| JM RAYBURN
FROM THE ESTABLISHED metropolis of London to up-and-coming American cities such as Columbus, so-called “Design Weeks” are starting to take place nearly every month around the world. Generally speaking, these citywide events are held to help bolster local economies and tourism by engaging the public on the topic of design.
October will prove to be an exciting month for Columbus. The Center for Architecture and Design will host Columbus Design Week[s], which is a month of events connecting the public to Columbus’ design ecosystem, promoting local design, and raising the expectation of good design within our own community. The goal is to blur the boundaries between disciplines through the cross-pollination of ideas and talents, to raise awareness of the power of design, and to leverage our creative economy.
The fact is there has been an explosion in the world’s interest in design. From urban design to product and fashion design, cities are using design as a means to promote themselves. Design Week[s] signifies that our city is becoming a magnet for creative talent. It makes us more attractive for both tourism and economic investments.
For example, the success of the Milan Design Week demonstrates the kind of momentum that can result. Milan’s citywide event occurs each spring and brings upwards of 282,000 total visitors with 177,964 of them non-Italians. Compare those numbers with that of the first Milan Design Week in which only 800 non-Italians attended the event, out of the 11,860 total visitors. These numbers illustrate how Milan Design Week has become an international tourist destination and has been a boom to hotels, restaurants, and other businesses during its duration. The beauty of design weeks is that they draw worldwide attention and encourage visitor spending in its host city—two areas where Columbus could use some improvement.
Beyond the tourism effect, design weeks can clarify the role of designers and encourage young people to join creative industries. Design weeks also tend to bring together otherwise unrelated demographics to exchange ideas, cross-pollinate concepts, and find future employees and partners. In that way, they could have a lasting impact beyond encouraging tourism and sales of beautiful fashion lines and other works on view.
But not all cities have the rich design histories of London, Milan, or New York, and they may not be known as design destinations. Design is still a budding industry in Columbus, for instance. The key to success, however, lies with the organizers, sponsors, and participants to execute Columbus Design Week[s] in a manner that showcases and promotes the unique creative character of the Capital City, rather than try to mimic other cities’ strategies with the hope that the same types and numbers of visitors will attend.
What makes Columbus Design Week[s] unique is that it rolls CMH Fashion Week into its list of events. That is important because fashion has become increasingly intertwined with city status, domestically and globally, according to recent studies. It only seems fitting that CMH Fashion Week is included in Columbus Design Week[s] because it accentuates the importance of design in the fashion industry. An article earlier this year in Atlantic Cities ranks Columbus as the third leading fashion city in the United States in terms of the concentration and median earnings for fashion designers. Columbus’ high ranking in part reflects its position as the headquarters of Abercrombie & Fitch, Express and the L Brands (formerly the Limited Brands), which is the parent company of Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, and Henri Bendel.
Not all designers are born and bred in New York, Paris, Milan, or London; fashion and fashion designers both cluster around not only leading design centers with the best talent, design schools, and fashion magazines, but also increasingly in the world’s largest and most affluent cities, which have the biggest markets for their products.
Simply put, each design week is different, just as every city is different. To place everything in perspective, the only other major urban centers in the region with
a design week are Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, and Columbus. There is only one Midwest City of at least 800,000 people that holds a month-long design event that exclusively includes a fashion week. That city is Columbus.
The coastal cities may reign as king of fashion and design, but the crown is slipping. I recommend you attend as many Columbus Design Week[s] events as you can. And when you do, you better look sickening, share photos online and make everyone outside of Columbus eat it.