The new generation of Chinese furniture designers combines the ancient philosophy behind the classic styles and the modern aesthetics of 21st century. They seek to interpret the real meaning of Chinese furniture today, and define a fresh and unique style for modern Chinese living.
‘Made in China’ is an initiative that was established in 2015, which pledged to reposition the country as a modern design superpower by 2025. Its aim is to distance itself from the reputation of being ‘the world’s factory’ and emerge instead as a high-end manufacturer of quality products. Almost £2 billion was invested to support the creative industries. Previously, the norm for young Chinese designers was to study and set up practices overseas, but thanks to this new support, creatives are returning home, bringing global modern design influences with them.
XIMI LI, URBANCRAFT
Before founding Shanghai-based Urbancraft in 2016, Li worked for designers Andrea Branzi and Luca Trazzi in Italy, and spent six years as Neri & Hu’s chief designer. Inspired by Chinese heritage and Italian icons, such as Gio Ponti and Carlo Scarpa, his brand incorporates historic references into contemporary design pieces – take the ‘By 3’ storage system (above), which fuses interlocking sections of glass, terrazzo and marble. And the future is bright: ‘Italian and Nordic firms are already talking with us about collaborations,’ he says.
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SHERRY XU, 8 HOUR
‘Free and imaginative’ is how Sherry Xu describes the work coming out of her studio, 8 Hour, which she founded in 2016 after graduating from the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts. Her pieces are inspired by everyday life; the new ‘Clips’ seating collection references the changing shape of the paperclip, with rounded modern furniture, such as upholstered pieces, held on a looping steel frame.
Growing up in Beijing and working in Europe has informed the distinct east-meets-west aesthetic of the eponymous Frank Chou Design Studio, established in 2012. Chou’s ‘Middle’ chair is a highly modern design take on traditional bamboo seats, while the ‘Combo’ modular system is a reinvention of historic upholstery techniques, using wool, leather and a mixture of other fabrics. ‘As designers, we have a strong responsibility to lead, teach and fight for a better future,’ says Chou.
Tsai founded his Hangzhou studio in 2014, and his minimal style, with its small, poetic details – realised in monochrome and natural materials – has brought him to the attention of Chinese and European brands alike. He’s lent his simple, rounded forms to Danish firms Ferm Living and Woud, Oslo-based Northern and Italian lighting giant Flos, as well as several Chinese companies.
FURONG CHEN, WUU
Focusing on traditional Chinese materials to distinguish his pieces from mass-produced fare, Furong Chen was named Emerging Chinese Designer at Design Shanghai in 2015, just one year after founding his own brand, Wuu. Citing inspirations including Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic and Donald Judd, the studio has already collaborated with French-Chinese brand Maison Dada on the ‘Looking for Dorian’ mirror, and creates modern design lighting, furniture and accessories.
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