Mark Eley of the world-famous design house Eley Kishimoto on why Brixton Design Trail is so close to his heart

Lead image courtesy of Eley Kishimoto

The hugely popular London Design Festival returns this month, showcasing the capital’s creativity with some 350 events and exhibitions running from 19-27 September. Last year, Brixton became an LDF design hub for the first time, and this year the area’s creatives are coming together again to launch the inaugural Brixton Design Trail. The event aims to demonstrate the wealth of local talent and highlight its potential to develop social, cultural and economic capital within the area – something that SW9’s latest social enterprise, Pop Brixton, is currently demonstrating very well.

‘We’ve been based in Brixton for over 10 years and felt it was time to make some noise about how vibrant and talented the design community is here,’ says Leila Touwen of 2MZ, a Brixton-based design company that is one of the driving forces behind Brixton Design Trail. ‘Eley Kishimoto’s Flash print outside Brixton tube station summed up the spirit of [last year’s event] – daring design for everyone. And we hope to keep that sentiment going this year.’

Brixtonites might recall heading for the tube station one morning, bleary-eyed, to discover an original Eley Kishimoto installation right beneath their lucky feet. Known as the ‘patron saints of print’ for their bold, playful graphic designs, the world-renowned design duo that is Mark Eley and his wife Wakako Kishimoto emerged in the 90s on the catwalks of Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen. The couple, who have lived and worked in Brixton for nearly 30 years, went on to launch their own womenswear collection, and their mission to ‘print the world’ had begun in earnest, leading to collaborations with everyone from BMW to Vans.

‘It was only a bit of chalk!’ laughs Mark, as I confess feeling guilty about traipsing all over his Flash Carpet. He’d had to get up at 3.30am with his two children and a friend to get it done.

We’ve always been proud of where we are, so we wanted to get involved locally

This year 2MZ, Eley Kishimoto, Squire Architects (a King’s Cross-based practice that is moving to Brixton) and Clapham’s Studio DB will come together to create an outdoor Street Gallery. It will feature a curated series of 10 large-scale canvases by local artists in collaboration with the likes of The Brixton Pound, Photofusion and the Evelyn Grace Academy, displayed on the facades of the former Bon Marche department store on Ferndale Road. The outdoor exhibition will also feature a new, bespoke Brixton print by Eley Kishimoto.

It seems the duo are more than happy to work a little closer to home these days: ‘Before we opened our first studio [the duo set up in Loughborough Junction in the early 90s, before moving to their current Lyham Road premises], we started the CoolTan Gallery at the old Cooltan suntan lotion factory on Effra Road and had exhibitions in Brighton Terrace where Vox Club used to be,’ says Mark. ‘So we got integrated into the community more before we started. Then, when we set up the business, we were heads down in the studio, selling internationally, and now it’s come full circle and we’re becoming more integrated into the local community again. The Flash Carpet last year was a big highlight because people realised that there was a creative studio in the area.

‘We travelled so extensively in the past that now I just want to get on my bike and go down the road and do stuff,’ he continues. ‘It’s so much easier! We’ve always been proud of where we are, so we wanted to get involved locally.’

Other key events in this year’s Brixton Design Trail include a collaboration between 2MZ and the Black Cultural Archives to transform the heritage centre’s courtyard space with a new installation that challenges views of modernity and history. Then there’s Passage Tells: Brixton, an immersive, app-based soundscape that conveys the stories of traders in Reliance Arcade, a narrow market off Brixton Road. Pop Brixton – which, incidentally, is also adorned with an Eley Kishimoto print – will also play host to a series of events and workshops.


A street gallery, featuring Eley Kishimoto prints, will form part of Brixton Design Trail

‘It’s is an opportunity to celebrate Brixton,’ says Mark of the event. ‘To bring people here and for them to think, “ok, yes, this is going on”. It’s an opportunity to support local businesses.’

