Phil Robinson Delves Into the Roots of ICFF

With 375 exhibitors, attendees from over 23 countries, and individual company participation from multiple sectors, ICFF makes its return to Javits Center. 

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair came to fruition in 1988. It was founded by the principles of establishing a stronger design presence in the US. At the time, modernism became a newfound ideal that would lead designers toward new frontiers, with trends fading in and out of the zeitgeist. 

Today, trends and styles are further evolving, trekking new heights and defining a whole new era of contemporary design. Phil Robinson, show director of ICFF, gave us insight into the conception of one of the largest contemporary design shows in the country. 

“[ICFF] was originally based on the notion that there wasn’t a really strong design show in the US, meaning design that was original, design that was contemporary, and design that was sustainable. And there really wasn’t a marketplace that kind of looked at those benchmarks,” said Robinson. 

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and WantedDesign Manhattan will take place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York from 15 to 17 May 2022 | Photo Credits: Architonic

With the support of international commerce, ICFF became one of the most influential epicenters for designers to establish new business opportunities, showcasing pavilions from numerous countries, including Austria, Norway, Romania, Brazil and Argentina. Phil Robinson said, “It’s also been the growth of the US designers because while Europe was an inspiration for this, you have to have a strong domestic market, in whatever sector you’re doing and there’s been a real birth of US furnishing design companies, over the last 30 years, that’s helped fuel the success of ICFF.”

“During the pandemic, people focused on their homes, they couldn’t travel. And so, that push into residential, whether that’s reflected in looking at two or three year trends in housing and housing growth or whether that’s in-products that they’re putting in the house, that’s really benefited the customers here,” said Robinson. 

The biggest contrast that makes ICFF such a unique trade show is its philosophy of passing on the torch. Equipping students with the opportunity to experiment and showcase their own design concepts, the fair provides the next generation a chance to reveal what they have in store for the future. 

Robinson said, “The number of design schools that have either interior design or furnishing design programs, whether that’s SCAD, Savannah College of Art And Design or ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, schools have led the way of championing the new level of interior design.” Expressing the excitement of profiling future interior designers, Robinson said, “Quite frankly, it also lends to the energy of the event, you’ve got a perspective of different thinking.”

He said, “First and foremost, ICFF has always been about business. Companies come here to do business whether that’s with architects and interior designers, or contemporary retailers, and for international companies that come here, it’s also been the place where they can find distribution, establish a relationship to distribute their products in North America. The fact that companies find business success is important for the continued growth of the fair.”

The major difference with this year’s show compared to shows that were done in the past was the acquisition of WantedDesign Manhattan back in 2019. ICFF was co-located with WantedDesign, which was originally a show that started in 2012, held in a place called The Tunnel, on 28th and 12th in New York City.

Initially a platform dedicated to promoting design and fostering the international creative community, WantedDesign, to this day, has become a leading innovator gathering thousands to see what is new, fresh, and upcoming in design.  

With its emphasis on original and sustainable design, ICFF presents a broad range of furnishing products for residential, contract and hospitality environments to an audience of 10,000 architects, interior designers, retailers, distributors, developers, and press. 

On the show floor, attendees will also have opportunities to find inspiration through ICFF + WantedDesign Manhattan Talks, a focused lineup of panel sessions, keynote presentations, and intimate conversations led by the most iconic names in the industry. Furthermore, opportunities to widen professional networks are boundless. From organic meetings on the show floor to evening events, attendees and exhibitors join together to exchange business strategies while strengthening relationships in the design community.

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