It began as a forum to showcase mod home gear, but today the International Contemporary Furniture Fair  (ICFF) has grown far beyond its original auspices. In doing so, it has earned the loyalty of a jet-setting group of lighting manufacturers and lighting designers, many of whom look to the show as a launching pad for their most exciting and creative new collections.
“It’s the one show we will never, ever leave,” says Paul Priven, designer and co-founder of North Hollywood, CA-based Zia•Priven Design.
This year’s contemporary design extravaganza will be held May 17-20 over 145,000 square feet of exhibit space at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. More than 25,000 registrants from 36 different countries were in attendance in 2007, and organizers expect at least that many this year thanks to a show floor packed with more than 600 exhibitors.
Lighting is one of 10 major product categories at ICFF, says Show Director Phil Robinson; about 175 of the show’s exhibitors will feature illuminated fare.
“One of the [unique qualities] of ICFF is that it is a platform for both the new designer and the established studio,” Robinson says. “We have many designers who combine furniture, lighting and textiles. As the fair has grown over the last five years, lighting has grown with it.”
Besides extraordinarily creative design introductions, exhibits and special events play a large role in setting ICFF apart from other industry shows. According to Robinson, the first stop for lighting professionals should be the opening-night party at the Museum of Modern Art on May 17. A packed schedule of seminars and educational sessions sprinkled throughout the fair are also attendance-worthy.
Much of ICFF’s special programming will be based on material composition, a key theme for the 2008 event. Attendees will want to check out Materials Matter, an exhibition showcasing new and innovative design substances. And on May 18, Material ConneXion Inc., publisher of “Ultra Materials: How Materials Innovation is Changing the World,” will host a panel discussion with the book’s authors to dig deeper into the science—and style—of the material world.
Amina Chidiac, with New York-based design firm mmckenna, has watched ICFF grow over the past three years. It has, she affirms, moved far beyond the notion of the typical trade show.
“Even though it started as the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, [furniture fair] is such a lenient term at this point,” she says. “It’s become a lot more like a design show than strictly a furniture show.”