Russell Whitehead and Jordan Cluroe of 2LG Studio have curated You Can Sit With Us, a London Design Festival show that offered “a seat at the table” to a diverse mix of emerging designers.
The 2LG Studio founders invited 13 designers from a mix of nationalities, races, genders and backgrounds to be a part of the exhibition, which was on show at London Design Fair.
Cluroe (top left), Whitehead (top right) and Adam Fairweather of Smile Plastics pictured with 9 of the 13 chair designersThe exhibition took the form of a dining room, featuring a long table surrounded by chairs that were each designed by a different participant.
Whitehead and Cluroe came up with the concept based on their own experiences of trying to break into the design industry and being made to feel like outsiders.
The chair by Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng features a black lacquer finish”When we launched our practice nearly 10 years ago, there was an inner circle that felt very out of reach to us,” Whitehead told Dezeen.
“We were so bruised by the industry and felt blocked by certain doors that were firmly closed to us,” he continued.
“Instead of chasing acceptance where it wasn’t forthcoming, we decided to accept the love that was coming our way and put our energy there.”
Sam Klemick’s chair incorporates a sweater into its carved wood formThe aim of You Can Sit With Us, he said, was to give a platform to a new generation of designers who may be having similar experiences.
The exhibition’s name is a reference to the 2004 movie Mean Girls.
“We wanted this to be a safe space that actively welcomed new perspectives,” Whitehead explained.
Helen Kirkum produced a lounge seat with upholstery made from trainer insolesAmong the most eye-catching designs in the show is a lounge seat with upholstery made from trainer insoles by Helen Kirkum, a footwear designer who typically crafts her designs from recycled sneakers.
Norwegian designer Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng has contributed a CNC-cut version of a hand-crafted ash chair she first made during the pandemic in a new black lacquer finish.
Benjamin Motoc’s piece playfully combines a sketch with a basic 3D formA backrest with a sweater slung over it is part of the carved wood form of a design by California-based Sam Klemick, who had a career in fashion before she moved into furniture.
Rotterdam-based Benjamin Motoc created a piece that playfully combines a sketch with a basic 3D design, while Paris-based sculptor Bence Magyarlaki has produced a characteristically squidgy form.
Bence Magyarlaki produced a characteristically squidgy formOther chairs were designed by Amechi Mandi, Divine Southgate Smith, Wilkinson & Rivera, Net Warner, Hot Wire Extensions, Byard Works, Pulp Sculptuur and Blake C Joshua.
The participants were selected across design, art and fashion because Whitehead and Cluroe “didn’t want to enforce boundaries in that way”.
Rob Parker of Byard Works contributed a chair made from plywood and corkTheir chairs were arranged around a table produced by Smile Plastics using recycled plastic bottles and old tinsel, which created a glittering effect.
The exhibition was an important project for 2LG, and for Whitehead in particular, who battled mental health struggles following the pandemic.
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The designer said the project allowed him to explore how “heart and emotion” can be a part of design.
“A lot of healing has taken place in the lead-up to this show,” he said.
Granite + Smoke produced blankets featuring the title, You Can Sit With UsThe project included a collaboration with textile brand Granite + Smoke, who produced colourful blankets emblazoned with the exhibition’s title message.
Whitehead and Cluroe also worked with homeware brand Sheyn on a series of suggestive 3D-printed vases.
“The collection we designed together is a celebration of our queerness, something we have not embraced fully in our product design output, but it felt more important than ever to put that out there right now,” added Whitehead.
You Can Sit With Us was on show at London Design Fair from 21 to 24 September as part of London Design Festival. See Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events around the world.
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