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A Tour Through Design Shanghai 2018: This Year's... Stuff to Decorate Your Life
By Mar 15, 2018 Arts
My first impression of 2018's Design Shanghai is similar to what I felt about smartphones these days: too damn big. "It's 40% bigger," in fact, "than last year", according to our contact, who works for the company that's also behind two of the biggest lifestyle trade shows in Shanghai: 'The Best of British' and 'Ideal Home Show China'.

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Design Shanghai 2018 runs from March 14 to 17 at Shanghai Exhibition Center specializing in stuff, stuff, stuff from international and local firms -- stuff to decorate your wonderful lives. Tickets start at 240rmb (single day). There's also a program of events, lectures, and workshops -- check the official website for more details.

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Maybe Design Shanghai should consider investing in a navigation app, like what they did with Disneyland, so we VIPs can navigate through the tens of thousands of products from 400-something brands, avoiding the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at the Contemporary Design Hall and the Central Bar, the leaking bathrooms, the smell of freshly painted walls and floorboards, and blithely walk into the VIP lounge, where they serve nice wine from Veronafiere and pizzas from PizzaMarzano.

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Passing through the Tord Boontje x Swarovski crossover and American Express lounge, the first booth that caught our eyes was The Skateroom. A social enterprise that works with renowned contemporary artists to create edgy skateboard decks, and donate part of their profits to NGOs like Skateistan. The artists and foundations they've partnered up so far tend to be the big and provocative ones: Shepard Fairey, Ai Weiwei, Paul McCarthy, and recently, Die Antwoord. Their skateboard are priced around 220USD (for a solo board) and a few grand for limited hand signed ones. Seems like a sort of art investment that can be afforded by a much younger and wider crowd, compared with the rest of the stuff here. The Skateroom is located on a corner of Collective Design Hall (WH02). Do seek them out.

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A similar approach but from a much bigger local brand, showroom CHUI Kitchen reappeared this year, bringing large pieces of shiny, intricate metal weaving crafts to the Kitchen and Bathroom Design Hall. These solar terms-themed artworks were handmade by villagers in Qingshan, Hangzhou, under the support of fellow Hangzhou resident, kitchen appliance manufacturer Robam through "The Lake" project. Villagers take 50% of the profit and another 40% is used for water protection. Although not all of these products here are very practical for cookery, using overly-decorated showrooms feel like a common tactic among the big kitchen and bathroom brands in this hall. Leaves too much to the imagination.

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It seems quite obvious that Design Shanghai spent a lot of effort on promoting local brands, giving extra exposure to relatively young and innovative Chinese designers. For instance, Yang House (羊舍), a project from the collector and award-winning designer Jamy Yang, occupies one of the major booths near the main entrance. The brand likes to play with unexpected materials, combining "German logical aesthetic and Chinese humanistic thinking". What a combination. The results are often quite bold and virile, with hints of sustainable mindset here and there.

Shanghai"

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These chairs outside of the main hall are the works of Endless Form, a digital lab created by independent designer Zhang Zhoujie who owns a computer that is allowed to "think and design by itself". Each of these chairs was 'grown' into a unique form, developed under basic maths logic.

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Came all the way from Xiamen, Fujian, NANCHOW's (见南花) specialty is a type of handmade cement tile (水泥花砖). The making of this tile doesn't require heat, and the scrap materials are used to create accessories and stationaries.

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Young and hip are the words often used to describe these Shanghai brands -- BROWNIE, the team behind the Brew & Blend festival at M50 has evolved into a platform and gallery for upcoming local photographers who wants to attract international attention.

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Co-working space nakedHub also made a strong appearance this year, looks like they spent serious coin on the decor.

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That colorful building on Julu Lu, furniture store & restaurant R.G.F carried over their entire shelf to the venue. Packed with rustic, raw, and vintage style home goods. Quite a few of them are made of recycled material and used military fabrics.

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Remember one of our new favorites, HOW Art Museum? A major rival of Long Museum and promoter of commercialized contemporary art. They are here, too.

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The late architect Zaha Hadid seems to be one of the main focus of Design Shanghai, as her name can be seen at almost every major halls in the venue.

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We also bumped into British artist, the principle of London's Art Academy Rob Pepper at his booth, known for his delicate style which melds the architect landscapes from both London and Beijing.

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Shanghai"

With such a large scale of brands and artists on display, you will bound to be greeted by a mix of top-notch designs, the opportunities to meet prominent figures in the art and design industries, and ... a few gaudy nightmares thrown in for variety.

Shanghai"

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Design Shanghai runs from March 14 to 17 at Shanghai Exhibition Center, tickets start at 240rmb (single day). There's also a program of events, lectures, and workshops -- check the official website for more details.

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