Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat, founders of the WantedDesign fair, at Industry City.
Five years ago, a rumor spread
through the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) at the Javits
Center in Manhattan that there was “another design fair,” a smaller one (some
said “cooler”), just down the street in the Chelsea Terminal Stores. Many made
it, many did not. But what all attendees of the first WantedDesign fair in
Manhattan found was a refreshingly different kind of design event. With just
thirty exhibitors, WantedDesign exuded a handpicked, emerging-designer vibe
that was nowhere to be found in the city at the time, except at select
galleries or shops. This was an entirely new form of tradeshow.
concept of WantedDesign was to create a platform that was a combination of
commercial and cultural,” explains co-founder Odile Hainaut, who came to New
York from Paris sixteen years ago. “The idea was to have established brands and
up-and-coming designers and studios, to have not just product showcase but also
programming. More like a design forum, a place for conversation. A nice
environment, and a place where people could really talk and meet.”
WantedDesign Manhattan in 2015.
Hainaut came to
New York with her husband’s branding company, for which she spearheaded communications and special events, and cofounded Gallery R’Pure in 1997. She had a number of design connections in
New York and many more in Europe, and in 2010 she was introduced
through a friend to Claire Pijoulat, also a “French New Yorker” originally from Annecy. Pijoulat’s parents had owned a design store in France when she was
growing up. When Hainaut and Pijoulat met, they quickly realized that they had
the same vision for the future of design in the city.
Hainaut remembers, “We spent an afternoon in conversation talking about the
design scene in New York, what we felt was missing at that time, which was a
real design week with a larger proposition in terms of events and satellite
events. We both had started to think about creating a new platform.” They had complementary backgrounds in the design field, Odile in communications and curatorial and Claire in business and marketing. They decided to combine forces.
WantedDesign Manhattan’s opening night, 2015.
After coming to
New York with experience of design fairs in Europe, Hainaut and Pijoulat found
their new home to be lacking. They are perpetual enthusiasts for the vibrant,
international culture the city projects more than any other place in the world,
and both admitted that the design scene did not embody this. The more they
spoke to designers and others the more they were convinced the city wanted, and
really needed, a true design week,
where local and international designers, design schools and museums, residents
and tourists could come together to tell their stories.
expecting something to happen, they were waiting for it,” recalls Pijoulat.
“And they really wanted this new thing. A lot of designers told us, ‘We’ve been
waiting for that for years now. Nothing ever happens.’”
had a connection at the Chelsea Terminal Stores and in May 2011, only a year
after the two met, the first WantedDesign fair opened, with more than 800
people attending opening night.
“You can imagine
that we had no idea, nothing,” laughs Hainaut. Somehow, word of the fair had
caught on like wildfire. Cooper-Hewitt was an early champion and helped spread the word. Antoine Roset, Giulio Capellini, as well as Allan Chochinov of SVA were also among the first supporters. All of
these people Hainaut and Pijoulat approached to see if they would take part and
all of them said yes. “Our idea was to be really honest in what we do, not
pretending,” she says. “We really were very humble, and I think year after year
we have been able to add on a year because it was the right foundation.”
beginning, the concept was to warm up the design space and make it more
would be a tradeshow—since companies come to tradeshows to do business—but in a
nice way,” explains Pijoulat. “We wanted a welcoming, human environment. When we
started, this was super important to us. It’s like welcoming people into your
home. You want them to feel comfortable. And it’s still true to this day.”
The effect has been mind-blowing. With 120
exhibitors in its Manhattan fair today and an exciting second location in
Brooklyn’s Industry City, WantedDesign is a mainstay of NYCxDESIGN, the design
week that has finally come to fruition each May and which Hainaut and Pijoulat
helped to establish.
Hainaut and Pijoulat in the shop space for IC Store, by WantedDesign, the design store they are opening on the
ground floor of Industry City’s Building 2.
