Disappointing gift fairs in Bangkok & Hong Kong

Posted on May 27, 2012 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments


I must be the slowest blogger out there, I have a backlog of entries that I started but never quite finished, including this which was on supposed to be published after the trade fairs last month...

I visited the biannual Bangkok International gift and household fairs a few years ago, and I decided to return because of my interest in Thai design. Although I am not a fan of trade fairs, it is however, the easiest way to meet suppliers under one roof, to see new products and understand what the upcoming trends are.



Compared to a few years ago, I was quite disappointed because there were hardly any new names and the new products from the more established designers or brands were not so different from what I had seen before. As a frequent visitor to design shows and fairs, I get to see more 'designed' products than those who are not in the industry; but what prevents me from walking around like a zombie is when I see products that are inspiring or unique. Sadly, I saw very few at the fair this year, and was told by local Thais that the show was quieter than usual this year, with notably less foreign buyers.



The Thai contemporary design scene boomed around the mid 2000s, and what made their products unique was their eco-conscious and sustainable way of 'designing' by using local materials and traditional methods to create beautiful craft-like designs esp. lighting, furniture and household products.

Hopefully, the slip in standard was due to many design studios and designers opting out of the gift fair rather a reflection of the overall Thai design industry. But if this fair was a showcase of the best in the Thai design industry, then the organiser needs to try harder in the future.



Hong Kong gift fair is the largest gift fair in the world, but being the largest does not make it the best. Depending on what you are sourcing, but for those sourcing for innovative, inspiring and cool products, then you are most likely to be disappointed.

Most of the local design brands were located on the ground floor, but two issues bothered me incredibly after the fair. The first was that many brands were very trend-driven, with mostly iphone or mac-related accessories. My question to these designers and companies is that "what happens if Apple releases iphone 5 that is round in shape? What will happen to all these 'outdated' accessories? Since most of them are made of plastic, how will they recycle or dispose of them?"

Hong Kong has always been viewed as one of the 'least' creative cities in Asia, but it's not because there are no talented designers there, it has more to do with the local market. When most mass consumers only care about being 'trendy' and 'in', designers and companies simply respond to the market needs by giving them what they want. Hence, trends come and go quickly, while many local designers and companies are being criticised for having no identities. And this was exactly what I observed at the fair... design for design's sake is hardly good design.

My other concern was to do with the exhibitors' attitude problem... perhaps I didn't look like a major buyer and so many weren't very helpful when I enquired about their products, while others just chatted among themselves, ignoring me completely. This was a huge contrast to the Thai exhibitors, who were mostly friendly and informative.

The one positive note regarding the fair was seeing more companies switching to environmental materials and methods in the production of their products, but could this be another fad? Only time will tell.


This post was posted in Travel, Business, Bangkok, Trade fairs, Thai designs, Design, Thailand and was tagged with Bangkok, Trade fair, Thai design, Thailand