Don't Wear That Effin' Jumpsuit & Other Tips to Survive a Design Show

Somewhere in the world there's a design show waiting to kick off. Does whizzing around cities to catch an eyeful at design events gets you excited? Whether it's London Design Week, Milan Design Week, Maison & Objet Paris or High Point, you've gotta go about it in the right way so you actually get more than a bunch of IG pictures out of it.

Learn from my past mistakes so you don't have to walk round like an club footed idiot.

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Tip One: 

Dress like you’ve got some sense.

Design events are long. There’s all sorts of awesome to see. Even when you plan to stay for a couple of hours, you’ll find yourself stuck in that never ending conversation. So comfort is a must.

Now there’s tracky-bottom comfort and casual comfort. Stay the eff away from that tracksuit and pick something sensible that doesn't squeeze that body fat into awkward positions. Trousers or skirts and a ironed top is a awesome choice. Failing that get out that least clubby looking dress out that also doesn’t scream too churchy! Go for a tailored jumpsuit even, and save the hassle of fooling with two items of clothing on the same day. Sorted? Awesome!

As for the footwear,  don’t even bother to wear those brand new shoes. Arm yourself with something that says smart but won’t slap you with a bunion after a few hours. Wearing shoes in ahead of time is a must. No-one wants to see you limp around any exhibition looking like a donkey with a club foot.


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Tip Two:

you're gonna need a pass and your business cards

Weeks or days ahead order business cards, and book tickets, so you can show up and separate yourself from being labelled PUBLIC or STUDENT on your entry pass. 

Whilst walking round in circles checking out the latest products with your TRADE pass dangling round your neck, at some point someone will ask “Have you got a card?”.

At this point it’s over to you to fumble around your pockets and present that nifty bit of card with all your details. Be prepared for them to take a look and comment on the card design. If they look naff, wish this moment away quickly and move the eff on. Changing the subject helps.

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Tip Three:

Take essentials.

The essentials are water, food and/or money/ plastic cash. Here’s the thing: Design shows make you hungry since you’ve already discovered you will stay way longer than expected. And dotted around are several places to buy food and rob you!

After choosing something to eat, settling for the fact that glorified Greggs donut is £3.59, and that sandwich costs you 2 Tesco meal deals, you realise you also need a drink. You don’t need it because you’re thirsty. When you get to the till you will say “How much?” in disbelief of the total you’re about to fork out. You’ll need this water to calm your choking. The cost of bottle water (£what the flip 99) will make you appreciate your saliva. But since the line behind you is long you don’t time to make much of a fuss. Don’t be that person to piss the cashier off, everyone behind you will suffer.

Seriously, get the eff out of bed in time and butter that bread & make a sandwich. Pop to the corner shop to get ya packed lunch or hold down your shock when you get to the till. It was this way last year, do you not remember!?

This is why taking plastic cash makes sense. Despite taking out enough for the kid’s monthly pocket money, that’ll barely cover lunch. Heading to a cash machine inside the venue will rob you with charges. Remember that queue of people just outside the venue? They were flocking to get £. You should’ve joined them and took money your out for free. FOR FREE!

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Tip Four: 

Don’t wear that effin’ jumpsuit.

I know, I know! I recommended wearing a jumpsuit to save wearing two pieces of clothing back in tip one BUT there's a effin' problem. That trendy effin’ jumpsuit is NOT practical when you're trying to navigate around design *whatever* week. I'm not talking about those dungaree, slip on-slip off, types. I'm talking about the tailored jumpsuit all in one that makes you look like you're wearing separates without the hassle of a belt. At some point you're gonna need the bathroom, and here comes the time to strip half naked in public. Yeah, jumpsuits have naked in public!

You wriggle one arm out and if you're curvy like me that manuever has already left you with Chinese burns. The fluck! You've had to keep all that pee as you wait in the queues, and that’s after after finally locating these flipping toilets…..and now you still have to find your way out your clothes. 

At this point you’re dancing in the loo stall trying to squeeze the ish out your muscles so you don’t end up sprinkling on the lower half of that effin' jumpsuit. Once you've won the battle and you finally stoop over the bowl to relieve yourself you give a thankful sigh. Then you'll ask yourself "Why the eff did I wear a jumpsuit? Don’t wear that effin’ jumpsuit again!”.

You're just about to annoy yourself even more, one arm of that effin' jumpsuit is a sway away from dunking itself into someone else’s pee splashes. You’re now having to hold the top half to stop yourself from peeing on the back of it, and use the other hand to get at a toilet paper. Of course there's no paper in the obviously reachable place. Of course not, the toilets are busier than any exhibition stand and you've somehow done your business before someone could get in there to replace the roll. But there is piles of the stuff stocked up behind you, or on top of the sanitary bin. Eww! Of course you couldn't get some toilet paper before you started to pee ‘cause you had to hold up than stupid jumpsuit. 

This ordeal makes you realise that getting jumpsuits on is way easier than taking them off. After apologising your way through the crowd to get to the handbasins, you're good to scoop up your handbag, the endless bags that weigh a flipping tonne whilst ignoring the what-the-fuck look on your buddy's face.


