Design Shanghai 23.04.14

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"If the phenomenal interest in Design Shanghai this March is anything to go by, it won't be long before "made in China" becomes "bought in China". The fair's carefully curated collection of 150 design brands on display in the city's neo-classical Russian-style Shanghai Exhibition Center was welcomed with feverish excitement by local Shanghainese, along with the usual target audience of interior designers, architects and developers.

"We're absolutely thrilled by the success of Design Shanghai – in particular by the number of visitors," says Lee Newton, chief executive of Media 10 (Icon's parent company and organiser of the event). "China, especially Shanghai, is developing rapidly but until now no one has taken major Western design brands to the country."

Keen to avoid the pitfalls of other design fairs, Design Shanghai's creative curators, Ross Urwin and Darrel Best of Infrastructure arranged works by leading brands including Magis, Flos, Fritz Hansen and Alessi into Contemporary, Classic and Collectible halls, making it possible to enjoy the show in bite-sized pieces. Interest levels were kept high with a careful mix of products ranging from heritage paint by Mylands of London and wallpaper by Cole & Son to Utopia and Utility's hand-crafted stools and pots combining ceramics, glass and wood.

Ninety per cent of the international exhibitors were presenting in China for the first time and reported it as an eye-opening experience. "We were overwhelmed by the reaction. There was a genuine craving for handmade objects and made to order," says Spina Design's chief executive Robbie Spina, who presented a range of ultra decadent contemporary curtain tie-backs crafted from crystal strands, Japanese silk and French satin-ribbon, as well as a range of dip-dyed silk fringed stools.

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Carpenters Workshop Gallery designer Vincent Dubourg reported similar interest in his striking Double Buffet Nouvelle Zélande, a sideboard crafted in steel with a dramatic explosive centrepiece. Visitors were also drawn to Hay's affordable and functional Danish style, best illustrated in its quirky Hay DLM ("don't leave me") side table with a handle on top.

The curators also brought a sophisticated, modern Chinese aesthetic to the fair with the likes of local creative Amber Xiang, who cleverly morphed her bespoke flower arrangement service, The Beast, into an innovative pop-up cafe complete with lush, jungle canopy, contemporary furniture and barista-brewed coffee.

Elsewhere, Shanghai-based architectural and design mavens Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu presented their enticing blend of east and west with a range of Neri & Hu accessories including the Zisha range of natural clay tea cups and pots and its Ming-Crossing dining chair, designed for Stella Works.

The inaugural fair drew some 50,000 visitors – "a testament to an evolving Chinese design consciousness and appreciation of finely crafted merchandise", notes Urwin."Customers the world over are looking for unique design items and this is now very apparent in the Chinese market. The difference is that things develop and grow much faster in China," he says.



Catherine Shaw



Catherine Shaw

quotes story

Elsewhere, Shanghai-based architectural and design mavens Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu presented their enticing blend of east and west

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