The eighth edition of 3daysofdesign drew the design crowd to the city of Copenhagen. Many of the Scandinavian brands skipped Milan this year and presented themselves collectively in the North. The festival's showroom format not only strikes a chord during the pandemic. It could set a new direction for the entire industry.

3daysofdesign 2021

The design world is on the move. Before Corona, the rule was: After the fair is before the fair. One event follows the other. Also September 2021 was an endless succession of presentations in various cities, catching up on what had piled up in a year and a half of pandemic. But Covid has not only challenged the trade fair calendar, but also the trade fair system. And this is where the 3daysofdesign in Copenhagen have an exceptional position.

Founded in 2014, the festival has turned into a must-attend event. With 200 top participants, this year's show is almost on a par with Milan Design Week, where the focus was on the city's showrooms and only a scaled-down fair was shown at the exhibition centre outside the city. The special nature of the Copenhagen event is the fact that it manages entirely without a trade fair. A festival that spans both permanent and temporary showrooms in the city. Exhibitions in historical venues add extra splendour to the design parkour.

A link with Copenhagen's lively food scene is also crucial. Hay has opened a new restaurant in the attic of its flagship store on Copenhagen's elegant Østergade street, where it presents a series of origami figures by Swedish designer Clara von Zweigbergk. Vipp is expanding the company's portfolio of pedal bins and kitchens. A new upholstery collection and lighting ranges are shown in a former pencil factory, where regular dinners with renowned chefs are to take place in future. The luminaires hang above the large dining table or are integrated into settings that convey the character of a real flat, filled with furniture, ceramic vases and art works on the walls.

HAY, 3daysofdesign 2021

The sterile showroom with neutral white walls and plinths has had its day. Realistic living situations are created that sometimes make it difficult to distinguish whether one is entering a salesroom or actually a flat. The building Frederiksgarde 1 is filled to the rafters with showrooms that feel like a domestic environment. This raises a crucial question: Why should we continue to build artificial dwellings at great expense in the middle of empty exhibition halls that are subsequently torn down and disposed of afterwards? Focusing on the city is more sustainable in the literal sense. It avoids waste. And it creates lasting addresses in the city for many brands.

Some of them even contribute to urban development. Gubi already opened its 2000-square-metre showroom in the Nordhavn Areal in 2015. Now Kvadrat and Vitra have followed into the up-and-coming district. The German-Swiss brand has presented new accessories as well as the HAL Lounge Chair by Jasper Morrison. Kvadrat stages the new fabric and carpet collection Technicolour by Peter Saville with an installation that is both fitting and humorous. The colour markings of sheep flocks find their way into fabrics with atmospheric colour gradients and carpets with colourful dots. Metal barrier grids, like those normally used to enclose herds of animals, fenced off an exhibition area in the Kvadrat showroom overlooking the harbour.

GUBI, 3daysofdesign 2021

Kvadrat, 3daysofdesign 2021

Co-operations are not only the strategy of the moment in fashion – they are also taking hold of the furniture world. The new Portuguese furniture brand Mor design revealed its first collection, including a lounge chair by Keiji Takeushi, inside a beautiful Copenhagen apartment – while Spanish brand Nanimarquina provided carpets in atmospheric tones. Giulio Cappellini, CEO and creative director of the Italian design house Cappellini, created a special edition of the Paustian Modular Sofa designed by Erik Rasmussen in 1969 for the Copenhagen furniture dealer that resides in the magnificent rooms of a former bank. The salmon-coloured fabric cover Re-Wool by Kvadrat is made of 45 percent recycled fibres. Also the Swedish bed manufacturer Dux has joined forces with Danish brand Carl Hansen & Søn to launch the BM0555 bed by Børge Mogensen within an exhibition of artist Tom Anholt at Mikael Andersen Gallery.

The theme of sustainability was omnipresent in Copenhagen. Companies like Brdr. Krüger emphasise the proximity of production to the Danish capital. Bang & Olufsen presents the first Cradle to Cradle certified loudspeaker, Beosound Level. FDB Møbler reveals a certification system to reveal the real CO2 values including the entire cycle.

Band & Olufsen, 3daysofdesign 2021

In the rooms of the Danish Design Museum, currently empty for renovation, the exhibition Circular Furniture Days gives a holistic view on sourcing materials, recycling, reuse, use, production, distribution and longevity. Young brands exhibit right next to established manufacturers such as Fredericia or PP Møbler. The ecological footprint, the message goes, has become the crucial criteria of design.

Not all Danish products are produced in Denmark. The furniture label Norr11, for example, presented an extensive series of home accessories and ceramics for the sister brand 101 Copenhagen. The design is nordic, but produced in the Far East to allow affordable prices. An opposite to sustainability? Not necessarily, as FDB Møbler accurately calculates. Often container ship routes from China are actually less harmful to the climate than a lorry transport from Eastern Europe. It's all a matter of perspective, of course.

Norr11, 3daysofdesign 2021

Another thing is evident: Many of the young brands have profound financial backgrounds that allow a strong growth. The reason for this lies in a number of investors who do not come from the furniture sector but often have a background in fashion or other industries. They provide the liquidity to position the new brands internationally. In doing so, they are not only targeting end consumers, but also the higher-turnover hospitality sector. They sell a sustainable lifestyle from Scandinavia, even if the production takes place somewhere else in the world.

Open House, 3daysofdesign 2021

The format of 3daysofdesign also calls the classic furniture fairs into question to a certain extent. Once Corona is overcome, will we really return to the rhythm of going from one fair  ground to the next? We will probably travel less. And when we do travel: Don't we want to experience the cities more? Feel a sense of place instead of walking through large, anonymous exhibition halls? Copenhagen has a good chance of establishing itself as the leading design event in Scandinavia and also competing with the steadily growing Stockholm Furniture Fair, which had to suspend in 2021 due to the pandemic. Next year, 3daysofdesign will most likely return to May as the usual month when is was hold during the last years: A place for design – beyond all fairs.

text by Norman Kietzmann