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Design Going Global – the FT Talk

Wrong Woods Bench at V&A, recycled from the Milan Fair by Established & Sons creative director Sebastian Wrong

Wrong Woods Bench at V&A, recycled from the Milan Fair by Established & Sons creative director Sebastian Wrong


So what insight can we get from the new and emerging design markets? It was the big question posed at the London Design Festival’s third breakfast talk this year, so we gathered at the V&A’s Sackler Centre on September 23rd to find out.

Not for the first time this week we heard how the mighty China looms larger and larger over the creative industries, with its huge numbers of design undergraduates and swelling consumer demand. Design journalist and 100% Design Shanghai organiser Aric Chen gave her perspective on things. Chen painted a picture of an industry being born, just beginning to capture the imagination of the nation, but still not firing on all cylinders. ‘Where are the designers? Where are the names?’ she said. ‘Compared to the standard of the Italians, they’re just not there.’

The imminent arrival of a design savvy China, will help create a surge of new creativity around the globe, in which each country will need to find its own niche in the global creative economy. Chief curator of the Thailand reative & Design Centre CDC Bangkok, Paravi Wongchirach, summed it up like this: ‘Design and Creativity are national security issues for us. We can’t compete on price any more, but we can compete on design,’ he said.

He described a growing sense of realisation in Thailand that design is becoming a vital economic component that needs to be preserved and nurtured. Then again he is probably a bit biased. Design is not the same thing as it is in the West, he explains, ‘with your post industrial economies.’

For him, the national design movement is altogether more modest, less bold and brash, less big brand on the high street. ‘We have the same global retail chains as you do but we do our own local take on them, which is more relaxed probably, with more of a sense of space.

‘Nowadays, customers can see the latest styles straight off the catwalk, within minutes of a show taking place, so the mystique has gone. The big global brands have been over-marketing themselves. People here want to do things themselves, with a little wit of their own.’

Catch the whole talk series here.

This post was taken from the FT Business Breakfast talk ‘New Frontiers’ held at the V&A, as part of the London Design Festival, Wednesday 23 September 2009.

Mike Exon

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