Review: Faye Toogood installations at London Design Festival

By Penny Craswell

The London Design Festival is a museum-focused design event, rather than a commercial fair, and this is evident in the number of installations, talks and object exhibitions included. Two of the most amazing installations this year were by London-based designer Faye Toogood: The Cloakroom at the V&A Museum and The Drawing Room at Somerset House.

Coats are made of Kvadrat fabric at The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
Coats are made of Kvadrat fabric at The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
I first met Faye when she visited Sydney for The Blocks, a multi-sensory installation she created for Penfolds Wine at Sydney’s Walsh Bay in 2012 (read my article here). At The Blocks, Faye reinterpreted five flavours of wine grapes using the sommelier’s notes, working with sculptors, perfumiers and artists to create the installation inspired by the description of the scent. This is typical of her approach, which is not only focused on making objects, but also includes a conceptual and curatorial element.

The approach can also be seen in Faye’s two new London installations. At the V&A, visitors are invited to The Cloakroom where they are asked to wear one of 150 coats designed for the event using Kvadrat’s Highfield, a high- tech compressed-foam textile. Sewn into the coat is a map which leads to another room in the V&A. This museum is huge with an amazing collection of around 60,000 objects on display at any one time (ref), so the idea was to lead you to a place you’ve never been.

Each coat has its own "face" at The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
Each coat has its own “face” at The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied

Map sewn into the coats at The Cloakroom at the V&A Museum by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
Map sewn into the coats at The Cloakroom at the V&A Museum by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied

When you get there, you find one of 10 sculptures of coats that Faye has commissioned from designers, artisans and makers, inspired by ten pieces from the collection that Faye finds inspiring. Each one is made with a different material, including marble, plaster, timber and bronze, and the names reflect this: there’s The Wood Carver, The Stone Mason, The Welder, The Sculptor, The Astronomer, The Blacksmith, The Tiler, The Potter, The Plasterer and The Embroiderer. She loved to see the different methods used to create the sculptures and asked the artisans to keep some parts of each sculpture unfinished so it is possible to see the process of making.

10 Coats, part of The Cloakroom at V&A by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
10 Coats, part of The Cloakroom at V&A by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied

Detail of The Blacksmith, part of The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
Detail of The Blacksmith, part of The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
https://vimeo.com/138959035

The other installation that Faye Toogood created at the London Design Festival in 2015 was The Drawing Room at Somerset House, a huge neo-classical building on the banks of the River Thames. This installation was part of 10 Designers in the West Wing which gave 10 designers a room each to play with. In her room, Faye recreated an old-fashioned Victorian drawing room using charcoal drawings on translucent plastic sheets that covered the walls, creating a life-sized, immersive illustration.

As well as the illustrated surroundings, The Drawing Room features a selection of furniture and objects from a repurposed archive chest to the contemporary, bulbous forms of Faye’s new ‘Roly-Poly’ furniture collection. Another rack of coats includes pieces from Faye’s new collection of unisex outerwear Collection 003 designed in collaboration with her sister fashion designer Erica Toogood.

Roly Poly and other furniture at The Drawing Room at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: Supplied
Roly Poly and other furniture at The Drawing Room at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: Supplied

Detail of charcoal drawing at The Drawing Room at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
Detail of charcoal drawing at The Drawing Room at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied

Antique archive chest at The Drawing Room at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
Antique archive chest at The Drawing Room at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied

What is it that makes Faye Toogood’s work so special? Part of it is the participatory element – each of the three installations described above brings the visitor into an immersive environment, with The Cloakroom also requiring you to do something (use the map to find the treasure!) in order to fully experience the work. For me, her work is also interesting because it contains a strong curatorial and collaborative aspect, with her so often teaming up with other creative people to push the boundaries of design.

More on Faye Toogood

The Drawing Room features coats from Collection 003 at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied
The Drawing Room features coats from Collection 003 at Somerset House by Faye Toogood. Photo: supplied

Unisex coats as part of Collection 003 by Faye and Erica Toogood. Photo: supplied
Unisex coats as part of Collection 003 by Faye and Erica Toogood. Photo: supplied

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