Design Shanghai – Why Avant-Garde Design Fascinates China’s Millennials

Dirk Ziems

concept m has been exploring lifestyle and consumption developments in China for years. We turn particular attention to Gen Y, the Generation of Opportunities, because they will have considerable and sustainable influence on consumption trends for the years to come. The new individualism is this generation’s leitmotif. Unlike their parents, with a parvenu background, their credo is to not simply copy pre-defined categories of luxury and to no longer blindly follow well-established brands as style ideals.

Shanghai Design Expo 2018 has shown in an impressive way what a big impact individualised design has on self-confidence. Visitors are very young, mainly 20- or 30-somethings, excitedly and constantly taking pictures and eagerly absorbing all trends. Nevertheless, Design Shanghai, which takes place in the city’s historic Art Deco exhibition halls, does not focus on the masses and popular furniture designers like Lignet Rosset or BB Italia, which of course have their stands. The real attraction however are the hundreds of very individual, mainly European niche providers, named misura emme or Andrew Martin Home. The designers and their ultra-individual apartment ideas invite visitors to discover something unique. Or, like one visitor to the fair puts it: “If I buy an armchair by lalique, no one else has it. Only I know French designer Jean Budoit and his sense for translucent materials.”

Three trends struck the eye at Design Shanghai:

  • Natural materials. Seen for example in tables or wardrobes made from raw tree trunks by schelbach or the craftsmanship pieces by Danish designers Carl Hansen & son. For the Chinese consumers, living in the overheated density of megacities, natural materials symbolise a return to nature and wellness for the soul.
  • Art Deco Retro. The plush life the old European elites evokes a feeling of irresistible yearning in Chinese millennials. Accordingly, the stands by interior designers domus aurea and rochebobois were crowded with people.
  • Chinese minimalism. Frank Chou Design Studio represents the Chinese furniture designer avant-garde with a full command of traditional design languages. Frank Chou knows how to blend Scandinavian Bauhaus design with strict Chinese formalism. Banmoo, based in Shanghai, have proven to be real masters of minimalism, following and doing justice to Japanese examples.

Design Shanghai is also an important benchmark for the design furniture industry because the Chinese market will soon account for 50% of sales. The young arty-individualist visitors’ enthusiasm for authentic-innovative and expressive design is palpable at the exhibition. In Europe and the US, furniture design is more of a niche market, reserved for a smaller and older target group of connoisseurs – while the rest is waiting for the copies at IKEA.



Dirk Ziems Co-Founder and Shareholder concept_m

Dirk Ziems

Dirk Ziems
Dirk Ziems ist Experte für tiefenpsychologisches Marketing und berät auf Basis von Markt-, Medien- und Kulturforschung weltweit Unternehmen und Konzerne in zahlreichen Branchen und Ländern. Als Mitbegründer der Global Research Boutique Concept M und der Marketingberatung Flying Elephant begleitet er Themen wie die Adaption von Erfolgsprodukten in neuen kulturellen Kontexten, das tiefe Verständnis neuer Konsumgenerationen in China und USA, die Transformation der Werbekommunikation in der neuen digitalen Medienwelt oder die Neuorientierung der Brands in Post-Corona-Zeiten. Dirk Ziems ist auch als Gastdozent an verschiedenen Universitäten tätig.

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