Website BuyMeDesign offers launching pad for unsung HK designers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 11:57am

Space is the bane of the Hong Kong designer's existence - and not in the way you might think.

"Hong Kong designers don't have many channels to distribute their products," says French designer and curator Florence Coirier Giraudon. With only a handful of design shops specialising in local products, local designers lack the shelf space needed to reach customers, which deprives them of the feedback needed to improve their products.

That's where Giraudon comes in. Two and a half years ago, shortly after moving to Hong Kong with her husband, she started BuyMeDesign, an online shop and design blog that plays an active role in linking designers to international buyers.

"A lot of designers deserve more visibility," says Giraudon. "We're a curation platform that spotlights emerging designers, markets their brands and also sell their products."

Giraudon, who spent more than a decade as a graphic designer and strategist for luxury brands such as Hermès and Louis Vuitton, selects products that she believes are unique, well-conceived and of good quality. Ideally, they should also have a compelling narrative and eco-friendly credentials. "It's about the materials, the craft, the story," says Giraudon.

New designers are introduced to customers through an interview, product reviews and coverage of their latest ventures.

That multi-pronged approach has paid off for many of the designers featured. The first brand promoted on the site was Hong Kong-based Native Union, which designs accessories for mobile devices. With BuyMeDesign's help, it struck a deal to supply watch brand Panerai with iPad cases.

The site also connected local design brand iLiveTomorrow with a Canadian architect who bought Taiwanese designer Pili Wu's Loop chair for a restaurant project.

Giraudon says most of BuyMeDesign's customers are overseas. "US customers are used to buying online," she says. Hong Kong shoppers are more reticent: "They need to be reassured that there's someone there who they can contact in case of problems."

Giraudon plans to open a BuyMeDesign showroom where customers can see products in person. And just like the website, the showroom will feature new designers every week. There's also a hotel design fair in the works.

BuyMeDesign also has links with overseas events to spot up-and-coming talent and promote its own stable of designs.

"If we want to build a design identity for Hong Kong, we need to go abroad," says Giraudon, who was in Paris last month to prepare for Maison et Objet, an interior design exhibition that BuyMeDesign will be covering.

"Maison et Objet has a pavilion for South Korea and Taiwan, but nothing from Hong Kong," she says. "Last year there were six brands from Hong Kong, but they were shown separately," she says.

"By doing it online, we offer a lot of visibility to the international market."