London Fashion Umbrella: Designs of the Year 2012

Film still from nominated project Gareth Pugh SS12 directed by Ruth Hogben, nominated by Kaat Debo

I consider myself particularly fortunate this week to have paid a visit to the Design Museum before its exhibition of the Designs of the Year 2012 closed today.  This exhibition, which the Design Museum holds annually, is a comprehensive look at the innovative and aesthetically excellent designs that were born around the world in the past twelve months.

The Late Night Chameleon Cafe, concept boutique design by Gary Card, nominated by Bronwyn Cosgrave

Curators, journalists, designers and educators nominate designs from diverse disciplines such as architecture, furniture, graphics, transport, and of course, fashion, and the best of these are displayed in the minimal though rich exhibition. What I found most exciting about the exhibition on the whole was the opportunity it presented to view design excellence from many areas in tandem.

Nominated design of the Celine Crombie Coat by Phoebe Philo, nominated by Sarah Mower.

For visitors like myself, always celebrating the intelligent presentation of fashion in musuems, it was assuring to see many familiar fashion designs and projects applauded, but it’s not every day that designs by Mary Katrantzou or Issey Miyake share exhibition space with a London Ambulance redesigned by the Royal College of Art, or an architectural regeneration project in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Vivienne Westwood, nominated by Alison Moloney for her Ethical Fashion Africa collection of handbags

At the Design Awards 2012, designs such as the London 2012 Olympic Torch, already well-known, take their place in the recent canon along with perhaps lesser known but potentially more practically influential designs such as the much-imitated Celine Crombie coat.


Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the Costume Institute, curated by Andrew Bolton with Harold koda, nominated by Kaat Debo and Alison Moloney.

The exhibition’s small, compact catalog profiles every design included, and also lists statistics about the selection, that offer insight into larger trends that the programme records. This information may seem at first self-congratulatory, but viewed objectively it is sure to be useful for researchers of the future when they seek information about the motivations and developments in design.

For example: 45% fashion projects were primarily handmade, 27% were designed to be mass-produced and 25% were about communicating or exhibiting fashion rather than producing it.

Those are numbers sure to be quoted in a PhD yet to be written about the current moment in fashion, don’t you agree?

Customisable boots designed by Gaetano Pesce, produced by Melissa, Brazil, nominated by Adelia Borges

Although the exhibition has closed, a visit to the Design Museum in the coming weeks will still provide a visit to its Christian Laboutin exhibition– a thoroughly different experience than the Design Awards, which I will review shortly for Worn Through. In the meantime, you can still learn more about this year’s nominees and winners by picling up a copy of the catalog, and set your sights on the best of design this coming year, and you may just see some of your favorites on display in 2013.

The Hovding Invisible Cycling Helmet, designed by Hovding, Sweden, nominated by Wayne Hemingway in the Product Design category

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