In Short: LA Design Fest

Global design, (mostly) locally produced and the impact such practices have for creator and client reverberated throughout the revealing recent talk on the status of designing in the modern world among creative forces Lukas Peet, Simon James and Scott Bridgens.

It’s as much a matter of practicality as ethos for the trio, who gathered at A+R with co-founder Rose Apodaca for “Speed of Light: Product Design in the Fast-Forward World,” an anchor program during the Los Angeles Design Festival, June 20-24. The 9th annual installation drew 20,000 design enthusiasts, most taking in the workshops, panel discussions, award events, pop-up installations and showcases at the LADF’s marquee site (and A+R’s home) on the ROW campus in the city’s downtown.

While the emphasis on the 4-day event is on locally generated design—from products to architecture, graphics to infrastructure—the nonprofit LADF has increasingly incorporated outside enterprises with ties to LA. To wit, A+R’s talk was produced with partner (and new pal) IDS Vancouver, the interior design trade show promoting its homegrown talent beyond its borders. In the case of A+R’s program, the designers flew to LA exclusively for the talk and showcase because of their individual associations here.

Clever's Amy Devers, LADF's Erin Brown and IDS Vancouver Jody Phillips

From Vancouver, BC, Lukas designs work under his own name and for the likes of Roll & Hill, as well as a part of the boutique lighting brand he cofounded in 2013 with Matt Davis and fellow designer Caine Heintzman, ANDlight. In addition to long being a part of the A+R offerings, Lukas’s Spotlight series can also be found on campus as the centerpiece in the private dining room at Tartine’s new Alameda Supper Club, among other projects throughout town.

Scott and Simon of the New Zealand brand Resident arrived a few days prior to the talk, in part to visit with one of their manufacturing partners, based here in LA. Like Lukas, the pair underscored how critical it is to maintaining production of their lighting and furniture “just down the road” from their respective headquarters so they could maintain quality control. However, in the case of Resident, being able to extend some of the upholstery and other steps in Los Angeles and London, via trusted partners, also positively affects pricing on their expanding line.

Simon James + Scott Bridgens of Resident, Lukas Peet of ANDlight and A+R's Rose Apodaca

“It’s not that we’re against manufacturing elsewhere, or find something wrong with having our lighting produced somewhere like China,” noted Simon to the hundred-plus guests in the A+R showroom during the Saturday, June 22 event. “It’s simply easier to trouble shoot something when the factory is just minutes away.”

Simon is widely known for both products and projects under his own name, as well as his eponymous “concept stores” in his native New Zealand, which, like A+R, offer the work of dozens of designers and lines from around the world. He and Scott founded Resident in 2011, reflecting the cross-cultural transformation of their city by emphasizing global design.

Aesthetically, both Resident and ANDlight also share a West Coast sensibility—a penchant for easygoing formality, distinct details, technological innovation provided in an effortless way—that can be very much a hallmark of LA as it is Vancouver and Auckland. 

“Speed of Light” was not the only need for bartenders during A+R’s LADF weekend, as we welcomed hundreds the night before for the festival’s Block Party at ROW. Revelers got a first look at not only the expanded showcases featuring ANDlight and Resident (and which will be on view through August), but also new showroom entries such as RS Barcelona’s Diagonal Pool Table (feted earlier in the month with spirited tournament among architects and designers).

Margot Lea, Twentieth's Stefan Lawrence and Design LA editor-in-chief Michael Wollaeger

Thousands descended on the ROW campus from Thursday morning through closing late Sunday afternoon, admittedly, leaving little chance for the A+R team to explore all of the cool activities and installations guests were sharing with us.

The weekend kicked off Thursday offsite with an awards program at the nearby Ace DTLA. Honors went out to Meyghan Hill, Cindy Hsu Zell, Uri Davillier, Eric Trine and Kenesha Sneed in this year’s EDGE category. And the ICON award, recognizing women who’ve made an indelible mark on LA culture through creative leadership and work, went to architect and industrial designer Elena Manferdini.

But the women who deserve the biggest applause are LADF organizers Haily Zaki, Erin Brown and Tracy Nguyen. Bravo for shining a global light on our local design scene.