New York Design Week Adds an Avant-Garde Fair by Sight Unseen

After four years as a central event during New York’s still-fledgling Design Week, the NoHo Design District is sadly no more.

Forward/Slash Light, 2014, by Ladies & Gentlemen

“The real estate in the area really exploded,” explains Jill Singer, who, along with Monica Khemsurov, founded the design site Sight Unseen and launched the multi-site design event in 2010.

The good news is that the exhibition is decamping from NoHo to SoHo for a new event called Sight Unseen OFFSITE, a hybrid shop-exhibition that Singer describes as a “diversity of experiences.” Over two floors of the landmarked 200 Lafayette building, about 30 independent designers will show their wares in decidedly unconventional ways. Look for new wallpapers by Calico as the backdrop to the prop photo booth, concessions “curated” by Mold magazine, and new works by Fredericks & Mae, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, Knauf & Brown, and more. There will also be five pop-up retail spaces, including an “enchanted forest” of Brooklyn artist Chiaozza’s papier-mâché plants and a booth of Enzo Mari furniture where New York designer Pablo Alabau will be hosting a buy-you-own lumber workshop.

There will be a mix of international and mid-career studios, but the focus falls mainly on the emerging. “We look mostly for exclusive content,” says Singer. “We look for the avante-garde, and people who are using materials in interesting new ways.”

Standard Table Lamp, 2014, by Knauf & Brown

What also sets OFFSITE apart from the growing number of design shows of the season (among them Collective Design Fair, Wanted Design, and the anchor of it all, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair) is that it conveys the rise of the atelier business model among avant-garde young American craftsmen, according to Singer.

“Now that there are more outlets for this kind of work — Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs, which now have a better reputation — there’s been such a huge burst in independent designers who are making their own way, and having their woodshop where they sell their stuff,” she says. “It makes for a much better visiting experience. We just really didn’t want it to feel like a trade show.”

— Janelle Zara (@janellezara)

Images via Sight Unseen