It was almost two years in the making. But finally, this June, six of Aotearoa’s finest design brands descended on the San Francisco waterfront to present the largest exhibition of locally designed furniture, lighting, flooring and textiles the United States has ever seen.
The New Zealand Design Pavilion showcased pieces that embody our unique perspective on the world in a relaxed, intimate setting – or as intimate as a 700-square-metre “shack” can be.
The creative coalition of Città, Nodi, Resident, Noho, James Dunlop Textiles and David Trubridge was supported by Te Taurapa Tūhono New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. Taking up residence in the historic San Francisco Ferry Building, the brands displayed a curated cross section of New Zealand design within the installation space. Timed to coincide with San Francisco Design Week, guests were invited to explore the pavilion and the accompanying panels and events. “This exhibition was a purposeful shift from the traditional fair,” says Città’s chief operating officer Emmett Vallender. “We were able to ensure we had a more focused and engaged customer when they came to see us.”
With such an opportunity, the question must be asked: how do you decide what to present? “It was important to have a curation of products, rather than sheer volume,” says Città founder Margot Acland, clearly not swayed by the vastness of the pavilion. Città’s display included furniture, lighting and textiles from current and future collections. It was a considered range that showcased the brand’s versatility and penchant for pairing natural materials with soft, warm tones — a theme they consistently call on to reflect Aotearoa’s unique landscapes. As it turned out, Città wasn’t the only company to explore this idea.
“When we set the exhibition up, it became clear there were some lovely synergies between the coalition brands we didn’t know existed,” says Acland. “A connection to nature seems the most obvious, but it’s also very true.” The themes seemed to resonate with the audience, with many doing a double visit. Vallender suggests it may be due to Californians’ “deep-rooted sense of entrepreneurial spirit”, or their willingness to “embrace the new and different”.
In any case, the overwhelmingly positive response to Aotearoa design is encouraging. Enough to explore export opportunities? Maybe. “I think it’s fair to say the US is certainly a beast compared to Aotearoa,” reflects Vallender. “But their way of building relationships is no different to ours.”