What’s going on at Brixton Design Trail 

Tuesday 22 September, 4pm-11.30pm, free
BRIXI will be laying on an Arty Car Boot at Brixton East 1871. A boot fair with a difference, this one-off evening extravaganza promises Brixton’s finest original works, installations and performances by local artists. Plus beers, butties, a boogie and the odd bargain.
Brixton East, 100 Barrington Road, Brixton SW9 7JF

Wednesday 23 September, 12-2pm, free
Meet artists from the Brixton Street Gallery, a supersized outdoor exhibition forming part of Brixton Design Trail, and hear about the inspiration behind original artworks that relate to Brixton’s unique culture and heritage. This free seminar and tour is hosted by architects Squire and Partners, featuring local artists Eley Kishimoto, Matt Crump, Azarra Amoy, Brixton Pound, Photofusion and more.
Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road SW9 8PQ. Register for free with Eventbrite here

Wednesday 23 September, 5-8pm, free
Brixton-based fashion brand Lowie will be hosting an evening in their studio to preview the SS16 collection and to meet the designer. Join the team for a glass of Prosecco, give your feedback on the new collection and pre-order for a 15% discount.
Lowie Studio, Unit 1, 49 Effra Road, Brixton SW2 1BZ

19-26 September, 12noon-6pm, free
Passage Tells: Brixton is a site-specific sound installation composed of recorded interviews and conversations with people living and working around the Passage. It’s is set in Reliance Arcade, one of Brixton’s markets that endures the original character of the area.
Reliance Arcade, Brixton Road SW9 8JZ

22-25 September, 10am – 5pm, free
Furniture designer Simon Pengelly will launch the UNNIA chair from his Coldharbour Lane studio.
366 & 368 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8PL


Eley Kishimoto’s recent collaboration with Vans

19-27 September, all day, free
Connect Brixton, a bespoke pattern representing the spirit of Brixton by Eley Kishimoto, will carpet key locations on the trail including the Brixton Street Gallery and the pavement outside Brixton Underground Station.
Ferndale Road, Stockwell Avenue and 427 Brixton Road SW9

19-27 September (museum open Tues-Sat, 10am-6pm), free
Black Cultural Archives is the UK’s first dedicated Black heritage centre. Brixton-based design studio 2MZ will draw inspiration from the forthcoming exhibition, The Black Georgians, to transform BCA’s courtyard with a play on a traditional pleasure garden.
1 Windrush Square, Brixton SW2 1EF

19-27 September, 12noon-5pm, free
Afro Supa Hero, a dynamic brand created by Jon Daniel, formed an integral part of his exhibition of action figures and comics at the V&A Museum of Childhood in 2014. The Brixton Design Trail sees Jon working with Diverse to exhibit Afro Supa Hero merchandise and original designs.
Diverse, 390 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8LF

19-27 September, 10am-6pm, free
Brixton-based architects CarverHaggard collaborates with Hustlebucks, a social enterprise run by young people, to design a new shop to house their design operations. Come and explore The Factory and the Hustlebucks product range, or design your own T-shirt and wear it home!
2nd Avenue, Brixton Village, Brixton SW9 8LB

19-27 September (café open Mon-Sat, 6.30am-4.30pm), free
Local designer Archie Mac creates the Chronicles of Brixton, a visual display at Phoenix Café which transforms objects local people would save from a fire into kaleidoscopic digital images.
Phoenix Café, 395 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8LQ

23-27 September, 11am-6pm, free
Cornercopia invites designers, woodworkers and makers for a mini residency in their quirky Homeware shop turning wood grown in Cornercopia’s back garden into useful and beautiful things. Come and see a beautifully crafted spoon be axed out of a sycamore log or bowl take shape from a piece of silver birch.
Units 37-38, Brixton Village SW9 8PS

23-27 September, Wed-Sat 11am-6pm, free
Already a treasure cove in the heart of Brixton Village, BRIXI’s window will be taken over for the full week of LDF by a kaleidoscope of colours, paper and reflections, which flicker untold stories and tickle the imagination. A surreal dreamscape of shapes, drawing you in to explore more tales, dreams and curiosities.
Unit 7, Brixton Village SW9 8PR

Also: The enterprising spirit of Brixton’s community will be in evidence with Caribbean heritage and vintage fashion plus jewellery at Co-Pop Pavilion, handmade cards, homewares and afro-inspired dolls by local designers at Black & Green Tent, performances and events for children from Love my Brixton, an Alice in Wonderland flowerbed outside Lambeth Town Hall.


Black Cultural Archives installation by 2MZ


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