It’s crystal clear from the swelling numbers of interior design and lifestyle shops popping up in China that Chinese consumers have a developing appreciation for design. That fact is also supported by the country’s annual global design event, Design Shanghai, whose exhibition variety grows with every edition.
This March 8 to 11, the design-centric affair is back with 350 exhibitors at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, this time featuring two new design halls for kitchens and bathrooms and office spaces. The remaining halls are set to feature contemporary design, classic and luxury, and collectibles, the last of which will feature works by Zaha Hadid Design and fine art specialist and Design Shanghai returnee Frank Partridge. The new kitchen and bathroom hall’s displays will include pieces that are ideal for saving space, a feature especially pertinent to Chinese apartments.
While a big emphasis at the exhibition is bringing Western design to China’s hotels, homes, and businesses, the event also is placing a growing focus on Chinese designers, whose work last year was exposed to more than 46,000 visitors from 70 countries around the world.
Highlight participants returning this year include Benwu Edition, who won the AD China and Design Shanghai’s Emerging Chinese Designer Platform “Best Design” award last year. The team designs furniture and practical products for small homes, but they’ve also worked with major international luxury brands, including Hermès, in designing in store displays that would speak to Chinese consumers. On the list of speakers this time around is Luca Nichetto, who made headlines last year for his role in China’s new interior design startup, Zaozuo. The Italian designer has served as art director for the brand, which is headed by a Chinese CEO intent on bringing affordable, quality furniture and home goods to China’s rising middle class. Late last year, Zaozuo opened two stores in Beijing and Shanghai.
Other well-known brands on the roster include HAY, Swarovski, Alessi, Dyson, DuPont, Seletti, as well as Chinese brands Tai Ping Carpets, Beyond Object, WUU, and more.
In what could only be an answer to the China market’s demand for design, Design Shanghai is giving the entire Shanghai community a chance to participate through offsite installations and networking events. Design Shanghai will also continue to partner with upscale shopping district Shanghai Xintiandi. As an offshoot of the exhibition, Shanghai Xintiandi’s Design Festival from March 6 to 19 will feature interactive installations by artists from China and around the world, and tours of relevant shops, showrooms, and museums will be offered to event guests. Aside from giving consumers another dimension of the exhibition through experience, the shopping district benefits from bringing in design-minded luxury shoppers seeking inspiration for their homes.
Increasingly, interior and furniture design is becoming a staple of luxury events targeted at affluent Chinese consumers. In the art sphere, for example, more auction houses have been adding a design and furniture element to their sales, encouraged by Chinese consumers’ design savvy shopping habits abroad. The trend is still in its early stages, but it’s undeniable that well-decorated spaces will become increasingly important to Chinese consumers.