Do you see that? £1.99 to get your own flipping' money BUT with the added bonus of storage for used wine glasses.

Do you see that? £1.99 to get your own flipping' money BUT with the added bonus of storage for used wine glasses.

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Tip Five:

Be savvy collecting info

Exhibitors like to give you ish to remind you just how awesome and giving they are. There’s brochures, pens, the odd keyring, pad of post-it notes, samples, trial size bottles, desktop calendars, pack of sweets, and then some, all contained in their promo bag.

In this you can pop your thick-ass show guide and it’s already heading towards the heavy side. Collect bags several times and you’ll look like you’ve done your Xmas shopping. And then you’ll spot the stand giving away the free mags. Saving yourself a trip to WHSmith you flick through a bunch and decide that you need to take most of them home. BARGAIN right?

Now those bags a ripping your shoulders to shreds and aching your hands and you haven’t even reached the exit.

They’re as much of a hassle as that effin’ jumpsuit and when you’re in the bathroom they take up too much space in that tiny effin' stall. When you go to wash your hands they only end up resting on the damp floor where everyone has shook their hands dry because the dryer doesn’t actually dry hands. The dryer have one job but can’t do jack!


Don't wear that effin' jumpsuit and other tips to survive a design show.

Don't wear that effin' jumpsuit and other tips to survive a design show.

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Tip Six:

TAKE a notebook!

You’re likely to need to jot info down as you go about your day. Match up to your TRADE pass status and have more than the back of a leaflet to write on. 

You’ll also need a pad to be a badass business card collector. Ok, you could just dash random cards in your pocket and when you get back to the office those cards won’t mean jack unless you’ve taken notes on what you discussed with the vendor. 

If they advise you, give you extra info, recommend a particular product write it down and quit pretending you’ll remember everything. You know you won’t. Even I know you won’t!

Find some way to attach the business cards to your notebook. Bring a stapler if you really must but little stickers work just fine. When you’re done, you’ve got a fully stocked ‘little black book’ of contacts which makes sense. 

I learnt this the hard way. Take the advice!


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Tip Seven: 

TAKE pens for that notebook

You're going to need a pen to make that notepad useful. That’s a reminder to take a notepad. But don't just take one pen. 

Here's why:

You're not Mary Poppins, so when you reach into that your bag that one pen will play hide and seek. You’ll politely smile and tell the exhibitor it's in there somewhere. They tell you how they always lose pens too and you form yourself a bond.

So they do the usual darting of their eyes searching for a pen on their desk stand. They had one left by midday but some other person came by without their own and forgot to give it back.  The tub of free gift pens are long gone too. Either you keep on digging or carry more than one pen. At some point your trade show buddy will’ve had enough of giving you their gift pens. Stay equipped. 


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Tip Eight: 

Have a plan!

There’s good reason why design shows tell you ahead of time who’s gonna be exhibiting. Rocking up to fill ya eyes with everything ain’t gonna happen at most shows since there's so damn much. So go look at their website and get in the know.

Know the times of the seminars, masterclasses, and demonstrations. See, when you’re fooling around in the bathroom fighting with that effin’ jumpsuit, everyone else will be grabbing the seats. When you arrive with your bunion foot and endless bags, you're gonna be standing at the back scrabbling for the pen in the bottom of your bags. Your buddy will be stand next to you thinking "why did she wear that elfin' jumpsuit?"


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Tip Nine:

Capture the event

Snap those shots on your phone, tablet or a good ole fashion camera. But don't be stupid by pointing and shooting at everything you blink at.

  • Take pictures of the supplier/exhibitor/product name. Otherwise when you get to sorting through the hundreds of pictures you'll actually know what you're looking at and when it came from. Helps when building a usable supplier list.

  • Charge up your phone. If you need an explanation why, slap yourself.

  • Charge your camera battery the night before. Avoid panicking that you can't take anymore piccies 'cause you left the house with a 20% charge.

  • Have space on the memory card. A camera without memory space is just dead weight. You already will have enough to carry with the bag loads of ish you probably won't look at until you realise the material bag comes in handy when you pop to the shop for bread and milk.

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Tip Ten:

don't be that drunk fool.

The more high-end the design show, the more freely the champagne will flow. The less stingy exhibitors will offer you a glass on bubbly grape juice, fruit juice of either orange or apple flavour or water.

If you're on the bubbles remember where you are. Sure, the drinks cut the dry from your mouth, but pace yourself. WHY?

  • One, because you’re trying to be a badass networker. Slurring your words as you ask how many colour ways that wallpaper is available in ain’t exactly the way yo go. Drunk or even a little tipsy with a bunion foot is more embarrassing than the state of those shoddy business cards.

  • Two, you’re wearing that effin’ jumpsuit and the last thing you need is another trip to the bathroom to wrestle yourself naked.

See, wearing that effin’ jumpsuit jacked up your whole day. And since you’re heading to several shows during design week, your buddy will knock you out if you even think about recycling that outfit. Do everyone a favour and don’t wear that effin’ jumpsuit. Deal?!


Have yourself an awesome time and if you have any good tips, reach out and share.