All the fun of the trade fair

100% Design delivers exactly what it promises: an exciting blend of variety, quality and innovation
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Most trade fairs offer a bewildering mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, with the emphasis on the latter. 100% Design, though, has higher aspirations. Spanning a broad spectrum of furniture, furnishings and accessories, the four-day event feels like an upmarket department store. Standards are maintained by a process of screening, with only half the wannabe exhibitors accepted, and to compensate for the dampening effect of the anonymous Earl's Court venue, a leading interior designer is brought in each year to create ambience. This year, it's Ben Kelly, best known for his clubs and bars.

Most trade fairs offer a bewildering mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, with the emphasis on the latter. 100% Design, though, has higher aspirations. Spanning a broad spectrum of furniture, furnishings and accessories, the four-day event feels like an upmarket department store. Standards are maintained by a process of screening, with only half the wannabe exhibitors accepted, and to compensate for the dampening effect of the anonymous Earl's Court venue, a leading interior designer is brought in each year to create ambience. This year, it's Ben Kelly, best known for his clubs and bars.

100% Design attracts big name manufacturers from design superpowers such as Italy, as well as the latest crop of YBDs (Young British Designers). The Italians have dazzled the world for the last four decades with their stylish furniture and lighting, and heavyweight companies represented at this year's fair include B & B Italia, Cappellini, iGuzzini, Cassina and Driade. This is where you should head to see the likes of Antonio Citterio and Mario Bellini, but on Cappellini's stand you will also be treated to the cream of British talent in the form of Jasper Morrison and BOA.

Among the British manufacturers, Hitch Mylius and SCP shine like beacons. Hitch Mylius, who specialise in exquisite upholstered furniture, will be launching their second collection of seating by architect David Chipperfield, while the latest offerings from SCP include a table by Michael Young, a daybed by artist Rachel Whiteread and new designs by the perennially creative Matthew Hilton.

But in spite of a wealth of native talent, design-led British furniture companies are still rare. The ambitious Charles Keen, who previously worked for Vitra, hopes to change that, and 100% Design marks the first outing for his new venture. Keen is reissuing design classics alongside new commissions, and his design stable includes experienced practitioners like Ron Carter, Robin Day and Jane Dillon, as well as youngbloods Thomas Heatherwick and Mathias Bengtsson. Robin Day has a major retrospective pending at the Barbican next year, and at 100% Design he has achieved a triple whammy: his reissued 1958 Gatwick chair for Keen will be shown alongside his new Avian seating for gallery-turned-producer twentytwentyone and his Panel sofa for SCP.

Following the success of twentytwentyone's Childsply initiative, this year sees the launch of Biscuit, a collection of upmarket plywood children's furniture by newly-formed Oreka Kids. Biscuit is co-ordinated by Jerwood Prize-winning Michael Marriott, and along with examples of his work, it includes imaginative pieces by Shin and Tomoko Azumi, Sebastian Bergne and Andrew Stafford. Encompassing virtually the whole of the contemporary British furniture scene, this stand is likely to be one of the show's busiest.

100% Design is unique in that it showcases the establishment alongside the off-beat. The Spanish collective El Ultimo Grito, who have benefited enormously from its attention, will be hoping for continued success with What Goes Down Must Come Up, a laundry bin which rises and falls according to weight. Other mavericks include William Warren of WW.Modcons, and lighting designer Ralph Ball. Ball's Naked Light collection features Golden Delicious, an inverted lampshade "fruit bowl" containing lightbulbs instead of apples, and Power Tower, a column of sockets from which snake-like lamps branch off. Punning titles also flag up the cleverness of Warren's designs, which include Sleeping Rough, a teak bed made using park bench technology, and a dining seat called Stocks and Chairs.

But furniture is just one element here, and ceramics look set to steal the show. First-time exhibitors range from bespoke tile-maker Lubna Chowdhary to the all-powerful Wedgwood, who will be launching of a collection of decorative and functional wares, including vases by furniture designer Michael Sodeau, and tableware by metalwork specialist Nick Munro.

Rugs are particularly well-represented, with new initiatives by stalwarts Roger Oates and Helen Yardley, and the Luna collection of hand-tufted wool rugs by Kate Blee for Kappa Lambda. Rug-specialist Christopher Farr is branching out this year into furnishing fabrics. His new collection, Cloth, promises to be a tonal and textural feast. Another show-stopper could be the UP collection of tea towels decorated with household appliances, created by artist Robert Shepherd and furniture designer Jane Atfield.

For design aficionados with boffin tendencies, 100% Design has plenty to offer. Inflate are guaranteed to be entertaining and innovative. Recently, they discovered the joys of rotation-moulded plastics, and this year marks the launch of Sir Stickle, a lamp which can be stacked in multiples and doubles as a seat.You can't quite imagine something this crazy happening at the furniture fairs of Milan or Cologne.

* 100% Design is at Earl's Court Two from 5-8 Oct. Trade and professional visitors only 5-7 Oct. Public admittance on Sun 8 Oct, 10am-6pm, £12

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