Dieter Hofmann is a busy man, and you wouldn’t expect anything else from the man behind blickfang, a design tradeshow unlike any other. If having already held fairs this year in both Stuttgart, Munich and Basel weren’t enough, Hamburg, Vienna and Zurich are still to come before the end of 2016. blickfang isn’t just ambitious in it’s program, but also in it’s vision.
We caught up with Dieter Hofmann to find out more about that vision from the man himself.
You’ve probably been asked a thousand times before, but what prompted the creation of blickfang?
Interior Design has always been my passion. So when my brother and I first started to organize exhibitions we began with the local design scene. The first blickfang took place in our hometown Stuttgart back in 1993 and only presented interior designers. But only after one year we had the idea to also integrate fashion and jewelry and suddenly the idea of blickfang as it is today, was born!
When people think about tradeshows, they think about large halls filled with industry professionals talking to other industry professionals. How is blickfang different?
My approach to design was always driven by my personal interest as a consumer. I was always looking for this very special and individual product apart from mass production and mass design. What makes blickfang so successful is the fact that there are more people out there that are also looking for a very special experience that could be found in unique design. And this is exactly what makes blickfang different! Our exhibition attracts a design-interested audience who gets the chance to talk to the designers themselves. There is no professional sales person introducing them to the products but the creative person himself. They not just fall in love with the item but also get to know the creative mind, the story and the philosophy behind the scene.
And what makes things even better is the fact that the visitors can buy their most favorite piece directly at the booth! Besides the sales part we try to emphasize the lifestyle aspect of blickfang.
The exhibition does not take place in large trade fair halls but directly in the city where life and culture takes place. blickfang also has a wide range of supporting programs such as lounges, fashion performances or specials shows that strengthens our design competence and keeps blickfang up to date.
Fashion and jewelry are a natural pair, but not everyone would add furniture to the mix. How do these 3 fields of design mix within blickfang?
Well they actually mix very well! Our visitors are mostly interested in things that make their life more beautiful and this can be a ring, a table, a bag or a dress! But to allow the visitors to get an easy overview of the exhibition we present furniture and interior accessories in other parts of the exhibition space than fashion and jewelry design. This gives the visitors a choice and the chance to explore whatever lies in their personal interest.
The accessibility to consumers and the face-to-face contact between the designers and potential customers is something really special about blickfang. What kind of feedback do you get from exhibiting designers and visitors about the experience?
The feedback of the exhibiting designers is very motivating and confirms our concept. They value the direct contact because this gives them the opportunity to get a first hand look on how their ideas are accepted on the open market. The feedback of the costumers inspires them and sometimes even has an impact on their ideas for their future works. In times where it’s not easy to place a new product in stores blickfang is also a way to get your product out there without any financial commitment with distributors or retailers.
The visitors on the other hand value the emotional aspect of blickfang. The sales experience is unique and more personal than in any store.
How do blickfang and the exhibiting designers come together? How do you select them? What do think attracts designers to blickfang?
Within the past years of organizing blickfang and of visiting all important trade shows all over the world we have built up a huge network and database with thousands of addresses of up and coming designers. They all get the chance to apply for the various blickfang settings. A jury selects the designers who participate within the show. We always have about twice as many applications than space available and I think that this is because of our uniqueness and our international approach.
We also emphasized our goal to not just be a sales exhibition but to give the audience an in depth overview of the design scene of tomorrow. This includes high-end designers, high end advertisement and competent partner network as well as our close relationship to our exhibitors.
What do you think makes individual and small-production items so appealing right now? Is it just a backlash to the IKEAs and H&Ms of the world, or is there something else to it?
I am not sure if we can call this a recent trend. blickfang has been successful since the past 20 years so there has always been a certain interest in individual and unique items. But perhaps it has increased. Perhaps today’s consumers are more conscious about what they spent their money for. Conscious about the origin of the item, the material, the way it was produced. Authenticity is the new luxury! We also have a huge choice of millions of different products with the same function. Today’s technical achievements give us the opportunity to always be connected with the whole world and to stay in contact with a huge social and global network.
Perhaps there is an opposite trend where we all value our local community and our local resources. blickfang strengthens the local community and brings it together with an international audience and still highlights the direct contact. The best stories are the authentic stories, when you see the glow in the eye of a designer when he talks about his visions. This cannot be replaced by any achievement in communication techniques.
The first blickfang took place in Stuttgart in 1993 and you’ve been steadily expanding since then with additional fairs taking place every year in Zurich (since 1997), Vienna (since 2004), Basel (since 2010), Hamburg & Copenhagen (since 2012) and now Munich (2013). Over those 20 years have you seen a change in what people want and expect from a product? If so, has blickfang changed to accomodate those trends?
Well the visitors of blickfang have always been looking for something functional but special. Of course we have seen various trends especially when it comes to materials or shapes. And the selection of designers who participate within blickfang has always been a mirror of those design trends.
What we have seen throughout the years is that the local markets function very differently from each other. People in Austria enjoy other products than people in Switzerland. Since blickfang is connected to the local market, the choice of the designers has always been a reflection of the local interests.
Speaking about expansion, as blickfang has grown, has it been difficult to maintain the intimacy of the event?
The intimacy of the event will not get lost no matter how big blickfang is. The designers actually get the chance to create their own space within their booth.
Generally they book very small spaces compared to other trade shows and try to create an own world speaking for their label, philosophy and design personality.
So even if blickfang is big, as soon as a visitor steps into a booth he is caught up in an intimate surrounding of the design label. This spirit will not get lost since this is the basis of our concept.
I read that for the Stuttgart fair this year there’s also a daily lecture series, and some of the topics look fascinating. This seems like a really innovative approach and one that will definately give some fodder for discussion. Will this continue and what other plans do you have for blickfang in the coming years?
Yes, our team is always driven to present high end and innovative products but also to inspire our visitors and to entertain them while they explore our event. Our vision for the future is to intense the work with both the driving forces of the professional design industry and the up and coming scene to ensure inspiring and innovative content for our visitors and to help to develop the industry.