Hosted at the start of the year, imm cologne is an important date on the interior design calendar. However, for 2021, this very much anticipated appointment has been put into doubt.

2020 has been a dramatic year, and not only because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Social movements such as #metoo and the rising of Black Lives Matter have urged people to rethink their lives and their way of living. Some futurologists, such as Li Edelkoort, have vouched for de-growth: “[I can imagine] a global recession of a magnitude that has not been experienced before that will eventually allow humanity to reset its values.” It is of course all a possibility. However, going back is not the only option. Why not see the future, and all its possibilities, as a challenge to keep on doing by doing better?

The imm cologne team led by Matthias Pollmann, Vice President Trade Fair Management, and Claire Steinbrück, Director of the Interior Business Event imm cologne, has a clear goal: The entire interior design scene is to gather in Cologne on 18 January 2021 for the first time since the start of the crisis.

"We want to blaze a bold trail into the new normal together with the industry," says Pollmann. Business as usual? Quite the opposite. The crisis is an opportunity to rethink the entire trade fair philosophy. Trade fairs are part of a business model that has kept the industry alive for decades, but times change and the design and interior sector should, by definition, be quick to adapt and offer solutions. Technology plays a big part in this change, imm cologne 2021 will offer a combination of live and digital. This is of course a consequence of the pandemic, however, it is also a big step towards a broader outreach and a more democratic, less exclusive design culture.

As an industry created by people for people, design is also a political matter. This year ther si the chance to reconsider both business and values. The pandemic did not change things from one day to the other, more likely, it accelerated processes that had already started. "Online shopping has brought consumers and producers closer,” explains Dick Spierenburg, Creative Director of imm since 2011.  “This deeper dialogue leads to an evaluation of the purpose of products: is it really worth creating a new thing every year, to make a new sofa that has a slightly different colour, or a different material, but is in fact just the same thing? I think designers have the responsibility to create thoughtful products that really serve people and society, not things that will only increase consumption. At the same time, as far as the industry is concerned, it is important to keep an open mind, to be open to change, and to see where and how new ideas can lead to new values. Imm is a platform that will show that – we have an extensive program of talks and lectures, we will be streaming our events, and we will also be showcasing the work of twenty new designers. This is how we take responsibility: by presenting new talents and new ideas, and by being socially involved."

Portrait of Dick Spierenburg Koelnmesse, imm cologne. photo credit classicon.com

The show must go on, the industry must start doing business again. Pollmann and his collaborators are working hard to attract visitors and exhibitors. However, it's not just about doing business, there is more than just a show at stake. "The essence of shows like imm is that people come together to get inspired not only by products but also by others,” says Spierenburg.  “During the lockdowns, creative work has continued: having to stay at home, designers were very much focused on the house, on the way we live and also on what was missing. This led to a lot of ideas and a lot of solutions, and people must meet, connect and exchange those ideas – designers with the industry, designers with consumers.  This is, and will always be, a very important aspect of shows like imm."

The number of visitors is hard to forecast, but 70% of the exhibition space has already been booked. "Participating means a lot to us, we consider it the first step towards the so-called new normal,” says Oliver Holy, CEO & Owner ClassiCon. “We see imm as an important start to the new year -  a family gathering of the industry, where the main purpose is to meet and exchange ideas with long-standing friends and business partners. We know from our dealers that they are looking forward to it just as much as we are. I'm expecting a new kind of domesticity to develop and with it many opportunities and tasks for our industry."

There's been a lot of talk about the “new normal” and, while most of us are already living it, someone should start designing it. So keep checking this page for more updates on imm cologne.

by Sara Kaufman