Michael Young

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am

Who is he? An internationally established designer from Britain whose woven steel products propelled him to fame months after he left university, at the age of 26. Young's design career has largely been smooth sailing. He has set up five studios, in Europe, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and designed everything from furniture to bicycles to MP3 players to sex toys. His client list includes Artemide, Georg Jensen and Cappellini. Based in Hong Kong since 2004, Young is behind Chivas Bar, in Tsim Sha Tsui, and the soon-to-be- opened Pissarro restaurant, in Central.

How did he get into design? As a clueless teenager who failed exams at school, Young never knew where his passion lay. 'I didn't want to be anything,' he says. 'I had no functional desires.' But one day he drew a chair while 'instinctively looking at a material design magazine'. The drawing was 'quite bad', but Young loved it. 'This sort of set the flames a little bit,' he says. 'I didn't want to work - I didn't see the point. But I wanted to do something that involved creativity, enthusiasm, inspiration and happiness. By looking around the different creative things one could do, I discovered that for me art was too superficial, but design seemed like creativity with a reason.' So he studied furniture and product design at Kingston University in London for three years, also working at renowned British designer Tom Dixon's Space Studio.

Then what? After university, Young began working independently, a natural move for someone who 'couldn't work within a structure'. His now-famous creation, the woven steel light, took the industry by storm in 1992 and opened up opportunities. Galleries in Paris, Germany and Japan showcased his work and in the next 10 years, as his client base grew, he set up offices in London, Reykjavik, Brussels and Taipei. But he says, 'I just think I've been very fortunate. I think it's a lack of restraint I put on a variety of things. I've had no business strategy. It's a miracle I've got this far. I should be more confident about myself, shouldn't I?'

What brought him to Hong Kong? As a designer who is less interested in the 'romance of design' than 'the practicality of it', Young relishes the pragmatism that drives Hong Kong, even though the city's creative industry is not as vibrant as that in Europe. 'I don't like to be surrounded by design. I've got my own metropolis here,' he says, pointing at his head. 'Being here is more inspiring for me because of the chance to get information on production very quickly. Everyone is at your doorstep, which means ideas can flow quickly, whereas in London it takes months to do a design. Moving to Hong Kong is probably the best thing I've ever done.' Young, who recently bought a flat in Happy Valley, says that, except for the heat, he enjoys living here.