Maison et objet Asia 2014

Posted on April 18, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

I did not expect to take so long to write about Shanghai (I envy bloggers who publish daily entries), hence this blog entry on Maison et Objet Asia is much delayed...

Less than a week after my trip to Shanghai, I was off to Singapore to attend the first Maison et Objet show in Asia and Singapore design week. For those who have been to the biannual shows in Paris would know how tiring it is to wander through halls after halls of designer products and furniture. By scale, this Asian edition was much smaller, hence, it didn't take too long to wander around the 14,000 sq ft of space. 265 brands from 24 countries were featured here and about 30% of them were from Asia.


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Top left: Alur Lamp by Ong Cen Kuang; 2nd row: Schema by Kalikasan Crafts; 2nd row left, middle & bottom left: Kenneth Cobonpue & his Trame chair; Bottom right: Vases at Serax


One surprise from the show was to see a Filipino section festuring several well-established and young designer brands from The Philippines. Filipino design is probably not as well-known outside of Asia, but its strong craft heritage is one of its strengths that is helping it to become more recognised internationally. And one of the best representative is Kenneth Cobonpue, who was awarded Designer of Year at the show. Cobonpue is known for using nature as his inspiration, he focuses on natural material and uses local craftsmanship to create furniture and products that suit contemporary living. Judging from the long queue of fans wanting to be photographed with the designer, it's hard not to consider him as a design celebrity!

Schema by Kalikasan Crafts is another Filipino brand that is expanding internationally. The company hired young Thai designer, Anon Pairo to design their new lighting collection inspired by industrial loft. Many of their designs are made from metal wires that have been mold into various patterns through traditional weaving techniques, and they are all handmade by local artisans.

Another interesting lighting and home accessories brand is Ong Cen Kuang from Bali established in 2008. Their handmade lighting collections focus on the combination of tactile materials, infusion of self develop technique and traditional origami.


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Thai showcase - Top left: Pana objects; top rigt: Pim Sudhikam; 2nd row right: The pavilon; Bottom left: Ceramic ware from Chiang Mai; 2nd row left: Tom Dixon; 2nd row middle: Ango lighting from Thailand; Bottom right: apaiser bathtub


I have always been a fan of Thai designs, yet I have often had issues negotiating with Thai companies... Big companies only want to deal with bulk orders, while small design studios struggle with pricing, and so we are only carrying two brands (Zequenz and Goodjob) from Thailand at the moment. At the Thai showcase pavilion, I spotted a young company that I have previously contacted before... Pana objects, which makes wonderful wooden stationery and objects. Another designer that caught my eye was Pim Sudhikam's simple yet distinctive (often with blue underglaze) ceramics. Outside of the pavilion, Ango is an award-winning lighting brand that merges nature with technology, and most of the materials used are natural and sustainable.


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Rising Asian talents: Top right & 2nd row left: Mike Mak from Hong Kong; 2nd row middle: Denny R. Priyatna from Thailand; 3rd row: Yu Fen Lo from Taiwan; Bottom: Melvin Ong from Singapore; 2nd row right: Wewood from Portugal 


One of the most exciting part of these design or trade shows is the discovery of new talents or products. And at this show, six promising designers from the region were awarded as 'Rising Asian Talents' and were given the opportunity to showcase their designs. I spoke to Mike Mak from Hong Kong (whom I have contacted before regarding his rather fun Eyeclock) and he explained to me about his display which featured flibre-glass designs inspired by ancient/traditional Chinese characters or Chinese poems: a fruit holder inspired by the word 'field', a ladder inspired by the word 'moon' but my favourite is the vases that depict the life cycle of flowers through the presence/ absence of the flowers.

Then I met the young designer from Singapore, Melvin Ong, who used to study and live in London. Melvin is the designer behind Desinere, and I love his Japanese/origami-inspired designs. I then found out that he has collaborated with the well-respected Japanese metal casting craft manufacturer, Nousaku to create a beautiful set of bronze and brass Fouetté facetted paperweight spintops. It is always encouraging to see more young designers collaborating with traditional craftsmen to create new and fresh designs.

Pinyen creative from Taiwan is another company that I have previous spoken to when they exhibited at Tent London 2 years ago. Yu-Fen Lo is the designer behind the brand and their designs are often inspired by nature with functionality and sustainability in mind.

The other three designers were: Denny R. Priyatna from Indonesia, Lilianna Manaham from the Philippines and Sittivhai Ngamhongtong from Thailand.


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Top left: Tom Dixon's talk; top right: Vincent Gregoire from Nelly Rodi giving a talk on trend forecasting; Bottom: Y’A PAS LE FEU AU LAC


Last but not least, seminars given by designers, architects and industry insiders are often highlights of the trade events. The key speaker at this show was Tom Dixon (originally it was advertised as Oki Sato from Nendo) and it attracted so many people that it was not even possible to get into the seating area ( as I mentioned earlier, the celebrity culture in the design world is more evident than ever). Yet I was more interested in talks on Asia's new e-commerce and trend forecasting given by Vincent Gregoire from Nelly Rodi.

There was a lot of information on past and future, and here is a brief summary of some of the key points from his talk:

The decade from 2010 focuses more on the 'slow' and back to basics lifestyle, so we have seen slow cooking, fashion and an emphasis on moral values. Developed countries are also moving from consumption to collaboration in businesses and other aspects.

From 2020, it is predicted that 'fast' period will return, emphasising on flexibility, multipasses and multimedium.

The four major design trends of 2015 are categorised into 4 categories:

1. Promised land by pioneers ( nomadic, rustic, self-prduction, nomadic pop-up, functional asethetics, down to earth colours)

2. Sacred fire by Conquistadors (passionate, stimulating, energy, truth, whistle blower, feel good, New bling, playful, fire reference colours like gold and ash)

3. Deep dive by Atlanteans ( aquatic, experimental, Baroque, mermaids, organic, jelly, surrealistic, seaweed tones)

4. Air cosmos by Nextplorers (futuristic, experimental, new frontiers, Dyson-think tank, Gravity, Daft punk, Star Wars, astrology, whites, black and yellow)

If you can make sense of the above, then congratulations!

Although I was slightly disappointed with the scale and the numbers of Asian brands that took part, I was glad that the event coincided with the Singapore design week and International furniture fair ( see my next entries) where I managed to spot many new Asian talents. I hope that there will be more Asian participants at the show next year as I believe that Asian designs have yet to reach its full potential in the global market.


This post was posted in Travel, Business, Talks, Trade fairs, Taiwanese design, Hong Kong design, Singapore, Singapore design, Thai designs, Design and was tagged with talks, Trade fair, Hong Kong design, Thai design, Taiwanese design, Maison et objet Asia, Singapore, Singapore design, Filipino design