meet countless International graduates who choose London as their base to start their design careers as they feel they have a better chance to be noticed here than in any other capital in Europe.

It’s why LDF is a so important an event on the design calendar not because of its size, but for the quality of its shows, which attract international manufacturers, trade buyers, gallery owners, trend forecasters, academics and design addicts.

Kanafani believes this year’s LDF will be particularly special – ironically, perhaps because of the downturn. “In a depressed economy designers work harder,” she says. “They know it’s a difficult market and only new and interesting ideas are worth exhibiting.”

The Brompton design District’s proximity to the V&A, RCA and other museums and galleries makes it a must-visit during the LDF, she says. In particularly, she’s looking forward to discovering Chapter Two of the storytelling and design project Vera (see page 1 of our LDF pullout), the Wonder Cabinets Of Europe by Livia Lauber and Maria Jeglinska (Page 2 of the Pullout) and new work by Swedish duo Folkform at Skandium (Page 10 of Pullout) whose work she has regularly shown at Mint since graduated in 2005.

Brompton article3For A Spatial Surprise, her own LDF exhibition at Mint, Kanafani has selected designers who have succeeded in creating new production processes and those with beautifully crafted and handmade designs.

The exhibition will show that as well as the economy, new designers are preoccupied with the environment, leading to eco-friendly and recycled products. And at the other end of the spectrum, it will reveal how new technology, such as IT and LED 3D printing, is a continuing fascination for designers.

Kanafani spots emerging talent at graduate shows in the UK and Europe, as well as the Milan show in April. And thanks to the internet, many new designers get in touch by email, allowing Kanafani to pursue those that interest her.

So what tips does she have for those interested in buying and collecting contemporary design ?

“ The simple rule is to buy what one likes and finds interesting,” she says. “Beautifully designed and a well-made piece can speak for itself, but at the end of the day individual taste combined with a desire to support emerging new designers should be the main guide to any collector.”

Brompton article4

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