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Stealing The Show In Europe(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 04,2007)

Stealing The Show In Europe

 

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Ambiente Frankfurt 2007 attracted more than 4,000 exhibitors from 85 nations

Style Hong Kong set the scene at the sprawling Ambiente consumer goods fair in Frankfurt, which covered the entire spectrum of kitchen, table and household goods, along with home decorations and gifts.

The six companies in the Style Hong Kong gallery in Hall 3.1 graphically illustrated Messe Frankfurt chief executive Michael Peters' comment that design and brands from Asia "are out of their infancy".

"For this reason we are offering Asian companies with high-end products and high class new platforms," he said.

"These 'New Asians' managed to catch up with leading international standards and quality."

They represent a fresh generation of avant-garde, trend-setting designers that have shrugged off previous Western retailer perceptions of inspiration-seeking Asian companies who visit the fairs to present "cheap" products for the mass market.

Paul Chung of Hong Kong firm DMC Products Ltd typifies the new breed of Asian designers. "I taught design in Canada for 12 years before I started my own company in 2003," Chung explained.

"Beyond our clients all over the world, mainly the US, Japan and Europe, are more than 10 creative shops, which speaks for itself."

Typical of the DMC concept are the novel, new wooden vases featuring art dmco styles that hark back to the "Classic Modernism" of the mid-1920s with their combination of elegant forms, luxury materials, floral patterns or ornaments.

Made from plywood with walnut veneer and highlighted by an art dmco pattern available in turquoise, light green, orange and purple, the vases retail from US$20.

The clever new vase picture frames from DMC that start at US$3 each have nothing in common with anything else created in the past - multifunctional, they can also serve as vases.

Chung said that today DMC exhibits at 14 trade fairs a year. "Whereas Asian people used to have the reputation of attending the fairs for copying or getting inspired, we achieved the respect of fair organisers worldwide, thanks to our outstanding stand presentations and product innovations," Chung maintained. "They invite us to participate at their shows."

Clement Cheung and Arthur Yung from Seedz Ltd followed a similar path, studying architecture design in Canada before starting their own "chillichilly" brand about three years ago.

Following the success of their award-winning watches at Ambiente, the team showcased their latest developments that included the Missile Vase "Make Love not War" and the "Suspended Motion" tilting porcelain vase, both retailing at between €16-20.

A clock series from Seedz includes the award-winning CLOPTI, featuring digital decoding on an analogue clock and available from €35 retail.

Their designs were complemented by the stylish yet functional kitchen and household products created by Technical (HK) Mfg Ltd's R&D team.

A highlight of the company's collection, the Automatic Wine Cooler provides the desired temperature by manual adjustment or through an automatic setting for different white and red wines and champagne. A stainless steel thermometer measures the temperature of the wine, while another sensor monitors the temperature outside the wine container.

Costing around €80 retail, the Automatic Wine Cooler's optimum temperature can be set automatically and it also emits a cool blue light that adds a whole new element to the wine-drinking experience.

Technical's equally upmarket kettle costs around €70 retail, takes only two minutes to boil and emits a blue LED light when the water is boiled but resumes its usual mirror surface once the water is off the boil.

Fellow Hong Kong firm Le Chino Co Ltd specialises in the design, development and manufacture of premiums and gifts that meet the demands of a broader spectrum of potential customers.

The company presented alloy die-cast goods plus combinations of plastic injection moulding with numerous other materials.

"With our team of 30 in-house designers we launch 300 new products each year," director Carol Lee explained, noting that to date Le Chino has developed 4,000 new design pieces.

She said that the company's concept is to make its customers smile. "Besides being functional and useful, our products aim to be eye-catching and fun," Lee claimed. "Our new stationery line (with the woollen ball) evokes the desire to play."

Green & Associates' award-winning designs have won it a reputation as one of the leading designers and manufacturers of high-quality, groundbreaking products, courtesy of a team of designers who seek creativity and originality.

The new stationery line that costs US$4-200 retail shows the signature of creator CL Lam; the interplay of materials such as woollen felt, recycled felt, zinc alloy, leather, wood and bamboo creating unusual but harmonious options.

Hong Kong's Feel Good Ltd came up with some handmade bathroom accessories made of mixed stone and polyresin, including its new Zen Spa line.

The different items cost €10-20 retail, making them affordable luxuries according to design director Lee Chi Wing. "Since the bathroom is considered a more and more important area for pampering and relaxation to de-stress, we developed new and different bath lines," he said.

Moving into the living area, COG Ltd's 20-plus years in design and manufacturing and core group of graphic designers, product developers and computer programmers result in new products such as the Luckee designer ashtray and the Dazzle Drink Stix.

Taking its cue from the cooking shows that reflect home and commercial cooking trends, Chung Hing Ltd has developed some 60 different marble and granite mortar and pestles that retail at US$10-40.

Young designers weren't forgotten with the hustle and bustle of a show that brought together 4,604 exhibitors from 85 nations, including 166 from Hong Kong.

The Messe Frankfurt sponsorship programme, Talents, saw 20 young designers such as Hong Kong's Eliza Yick and Phoebe Yeung present their ideas, prototypes and limited production series.

Their Icanfly01 range that carries the Mandarin Orange label consists of chicken, fish, sheep and octopus fantasy astronauts and was created as elaborately-crafted embroidery on fine fabric handbags.

"We aim at transforming the art of authentic handcrafted embroidery into a soulful and unique handbag with a loveable fashion statement," said Yick and Yeung, whose designs will be available in the specialist trade at between €20 and €150 per unit.

Meanwhile, a special show within the Style Hong Kong gallery presented innovative designs such as the Love Angel & The Boy, a Hong Kong-designed brand name from One O One Int'l Ltd that is based on a love story between an angel and a devil.

It is targeted at a younger, hip audience and offers a variety of product ranges including giftware, stationery, apparel and fashion accessories, all designed by Esme Chan.

Given this tremendous range of irresistible items, it's plain to see that these creative Asians will also steal the show at Ambiente Frankfurt 2008, which will be held from February 8-12.

TEXT BY SILVIA FRICKER