London Design Festival:
The Shoreditch Design Triangle and beyond
We speak to George Wu from Para Para about her London Design Week Collaboration with Lombrello, The Shoreditch Design Triangle and the East London’s most inspiring spots.
George Wu is founder of Para Para, who create animated umbrellas which come to life when viewed through an app. Originally from Manchester, George lives between Brick Lane and Brighton, working out of Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street.
From Monday 18th to Sunday 24th September you’ll find a unique collaboration between Para Para and Italian furniture designer Lombrello at Old Spitalfields Market, as part of The Shoreditch Design Triangle at the London Design Festival.
We spoke to George about the project, her festival favourites and some of East London’s most inspiring design spaces.
At Para Para I design umbrellas that animate. There are no VR tricks, we just use traditional animation techniques that mean when you gently spin them an animation can been seen through our app.
They’re made by James Ince Umbrellas right by here in Bethnal Green. They have incredible heritage and are the UK’s longest running umbrella makers, having been going for over 100 years.
The umbrellas are incredibly high end and have lifetime repair warranty, which means if any part of it break you can take it to get fixed, like you could take a shoe to a cobbler, which means there’s a sustainable side to them too.
Lombrello is a furniture designer based in Milan. They create chairs that are completely customisable in terms of colour, but also chairs that might have a hanger back built into the back that you can hand your coat on, or an umbrella on the back, so you can have shade.
I think we have a similar sense of humour and what we also have in common is the idea of bringing joy to a mundane object and looking at it in a completely different way. Fancy doesn’t have to mean it can’t be fun.
What can we expect from your collaborative stall and installation at Old Spitalfields Market?
An installation in the gate alongside Brushfield Street will create a path to lead you to our Para Para x Lombrello stall.
There we’ll have a spinning display of our chair with umbrella, as well as an iPad so people can get the full experience. We’re hoping it will be an interesting object and a conversation starter, that people will come to the stall and chat to us. Maybe about the weather?
Just being part of the the market for a week is interesting. Everyone is friendly and everyone is very curious. Usually for London Design Week we are in our own little unit, so we are looking forward to meeting a lot of people. I’m also already obsessed with Dumpling Shack and Chai Guys…
Is this the first time you’ve taken part in the London Design Festival?
It was an idea that started as a reaction to the recession. We had just graduated and many of our friends were struggling to sell their wares. Originally for The Shoreditch Trust in 2010 when we graduated from our Masters and realised it was a recision and no-one was buying anything. We couldn’t sell one thing for £100 but could we sell 100 things for £1?
What about quite nice was that a lot of people involved made products that they had never tried to make before and it became part of their portfolio and nice gateway into the retail market.
What else are you hoping to see at the London Design Festival?
I really want to see stuff if I can – the whole of Shoreditch Design Triangle looks exciting.
I think there’s some really beautiful things to see at the V&A.
For anyone visiting the area for Design Week, which other places would you recommend in the local area.
I really love Arnold Circus in terms of history. Then I’d definitely recommend a walk along Shadwell Basin, it’s beautiful all along the basin and there’s lots of art to see down there.
I also love the Barbican, which is walkable from Spitalfields. The architecture, the museum, it’s all definitely worth a see.
The Hackney Mosaic Project has public works close to here too. They teach people who have had a troubled past how to make mosaics and there is map of the public works you can find online. My favourite one is The Hounds of Hackney Downs.
As an E1 local, what do you find inspiring about the area?
While sadly some of the area’s working heritage is starting to fade away, for example, the paper bag merchants is gone, there are still pockets of that here in East London, they are just a little more hidden…
Things are still made here and that is inspiring, like the umbrellas still being made in Bethnal Green.
Also in London for sure there’s a vibe of “just try”, that you can make things happen. There is that feeling that if I had a weird idea and went into a maker round here, they would say “OK, let’s give it a go”.
I love the mix of people that you meet in the area, it’s incredibly diverse. Such a mix of people from all types of cultures, there’s so much to be inspired by. Because London attracts people from all of the world the area in incredibly transitional. It’s always changing.
Para Para x Lombrello takes places from Monday 18th to Sunday 24th September at Old Spitalfields Market.