With their offices now in Industry City (formerly Bush Terminal, New York’s largest warehousing complex in the early twentieth century), in Sunset Park, WantedDesign has played a key role in the revitalization of the area as a place for local manufacturing and business development. In October, Hainaut and Pijoulat will open IC Store, by WantedDesign, a design store on the ground floor of Industry City’s Building 2, to provide a permanent place where local and international designers can show their work, and where visitors and tenants can shop.
The idea formed
after Wanted installed a pop-up shop during NYCxDESIGN last May, showcasing
local designers and one-of-a-kind designs. It was so successful, they decided
to make a permanent store where people could come physically to browse and shop
and return to again and again.
“The store will
help us discover new designers, because we are always researching,” says Odile.
They embarked on a U.S. tour in September to Seattle, Portland, and Detroit,
and will bring new work from those cities as well. “The idea is to have a
permanent collection of products that we really like and that we feel people
will want to buy, and they know they can come into our store to find them.”
Industry City’s Building 2 in Sunset Park.
They plan to feature
a different country each month, with jewelry, books, children’s items, and much
more. It will also be a space where they can hold casual events like breakfasts
and book signings. Soon, a restaurant will open up across the hall.
the same idea as Wanted, which is to bring people together versus just selling a
product,” says Claire. “Some of the tenants’ designs will be sold at the store,
so we can show what’s made here.” The store has been carved out of the industrial
space, with concrete floors and walls of steel-trimmed windows looking onto the
eclectic furnishings in the new tenants’ lounge.
Now that Hainaut
and Pijoulat have a Brooklyn location, they can use it to grow the fair’s
programming, rather than expanding in Manhattan. WantedDesign at Industry City
will provide a forum for design educators and students, with multidisciplinary
programming, installations, and workshops. Pratt, Parsons, Pasadena College of
Design, SCAD, and many other schools across the U.S. and abroad have
participated in the Brooklyn space, and the lineup continues to grow.
is a brand,” says Hainaut. “On an international level, in Europe, Brooklyn is
so interesting, it says something. We’ve never had anyone come in here and be
disappointed. They are excited.”
WantedDesign Brooklyn, 2015.
The Design Schools Workshop program brings educators and students together from around the world.
One trait that distinguished the
WantedDesign fair from the very beginning was its emphasis on storytelling and
on the maker behind each design.
“The main thing we
are trained to do is to create a conversation,” Hainaut states. “WantedDesign
is a place to talk about the product, what is behind it, the story—it could be
the story of the making, the story of the designer, the story of the
collaboration, the story of a country. More and more we’re in conversation with
new countries that come to us because they need a place where they can promote
their industry and their designers, but they also need a place to explain why
this is something special, why this is unique.”
are creating an international network,” adds Pijoulat. The cultural-commercial
intersection WantedDesign has instigated is truly unique and one that better
represents New York City’s cultural diversity. This is why people come to New
York, they point out. In October the two will divide their time between the
WestEdge Design Fair in Los Angeles and Design Week Mexico, both partners. They have also expanded their network to Toronto, Paris, and plan to extend further into South America for future fairs. All the while, they keep a focus on cities across the U.S.
“At the end of the
day we started this to do something we liked,” explains Pijoulat. “It’s not like starting a company where you want to make this amount of money in two years and then sell it and go on to the next adventure. It’s very personal in that way; when we collaborate or when we find new partnerships, it’s always based on the people. I think that’s also why it’s growing. We never say no, we always keep the door open and see if it works. Sometimes it doesn’t work and it’s fine, but we are always curious.”
Now with an
ever-expanding New York design event, sincerely representative of the city in
which it was born, with vast student participation and a gem of a design store,
WantedDesign has come into its own. The trick is to make it fun.
work so much, we have to enjoy what we do,” Hainaut adds with a smile. “It is bon sens.”
Opening October 17: Industry City Store by WantedDesign
220 36th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11232
Photographs by Michel Arnaud
by Anne Hellman
SOURCE: Design Brooklyn – Read entire story here.