Beyond romance and culture, Europe has always been recognised as a global leader when it comes to directing trends for the creative industries, particularly in design and fashion.
In her role as a design futurist, Melbourne-based Genty Marshall, director of design and forecasting studio, New Black Global Trends regularly travels to source inspiration and monitor consumer behaviour to capture design directions and bring them to the Australian market.
Her recent trend research found her in the streets of Paris and London to attend the London Design Festival, Paris Design Week along with the bi-annual French fair, MAISON&OBJET.
Renowned for her reliable predictions, Marshall’s roundup of highlights from Europe’s most prominent design events reflect the industry’s ever-growing relationship with nature, a desire that refines ambitious and whimsical design aesthetics. She also forecasts design to be more dramatically activated through colour.
“Across the European festivals, the key trend was perception,” explained Marshall. “Whether this was light and colour, optical illusion, unexpected structures, surreal forms – the thread was strong and more sophisticated than the illusion themes that usually appears."
Marshall referred to the marble marquetry furniture by Rue Monsieur in Paris as one example. Rue Monsieur takes a sculptural approach to design, and the design company's latest collection is minimalist, though the construction techniques used to create “geometric and organic shapes” showcase incredible intricacy through their unique wood processing and marquetry technique.
Similarly, Marshall said 3Dzionale's Life Given a Shape ceramics were “captivating,” as were Studio Roso’s (Superbrands London) Circus Sideboard, a glass fronted sideboard with a double-layered design that allows the two colour palettes to reverse when opening or closing.
“The second big direction was in materials and production techniques,” said Marshall. “The fascination with raw materials is not a new direction but it is as strong as ever and designers are constantly redefining our relations with common materials as well as developing new ones.”
According to Marshall, STAMP’s Low Tech Factory project, which was part of the concept store’s MATIÈRES PREMIÈRES exhibition at merci, best demonstrated the materials direction by “converting simple plastic trellis into portable lamps via their miniature production line.”
Marshall further predicts 2014 to continue a raw approach to design, with the industry prioritising ethical and environmentally responsible production and materials.
She referred to two projects that clearly reflect this natural direction: 3M’s Lightfalls by Todd Bracher which featured at 100% Design and Benjamin Hubert’s launch of his new table, Ripple, at London’s Design Festival.
“Bracher’s design combines LED technology and 3M reflective film to bounce and multiply light from a single LED across multiple light modules,” said Marshall, who was fascinated by the “remarkable feat of physics” used in the products construction.
Hubert’s Ripple Table, on the other hand, is the world’s lightest timber table, weighing a mere nine kilograms. According to Hubert, the table was made using 70 to 80 per cent less material than a standard timber table, making it far more sustainable than solid timber construction.
“We can expect a more conservative industry and market then we’ve seen in the past couple of years due to recent political upheaval and a general lack of certainty and confidence,” noted Marshall of the reason behind the direction.
In terms of colour, Marshall forecasts rose and purple hues, a trend which aligns with PANTONE's selection of Radiant Orchid as its 2014’s Colour of The Year.
Marshall feels these purple hues will work with copper and muted blues to “complement the quiet neutral palettes and replace the more provocative trends of 2013.”
“Yellow, as predicted, has become a staple,” she added. “Beyond their presence in marketing and catalogues, European jewel hues will be used cautiously."
In terms of retail interiors, Marshall noted that companies continue to use design in a bid to connect with consumers and enhance their in-store experiences. She predicts retail outlets will align with other sectors to bring drama to their spaces in 2014.
“Drama will achieved through lighting effects and quite an architectural use of black and white to distort and excite," she said.
Marshall expects the Australian design industry to draw strongly from the European design community.
“The interest in light and perception is one that we have been exploring for a little while already but predominately through the arts and architecture,” she said. “Shifting this through to interiors will be something we will see more of this season, mainly through lighting as the pressure grows for more interesting offers in the sector."
“In pattern and motif, book-match, mirror prints and Rorschach are the major seasonal trend along with a a continuation of the chevron and diagonal strip patterns from earlier in the year.”