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A Designer's Needs(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 03,2001)

Vol. 3 2001


A Designer's Needs
Longford Industrial Ltd

A Designer's Needs

Longford Industrial Ltd
The Teatime ceramic wall clock, the doggy bank and the Piggy Bank are just three of many popular items from Longford Industrial Ltd.

All designs are derived from need, says Dennis Chan, managing director of timepiece and houseware manufacturer Longford Industrial Ltd. without need, designs do not have a life, he continues.

This is the attitude which has driven Longford forward since its conception 12 years ago. Prior to 1989, Chan, who has a background in industrial design, ran a design consultancy for such major brand names as Philips, Melitta and Sanyo. He continued this design work, even into Longford's first few years, in order to "Put aside enough money for developing [his] own products".

Eight years ago, Chan's dream of designing his own product line came true. Longford's first offering was a waterproof clock. The idea, says Chan, came to him when he was taking a shower in his flat. Morning after morning, he rushed through his shower ritual in the hope of catching the ferry on time. The resulting waterproof clock - a perfect example of his philosophy that designs are derived from need - put an end to the shower-guessing game.

From there Longford went on to specialize in timepieces for the home, office and travel, all marketed under the Timestone brand. Chan strives to use environmentally friendly materials for all his creations, with many of the timepieces made from limestone. All materials - including limestone, glass, ceramic and, lately, recyclable metal - are sourced from Japan, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.

Three years ago a limestone Timestone design was featured in a Hong Kong Post Office collectible stamp that showcased outstanding Hong Kong designs.

The next step for Longford came in 1996 with the development of Gear Atelier, a separate company focusing on household items. Run by Chan's wife, May Wong, Gear Atelier was essentially a branch of Longford, with all marketing and sales shared with the parent company and both sharing the one factory in Zhongshan on the Chinese mainland. Products carry the Living Gear brand, and its first product launch - the Cacti orange juicer - won the French Maison et Objet Award in 1996. Longford's products now carry three brands - the Living Gear, Timestone (designer timepieces) and Tapas (budget-level designer items).

Chan's pride and joy is his 1997 handover watch. Longford won a competition that invited 25 designers to submit their timepiece creations. "The surface of the watch I created was very simple; it appeared like a mirror. People had different ideas of what 1997 was going to mean to them, so they could look in the mirror and see what they wanted to see," says Chan, who is the mastermind behind most of Longford's creations, although it has a team of nine designers.

The company's latest creations - targeted at the European, Japanese and US markets - are the Doggy bank, a money bank made of recyclable polymer in the shape of a bull terrier (priced at US$3 FOB Hong Kong), and Teatime, a ceramic wall clock in the shape of a cup and saucer (US$4.50). Packing is in a brown recyclable kraft paper box. Minimum order is 2,000 pieces, with delivery in 45 days.

Timestone and Living Gear designs add up to two major collections a year, the inspiration for which Chan says he always gets at home. "just look to see what people might need and design it."



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