Entries Now Open for the 35th Year of Melbourne Fringe’s Signature Design Event

Applications are now open for Design Fringe, Melbourne Fringe’s long-running design program now celebrating its 35th year. After over three decades under the name, “Fringe Furniture” the event will now transition to Design Fringe, celebrating the changing face of design and amplifying the work of ambitious new design leaders. With the shift comes a move to a new partnership with Linden New Art; who will provide curatorial support and a dynamic space to showcase the innovative, ground-breaking, bizarre and impractical works that have come to define the event.

Melbourne Fringe Creative Director and CEO, Simon Abrahams said, “the new vision for Design Fringe honours the legacy of Fringe Furniture while looking forward into the future of the contemporary design industry, creating a space to share both market-ready and abstract design work with a wide audience.”

“The inaugural year of this new version of a much-loved and long-running exhibition and events program gives us a unique opportunity to reach new audiences and tell the world what we’re all about – how design can foster impactful and lasting social change.”

At the centre of the revamped program will sit a brand new First Nations design commission, supported by the Trawalla Foundation and the Aesop Foundation. The commission will offer $10,000 to a First Nations designer to produce a bespoke sculptural piece responding to the 2021 Design Fringe provocation: “Home”. Applications for this special opportunity are open now and close Wednesday 2 June. 

Linden New Art Director Melinda Martin said the Linden team were excited for the new opportunities the relocation provides designers and Design Fringe audiences as well as a suite of new programming.

“At its new home at Linden New Art, Design Fringe will feature a professional development and mentorship program, a focus on increasing diversity in the design sector through the Design Fringe for Gender Equity initiative, a series of talks, workshops and an awards program assessed by industry leaders. With expert curatorial input from the Linden team, the exhibition will operate at Linden for three months – a longer period of exposure for the designers selected for the central exhibition,” said Martin.

“Working with the City of Port Philip, a secondary space in proximity to Linden will contain further works and will draw a new and engaged audience into the exhibition. The multiple rooms within Linden and the additional offsite space will allow staff to curate the content of the exhibition smaller groups of work that are in dynamic conversations with each other; an exciting prospect for Design Fringe at this significant milestone.”

A major element of the new Design Fringe will be a significant Public Events Program, with more to be announced closer to the event.

In line with Melbourne Fringe’s ethos of democratising the arts, Design Fringe is an open access program for designers at all stages of their careers. Significant alumni of Design Fringe include Adam Markowitz, Dale Hardiman of Dowel Jones, and Kate Stokes of Coco Flip. In 2020, Fringe Furniture worked with MPavilion to shortlist several past exhibitors to submit design proposals for the 2020 MPavilion stool design. Internships and jobs have resulted for exhibiting artists, often through the mentorship and awards program and the networking opportunities that Fringe Furniture has created, as well as career-launching cash and professional development awards.

The Design Fringe for Gender Equity initiative will return for a fourth year, supporting female and non-binary designers through mentorships, talks and workshops by leading female and non-binary industry leaders, as well subsidising registrations for female and non-binary exhibitors by 14.5%, in line with the current gender pay gap in Australia. The initiative is supported by the Victorian Women’s Trust. 

In the spirit of open access an inclusion, in 2021 Design Fringe will create a 3D tour of the exhibition at Linden New Art in Google Arts + Culture. A well-considered online exhibition and broadened visibility for exhibitors, will make the exhibition accessible to people who whether due to distance or difficulty getting to the exhibition. Design Fringe will also feature an award program that is judged by a panel of industry leaders, recognising the best work in several categories, including furniture, lighting, homewares and artwork.

Registrations for the 2021 Design Fringe, close 11:59pm Friday 9 July. Apply here.