Toronto Design Week: a new state-of-the-art design scene

Mathilde Grenot, translated by Marie Donnet
15 Février 2015

Whereas some people thought the incarnation of interior design avant-gardism was limited to Scandinavia’s frontiers, well ahead concerning design, the Toronto Design Week has made the headlines this week. We met WantedDesign, one of the big names of this Canadian event rich in colour and materials.

Credit Yuli Scheidt
Credit Yuli Scheidt
Do you like nice curves, smooth and faultless materials, processed metals or raw woods? Then the Toronto Design Week was not to be missed. For the fourth year, between the 19th and the 25th January, the city has turned into an immense showroom dedicated to design and art lovers. Until last Sunday evening more than sixty exhibitions, vernissages or meeting with designers and artists have animated Toronto. It is an opportunity for designers to promote their work and to be more visible on the North American design scene, especially in Canada.

On this occasion, the Journal International went to the Outside the Box exhibition’s talk show at the Design Within Reach Toronto Studio and met Odile Hainaut, the co-founder of WantedDesign that is located in New York. WantedDesign, a coordinator and partner of Outside the Box, has gathered five American designers and associates, from Seattle, Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, around the theme ‘Breaking the Ice’ to introduce the novelties and show the creativity of their respective cities. We met in a gallery with plenty of magnificent rooms and overcrowded with the high society.

What can you tell me about the Toronto Design Week? What does this event represent to you?
During the Toronto Design Week there is a trade show called Interior Design Show (IDS). Few years ago a group started the Offsite Festival in conjunction with the trade show. However the idea was more to animate showrooms, all the places dedicated to design in Toronto, and to invite the audience to discover and meet the important persons of design in Toronto.

What has been your career path on the North American design scene?
Along Claire Pijoulat, I am the co-founder of WantedDesign. Five years ago we founded WantedDesign, a design exhibition in New York. It is also an ‘off’ of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) trade show that exists for more than 20 years in New York. We are both French women that have evolved, for 16 years for me against 9 years for Claire, on New York’s design scene. We created WantedDesign, because strangely the city did not benefit yet from a true Design Week like the Paris Design Week in Paris, or the ones in Milan or London. I also have a gallery in New York, called Air Pur Gallery, which organizes its own events. All visitors told me: ‘It is strange that New York does not have a more important, more exciting, more creative design scene.’

Credit Mathilde Grenod
Credit Mathilde Grenod
How did WantedDesign cross the Toronto Design Week’s road?
With Claire we met in 2010 and decided together about WantedDesign, which is a more selective and more creative platform. Let’s say we kind of reinvent the traditional trade show. For us organizing events with the same way of introducing design and talking about design was a method to evolve and widen our audience. Two or three years ago we had the opportunity to meet the Off Festival Toronto organizers’ and realized we had a lot in common in our way of creating events. Above all we thought that it was ‘North America’: even if Canada is close to the United States, the country is rather isolated… Toronto is a city where a lot of things are going on, but on the other side of the frontier we do not really know what is exactly happening. For example in New York one does not talk much about Canadian design… We thought it could be interesting for us and Toronto to bring a part of the United States in the Canada as well as to talk about what is occurring in Canada in the United States.

How do you take part in this 2015 festival edition in Toronto?
We started last year by respectively promoting the events. This year we decided to really take part in it, that is to say to be physically present. Organizers talked us about Outside the Box, a nice exhibition concept.  The idea is to bring what we call a ‘Banker box’, which is bought to ship something. Everything should be put in the box and be shipped to Toronto. This way, when they contacted us and asked if we could do New York’s box, we agreed. However, we thought we could not only bring New York, but other cities of the United States. We called on partners to take part in the festival and bring a bit of Detroit, Seattle, Los Angeles and Chicago here, in Canada. This is the reason why we are here tonight at Design Within Reach Toronto Studio. It is a partner of Wanted that exhibits for 4 years and we organize a lot of events with them during the year. Indeed, we will go on a road trip together all the 2015 year around in several cities of the United States… It is true that tonight we also celebrate ‘collaboration in design’, a solution to initiate more interesting and bigger projects than if we were in our own cities, our own events… In Toronto there is an interesting community that is very creative and in a way it echoes what is happening in Brooklyn or in New York in general. We hope we will grow and strengthen this exchange with Toronto.

At WantedDesign what are your relations with the European design scene, especially the French one? 
On our part at Wanted we have the same type of partnerships with Days’ designers in Paris, their design festival takes place in June, or with Mexico’s Design Week in October. These partnerships outside the United States also help to promote American design outside the continent, which is interesting for French women! Even if we are supporters of French design and would like to work more in France…  We know a lot of people in the Parisian design community, or in France in general. We try to attract as much people as possible and we also work with cultural exhibitions in New York on an interesting platform for 2016 to talk a bit more about what is going on between France and the United States.

After a busy week the Torontonian audience has had the opportunity to enjoy the visual and sensual pleasures the North American design has to offer. On this last festival’s day nice surprises are still to come, but for the rest, one will have to visit private galleries or wait until the upcoming edition!