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Portraits of young designers

On the road to success with the Pure Talents Contest

The renowned Pure Talents Contest design competition (previously the D3 Contest) offers up-and-coming designers from all over the world a springboard into the industry. In the last 18 years, 555 product designers and interior designers have had the opportunity to showcase their concepts at imm cologne and make important contacts with manufacturers. We share the success stories of seven former entrants and give information about applying for the 19th Pure Talents Contest .

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Pure Talents Contest 2020 (Photo: imm cologne)

Mark Braun (2008): “A great start”

Mark Braun took part in the D3 Contest, the predecessor of the Pure Talents Contest, in 2008. The furniture and product designer has since achieved international recognition and won numerous awards. His Lingor lampshade was produced by Authentics from 2009 to 2014, and renowned companies such as E15, Thonet, Lobmeyr, minimum and Northern Lighting also grace his portfolio. Mark Braun runs his own studio in Berlin and has been Professor of Industrial Design at HBKsaar since 2015.

The designer looks back on the competition as a positive experience – it was, after all, what brought about his collaboration with Authentics. “Taking part in the Pure Talents Contest 2008 was a huge motivator for me to go my own way. The visibility of my work, the professional interaction and the opportunity to make contacts and build a network – it was a great start for my studio.”

Yael Mer (2008): from Vitra to Louis Vuitton

Israeli interior designer Yael Mer exhibited “Volume -– foam filled pattern cut”, which was her final submission for the Royal College of Art in London, at the D3 Contest in 2008. Since 2007, she and her partner Shay Alkalay, who is also an Israeli designer, have run the Raw Edges design studio in London. Together they design furniture, textiles and installations. With their combination of provocation, playfulness and unconventional ideas , the young designers have secured numerous accolades, including most recently the A&W design award “Designer of the Year 2020”.

Since taking part in the Pure Talents Contest, the two designers have been able to extend their international reach and acquire a clientele that includes renowned companies such as Vitra, Arco, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, GAN and Conde House.

Marco Dessí (2009): “It was a great experience”

Marco Dessí has exhibited his works at the renowned competition on two occasions. At the D3 Contest in 2009, the young Italian designer presented his Prater chair , inspired by Viennese coffee houses. This went on to be produced by Richard Lampert. After the competition, Marco Dessí established his own design studio in Vienna. Since then he has been able to expand his portfolio to include many prominent companies – including Thonet, for whom he created the Thonet 520 . Alongside furniture, he also designs tableware and sustainable toys .

“It was a great experience, being able to present my work to an expert audience,” recalls Marco Dessí. For him, there is no doubt that the competition helps to promote emerging talent. “Many of the young designers I got to know during the contest are now running successful businesses. That says it all.”

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: Mathias Hahn took part in the D3 Contest in 2009 with his Lantern lamp. (Photo: Mathias Hahn)

Mathias Hahn (2009): networking with a commitment to quality

Mathias Hahn took part in the D3 Contest in 2009, and to this day he appreciates the networking opportunities the competition gave him: “Looking back, it’s the personal contacts that have had a lasting impact.” The German designer has been living and working in London for ten years. In his design studio he creates minimalist Scandinavian furniture and lighting in bright colours. The multifunctional AKIRA desk for Schönbuch is his latest work.

Mathias Hahn has already received numerous accolades for his work and enjoys international recognition. The importance of the Pure Talents Contest for emerging talent in the interior design industry is something he can only reiterate: “The format has always represented the next generation of young, talented designers and to this day it is a platform with a strong commitment to quality.”

Alexander Gufler (2010): setting the right TON

Sometimes a single meeting can change everything. For Alexander Gufler, that’s exactly what happened at the D3 Contest: “At the time I didn’t know quite where or how to bring my designs to a producer.” Luckily, on the first day at the trade fair stand, I got to know TON , a company who were adamant they wanted to produce my Merano chair. From that day on, it developed into a wonderful collaboration.”

Born in the Italian city of Merano, today Alexander Gufler is a well-known name in the world of design and has received multiple awards. In Vienna, the interior designer runs his own product design studio . The close link with TON continues to this day – since the start of 2020, Alexander Gufler has worked there as Art Director.

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Alexander Gufler exhibited his Merano chair at the D3 Contest in 2010. (Photo: Alexander Gufler)

Joa Herrenknecht (2014): “A pioneering platform”

In 2014 the German-Canadian designer Joa Herrenknecht took part in the Pure Talents Contest. Just six years later, at imm cologne, she showcased her Curt sofa system for exhibitor Ambivalenz . Her designs demonstrate restrained elegance and beautiful form, features which have already secured her several awards. Joa Herrenknecht studied at HfG Karlsruhe under Werner Aisslinger, among others, and today she runs her own studio in Berlin .

For her, the Pure Talents Contest is an important institution: “In Germany there is very little promotion of emerging talent in the design sector. That’s why I was delighted to be involved in the Pure Talents Contest, because the whole format is very designer-friendly and provides opportunities for people to get to know one another. It is a pioneering platform where the designers of tomorrow are discovered.”

Sofia Souidi (2018, 2020): sustainable product design

Sofia Souidi exhibited her designs in 2018 and 2020 at the Pure Talents Contest. For the prototypes of her JOJO lamp, which switches itself off after a short period, she received the Pure Talent Design Award. Sustainability in interior design is an important topic for Sofia Souidi. Together with the Fraunhofer Institute WKI, the young designer uses recycled wood fibres and food waste to produce Superwood, which can be used in a variety of ways.

Born in Kassel, she studied product design at the Royal College of Art in London until 2017, before going on to establish her studio in Berlin . As well as taking part in numerous exhibitions in Germany, Italy and Poland, Sofia Souidi has received almost a dozen design awards and nominations. A good starting point for a successful career.

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In 2020, Sofia Souidi presented her JOJO lamp design. (Photo: Sofia Souidi)

19th Pure Talents Contest

Seven young designers, seven success stories. As diverse as their career paths might be, for each and every one the Pure Talents Contest was an important springboard into the industry. In 2022, young designers from all over the world again have the opportunity to present their ideas before a renowned jury and win the competition’s design award, with prize money of up to Euro 1,500.

Key information about taking part in the 19th Pure Talents Contest at a glance:

  • Applications closing date: 15 September 2021
  • Who? Current students and graduates who completed their degree no more than three years ago.
  • What? Up to three products can be submitted. These must not yet be in series production and must not be more than one year old. Up to 20 works will be selected.
  • Categories: Product design and interior design, e.g. furniture, accessories, lighting, textiles, kitchen utensils and flooring.

Find out more about the application criteria and the schedule for the 19th Pure Talents Design Contest.

The Pure Talents Contest takes place every year as part of imm cologne – the leading international trade fair for interior design in Cologne. Every year, imm cologne attracts a large number of exhibitors and trade visitors from over 130 countries. As well as the chance to receive the Pure Talents Design Award, young, up-and-coming designers have the opportunity to make important contacts and win over manufacturers with their ideas.

The Pure Talents Contest boasts a strong appeal in the industry. With its jury of four international design experts, the competition is one of the few platforms for promoting emerging talent in the interior design sector. Whether you’re a young designer or an exhibitor, register today for the 19th Pure Talents Contest and you can look forward to an exciting event with fresh ideas!