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imm cologne’s next-generation design competition

The winning designs from the Pure Talents Contest 2022

This year’s Pure Talents Contest was once again held in unusual circumstances. Nevertheless, we at imm cologne are keen to offer young designers a platform. That’s why we’re shining the virtual spotlight on the three winning designs from this year’s competition for up-and-coming designers – because they are an impressive demonstration of the industry’s future.


he Pure Talents Contest 2022 gives emerging designers a virtual stage to showcase their work.

A design competition in unusual circumstances

The Pure Talents Contest is one of the world’s most prestigious competitions for young designers who are still studying or have just graduated and want to get established in the interior design industry. The contest offers emerging talent a platform for their products and a unique opportunity to build a network within the industry and the design scene. The 19th Pure Talents Contest received 539 entries from up-and-coming designers from 52 countries.

The final shortlist of 20 submissions was selected by a jury of design professionals , comprising Marcel Besau (Studio Besau-Marguerre) from Hamburg; Sebastian Herkner from Offenbach; Norbert Ruf, Creative Director and Executive Director of Thonet GmbH; and Jennifer Reaves, Executive Director of DesignFest GmbH, Stuttgart. Three out of the total of 20 shortlisted designers made it onto the winners’ podium.

Multifunctional furniture and sustainable design: hallmarks of the winning entries

The combination of attractive aesthetics and well-thought-out functionality has always been at the heart of good design. The younger generation of designers is now adding another key element to the mix: sustainability. However, their interpretation of what sustainable means often extends beyond natural and renewable materials to include qualities such as being transportable, modular, recyclable and durable. This wide-ranging and idealistic approach is also evident in the winning designs.


: On the winners’ podium: The Helia lamp by Stéfanie Kay took first place in this year’s Pure Talents Contest. (Photo: Stéfanie Kay)

Minimalist and straightforward: this is probably the best way to describe Stéfanie Kay’s designs. Her work is dominated by subtle colours – white takes the leading role. The young designer’s products subtly merge with their surroundings and are pleasantly low-key. Sometimes, she uses industrial materials such as steel and metal to break with this reserved style.

Kay’s range extends from very simple and practical toothbrush holders to a soap dish and a clock made of paper. What is immediately striking is that the designer always focuses on practicality. She deliberately eschews decorative elements that have no function.

This approach has won Stéfanie Kay first place: after all, we spend 90 per cent of the day exposed to artificial light, which – unlike natural light sources – does not change in either colour or light intensity. Helia imitates the natural progression of daylight. The lamp can be used as a direct beam of light by turning its modular, adjustable head to the side, or it can radiate its light downwards through the semi-transparent body to create an atmospheric glow.

“A beautiful, simple, conical body that can be changed from a source of ambient light to a spotlight for reading with a simple, intuitive gesture. A minimalist lamp providing different lighting effects,” says Marcel Besau, explaining the decision to award first prize to Helia.

Second place: Pebbles by Rania Elkalla – the sustainable wardrobe


Almonds, nuts, cacao… Producing all these delicacies generates waste in the form of the shells of the fruits. Rania Elkalla is building a business based on this supposed rubbish – because the shells have huge potential. In her project Shell Homage, she developed a process that uses the shells of eggs, cacao beans and nuts to produce biobased composites. They are 100% natural origin and do not contain any petrochemical additives. Rania Elkalla’s goal is to create functional and sustainable products that have a long lifespan and are completely biodegradable.

The 30-year-old product designer is no longer a newcomer in her field and has already designed seating furniture, basket-like containers and jewellery – all made from sustainable, recyclable materials. Her Pebbles are also made from shells and demonstrate the diversity of possible combinations that can be formed with the natural particles, producing different shapes and sizes.

The product designer describes her work as “largely eclectic” and inspired by diverse cultures and styles. “I like combining different disciplines,” she says. Her winning design shows what this looks like in practice. As a wardrobe, an item of storage furniture or a work of art, Pebbles are full of variety in their shapes and colours. And one thing makes her design especially exciting: In theory, the products can simply be disposed of in the compost, where they would decompose completely.

Third place: Clap by François Lafortune – the chair with storage space

Third place: Clap by François Lafortune – the chair with storage space

How can a piece of furniture meet the needs of use in a public space? This is a question that François Lafortune attempts to answer with his work. The chair Clap “emerged from a reflection on the evolution of student working spaces,” explains the French designer.

Given that public spaces often have changing users, François Lafortune equipped the moulded plastic-and-plywood seat with a lockable storage system. This means that items such as valuables can be stored securely during short breaks.

Since graduating, the industrial designer has already worked on a variety of projects. His focus is on the benefits that his works provide their users with because he wants to “create objects with an awareness of people’s lives today”. You might describe François Lafortune as a practically minded aesthete whose goal is to solve everyday problems while contributing to shaping the future.

Emerging designers are setting the course for the future

This year has demonstrated once again how important imm cologne is – and the Pure Talents Contest that is linked to it. It not only offers up-and-coming talent a stage to showcase their work; we as an industry also benefit from the design competition. The young creatives address the challenges of tomorrow’s design with their ideas. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the next generation wants one thing above all: sustainable product concepts.

Discover a host of other exciting and groundbreaking trends in the magazine by imm cologne newsletter .