Born in Belgium and trained at the prestigious Domus Academy, in Milan, Italy, industrial designer Frederic Gooris worked for Philippe Starck and Stefano Giovannoni before setting up his own studio in 2004. He moved to Hong Kong in 2010 with his wife, Paulina, who was born here, and has had no shortage of work since. He recently produced a line of magnetic-hinged eyeglasses for Alessi and is working on his own baby furniture brand, Bombol.
Aside from love, why move to Hong Kong? "In Milan I was one of many designers, whereas here I am one of the few. I become the reference point. With Alessi, I'm one of the only designers here they are comfortable with. And because I can go to the factory easily and sit down with the engineers, there is good mutual communication."
Why start a line of baby furniture? "We had just had our first child, which was a direct incentive to take things into our own hands. When Paulina was pregnant and we had to go to the baby store to get stuff [we found] the products were either very functional, with lots of ugly patterns of teddy bears, or very design-oriented but less functional. And on top of that all of these things are very expensive. I thought, 'It must be possible to find something functional and well-designed that fits into the home nicely and is still affordable.'"
What makes the Bombol bouncer (right) different from others? "It's almost like an invisible hand - the thing regulates itself. It's the baby who decides whether to lie down or sit upright, because it works almost like an articulated office chair. The elastic fabric of the dynamic back gives [the baby] the strength to pull itself up. That's one of the two patents we have on the bouncer. The second is on the structure - normally, the structure regulates the angle and the baby hangs in a static bag of fabric. We turned it the other way around, so the regulation is done by the fabric and by the 3D curves we made in the front of the structure. It's capable of holding a much bigger weight because you don't have to have a clicking mechanism to set different angles. That prolongs the lifetime of the product from zero to two, to zero to five years old. My own kids have abused the product in ways I didn't imagine possible, but it's lasted to the very last moment they need to use it.
Bombol production has moved from Italy to China. What has been the difference? "Strangely enough the quality is better here than in Italy. Although it looks like a simple product, it's very difficult to produce because there is a part that is rigid and a part that is elastic. It was quite challenging to get it right but with every production [run] we were able to do better and better. I think it's because here we can build in many more quality-control checks. That is something you can't do in Italy because of the costs and, because the volume was small, the manufacturers were less committed. In China, they understand they have to move up in quality. The time of low-cost, high-volume manufacturing is over."