Among the many outdoor events taking place in the Czech capital in the summer is the traditional get-together of designers who come to sell their goods at the Prague Design Market that takes place five times a year. Last weekend the event took place at the National Theatre piazzetta which now bears the name of the country’s late president Vaclav Havel.
The piazzetta was packed with people and over 200 designers proudly exhibited their wares. Stalls with clothes, hats, jewellery, bags and art objects abounded but there were also children’s toys, workshops and a lot of good food.
Zuzana Vočetková, one of the organizers of the event told me more about it:
“Design Market is a sales exhibition at which Czech and foreign designers present and sell their products. We have jewellery, bags, clothes, shoes, watches …you name it. We started seven years ago and the interest was such –both from designers and the public - that we now organize the Design Market five times a year on a regular basis. Most of these designers are young people who have yet to make a name for themselves, people who work hard at home to create these original products and who still have a problem getting them to the public. We are giving them that opportunity and so, in a way, we are supporting creativity.”
The salesperson at one of the first stalls that draw my attention –with original scarves and soft fabrics - confirms those words.
“My name is Anna and I am from a little village near Kutná Hora, which is a historic town located some 70 km from Prague. I am a textile maker, a weaver and I make cyanotypes. So I am here at Design Market selling my work. I am selling cyanotypes, my woven scarves and some little things as well.”
What’s the atmosphere like?
“It is very friendly. What I like about it especially is meeting other people, other designers who are very friendly, and of course it is amazing to meet all the customers, all the people who are circling around, it is great that you can talk to them, explain how you work, what you do and share your love for the craft.”
One of the first things you notice at this design market is the lively interaction between the designers and potential buyers. The designers are eager to explain how the goods are made and in what way they are special and visitors to the market allow themselves to be pampered. At a stall selling designer coats and dresses I watch a young woman admire herself in the mirror as the designer deftly arranges the model to show her in how many ways it can be worn. Marko Lopatič has been designing clothes for two years now and says markets such as this are a welcome sales opportunity.
“I sell clothes. I am a fashion designer creating women’s wear and this is my ready- to-wear collection. Or rather it is part of my ready-to-wear autumn collection, at the next Design Market I will show my winter collection. I have here for example my masterpiece coat which you can wear in six different ways. Because I love making wearable and practical fashion for women this model is something between a vest, a coat and a dress.”
And are people interested? Do they come and try on the models?
“I think what most attracts them is the fashion experience – not necessarily to buy something, but just to try on a designer item – such as the coat you can wear in six different ways. It’s a super practical and super comfortable piece.”
Do you travel to a lot of design markets to sell stuff?
“Oh, yes, for sure. It helps to go among the people. Because for designers it is sometimes a little hard to show their collection and make it possible for people to buy –for normal people, I mean. If I put pictures of my collection on the Internet, or some magazines or a TV ad people will generally see it, but not buy. And markets like this one make it possible for people to try it and buy it. For young designers it is not easy to have their own store, and if you have a store that is not in the city centre or a frequented place not many people come to you if you are not already famous. So it is really good to be able to come here and sell something.”
“Yes that’s sometimes so, but I think my clients here at Design Market totally understand. I think I am probably one of the most expensive designers here, though I am not sure, but when people come to me and see all the possibilities that my models afford, there are not many who say it is too expensive. Most people say - Oh, yes, OK, that’s a normal price for a piece like this, for a special design like this one. And all my clothes are in a limited edition. When I sell a collection I never repeat it. I go for something different, different materials, colours, details, in order to keep these models exclusive for my clients.”
For two days the piazzetta is packed with visitors, some simply curious to see the goods on display, others who are here to buy. Zuzana Vočetková again:
“There are people who come specifically because of a given designer, there are others who are passing by, see the market and are curious so they come over and then there are people searching for something special, for something fresh and out of the ordinary which they won’t find in the stores. And you get quite a lot of foreign visits because of the location just next to the National Theatre. At first they just came to see and buy, but gradually foreign designers have started coming as well.”
This Design Market attracted designers from Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine Germany and Hungary. I stop for a brief chat at the Hungarian stall.
“I am Mihai and I am from Budapest. We are here to sell our products –mainly jewellery and bags. I like this market, the atmosphere is wonderful, the crowd, the concerts. Everybody has got a very cool style here. I like it –it is good to be here.”
“Yes, we have been to Ostrava for a big designer event there, also to Vienna and other cities in Europe as well.”
For those who need to radically improve their lives the Design Market has a quick solution – at one of the stalls a young woman sells spiritual and yoga inspired jewellery that promises to turn your life around. Tereza explains:
“We are a company selling accessories and if you wear this jewellery it will give you energy. Every bracelet or necklace has its own spiritual energy, so you can choose what area you want to improve – be it love or good luck or youth and beauty. It is very special jewellery.”
The young, beautiful and in love can by-pass this stall and feed their stomach instead. There are thirteen stalls offering good food and drink and it wouldn’t be a proper Design Market if it didn’t offer raw food. This particular couple tries their specialties out on their own children first.
“My name is Marvin and we are from Prague actually. We are selling cakes, raw cakes, vegan cakes and cups.”
So what’s the interest like in raw food?
For those of you who may have missed the opportunity to buy something special, the next Design Market takes place on September 23–24 at the National Theatre piazzetta.
“It is growing, it is definitely growing. It is trendy now, everyone is talking about being healthy and so on. We have twin boys at home so we started cooking this food for them, you know, sugar-free, gluten-free and we took this from home to the market now. And people like it.”
And do you travel a lot around such design markets?
“This is our first time, so we’ll see, we’ll see.”