Like gold growing on the banks of the river Lys, Kortrijk (pop 300,000) has a long-standing tradition in the flax industry due to the existing of this natural resource. Wars and economic setbacks required the textile industry to reinvent itself on various occasions. These necessary transformations turned Kortrijk into a highly resilient and competitive manufacturing industry with a thriving network of small- and medium-sized enterprises. A crucial result of in this evolution was the creation of the interior design company De Coene. Today, one third of the top ranked 100 manufacturing enterprises in Belgium are located in Kortrijk.
Throughout the year the city hosts a great number of design fairs and events, attracting an international audience of professionals to the Kortrijk region. The Interior Biennale, leading in contemporary design for the home and interior innovation, brought 70,000 visitors from over 50 countries for its last edition. The event also focuses on supporting young and emerging designers. The 5X5 project brings 5 companies together with a senior and junior designer to create a new product and present it at the Interior Biennial. Initiated in 2004, the annual W/O We Are the Next Generation also highlights the prominent role of design education in regional development.
To enhance further the impact of design and innovation on local development, the city has established the Designregio Kortrijk; a network of partners from the design industry, academia and local government. This network has since put into place several initiatives, ranging from matching local SMEs with national and international design companies, to turning vacant buildings in the city centre into workshops for creative start-ups, as well as launching innovative and creative projects in public spaces.
As a Creative City of Design, Kortrijk envisages:
- giving a new international impetus to existing design fairs and introducing the new festival PLAY, filling public spaces with creative activities;
- implementing the 5X5 methodology in local administrations to rethink public services through design processes;
- establishing a training centre within the Kortrijk Weide neighbourhood, acting as a hub and incubator for design entrepreneurs;
- disseminating internationally the 5X5 methodology, teaming up SMEs with designers to develop new businesses, and promoting the concept of MyMachine, stimulating creativity and design among students from elementary school to higher education; and
- working with other Creative Cities to support international innovative initiatives within higher education systems to promote co-creation and design thinking.