China’s designers have been increasingly gaining attention on the international stage, and the pool of talent is widening from fashion to furniture and product design. This year, Chinese design for the home was put under the spotlight in the UK as part of London Design Festival 2016.
The festival is a prestigious event that attracts the likes of Tom Dixon and Arup, and also plays host to the largest trade show in the UK, 100% Design. Fourteen Chinese designers debuted their furniture and fixtures in this trade fair, some of them for the first time in the UK. The three-day event, which came to a close last month, was a sneak peek at what to expect for Design Shanghai 2017, which is set to take place in March at the Shanghai Exhibition Center.
The work on display included some of the top award-winning designers that showcased their work at Design Shanghai 2016, alongside emerging artists. Highlights included organizers from WUU founder Chen Furong, who took home the Design Shanghai 2015 AD China x Design Shanghai Emerging Designers Award, as well as products by Benwu Studio, a design agency that received a “Best Design” award at Design Shanghai this year for its beechwood chair. Benwu Studio presented its 4×4 Vessels, four containers that can be adapted for 16 different uses, accenting the group’s efforts to find sustainable solutions for daily life. Other designers’ work served as prime examples for how Western styles, like Nordic design, can be married with Chinese tradition.
Some of the designers showcased already have amassed a growing consumer base in China. Independent Chinese furniture brand Fnji has recently opened a second store in Beijing. The Hangzhou brand takes cues from an aesthetic popularized by Kinfolk magazine and complements its own furniture designs by founder Gu Qigao with lifestyle products from Japan.
100% Design receives support from the Shanghai Promotion Centre for City of Design, whose London agency was founded in 2014 to create more opportunities for promoting Chinese creatives on an international scale. The exhibition is a reflection of the growing success of Design Shanghai, which brought in a total of 46,000 visitors from around the world in 2016, a 15 percent increase compared to last year.
The success of Design Shanghai has paved the way for its expansion. To accommodate China’s growing list of home furnishings designers, as well as rising interest from worldwide professionals in the industry, Design Shanghai organizers will open two new design halls for its 2017 edition. One will be dedicated to kitchens and bathrooms, and the other will focus on the home office. Both halls will provide a platform for high-end and high-tech design for the home, putting special emphasis on making the best use of space and using innovative materials.
Design Shanghai gives design professionals from around the world an opportunity to network and forge partnerships with architects, interior designers, retailers, collectors, property developers, and more in Asia. Its next installment comes as Chinese consumers are exhibiting a growing interest in home décor, and as retailers are introducing a number of new European design brands to China. However, while the number of lifestyle-focused multi-brand stores are on the rise in Beijing and Shanghai, most of the products sold in stores are sourced from Japan, Denmark, and other European design hubs. The real challenge will be proving to Chinese consumers and international markets that there are quality home goods created domestically.