Media, economy and technology was the focus for this year’s Design Leadership Summit which took place in Marrakech, Morocco last week. What could be described as a small-scale TED Conference for leading interior designers and architects, the prestigious event is invitation-only and was represented by 205 industry professionals.
The guest list included John Edelman, CEO of Design within Reach; Bobby Dekeyser, President of Dedon; Newell Turner, editor in chief of House Beautiful; Andrea Stanford, VP of Merchandising for One Kings Lane; architects Gary Brewer, Partner at Robert A.M. Stern, Mark Appleton and Tom Kligerman; and designers Suzanne Tucker, Campion Platt, and Jeffrey Alan Marks. A handful of surprise celebrity appearances included Joanna Kerns, Gina Gershon, and Lee Radziwill—and a video welcome by President Bill Clinton for designer Tobi Fairley.
The two-day conference included presentations by designer and author Maryam Montague, Architectural Digest Special Projects Editor Mitch Owens; author Tahir Shah, leadership guru Tom Andrews, fashion designer Ralph Rucci, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Frederick Vreeland, WSJ Magazine editor in chief Deborah Needleman, Research fellow Kermit Baker and venture capital partner Aileen Lee.
Lee, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, gave a riveting presentation on the power of a visual web. She recommended Pinterest as the social media vehicle of choice for designers as opposed to Facebook and Twitter for its visual capabilities. She cited an otherwise unknown Philadelphia designer whose Pinterest images of interiors had over two million followers—roughly the equivalent of Vogue magazine’s circulation. “Get your work out there,” she said.
Bespoke and custom will be in higher demand than ever. She referenced sites like Zaarly, which allows a user to upload a photo of anything from a cake to a custom sofa and order it right then and there through a competitive bidding process.
Companies are reimagining the supply chain with stylish, savvy online retail concepts and cutting prices goods from razors to eyeglasses by as much as 80%. She referenced companies like Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club, whose viral video had the room in hysterical laughter.
“It was truly a window into the future,” said blogger Marisa Marcantonio of Lee's presentation. “It was so inspiring.”
"The design industry has really progressed in its thinking over the past five years. It's so great to see." said Traditional Home Publisher Beth Brenner. "My favorite part was the conversations engaged in OUTSIDE of the meeting room. There’s really no substitute for honest-to-goodness bonding time — in a setting far different than our day-to-day. It makes for new business partnerships and long-lasting friendships."
At the close of the conference, founders Peter Sallick, Keith Granet and Meg Touborg unveiled the next phase for Design Leadership Summit — the Design Leadership Network. All members of Summit will be members of the Network, and new members may be considered through an application process. The Network will host a year-long series of events in cities across the country, and will offer a variety of online tools such as a members-only discussion forum, and all materials from the Summit including video and powerpoint presentations.