What brought you to Hong Kong? "I'd been head of product design at Marcel Wanders, in Holland, and wanted a new adventure. It didn't feel like a real adventure to start up by myself in Holland, but here I saw a tremendous capacity for production from the availability of manual labour to hi-tech machinery. I thought, 'Maybe I should go to Asia to help companies who want to become brands develop their identity.'"
How long did it take for you to get your first client? "About two to three weeks. The Dutch Chamber of Commerce was looking for a new identity and I won the pitch. They could hardly pay (the job was worth HK$5,000) but said they would spread the word about me. I applied to the Design Incubation Programme at InnoCentre [in Kowloon Tong], was accepted and got my visa."
What have you done so far in Hong Kong? "I came here to help Asian companies grow into more mature brands and that has been my focus. One example is my Salago lamp for Moooi: made from recycled paper and coated with paper pulp, they look heavy but are lightweight, so can hang from a ceiling without reinforcement. You can see them at The Pawn [restaurant], in Wan Chai."
Tell us about your elephants … "Last year I was invited to participate in Elephant Parade - an art project raising awareness and financial support for global elephant conservation - in Hong Kong. I haven't painted since art school. I make furniture, so decided to use upholstery. I made a big toy elephant called Rocky, set on a rocker for adults to ride (whoever bought it, I still have the red helmet that goes with it, if you'd like to come forward), and Cuddles, a beanbag elephant. At auction, they raised HK$200,000 for the charity."
Don't you also have a Kickstarter project? "It's for CLIC [a product launched by Fang's boutique dog lifestyle brand high5dogs], a designer dog lead that can be operated in a single motion with one hand, so you can tether your dog while holding a coffee. It's also good for people who have trouble using small trigger hooks, such as those with arthritis, and in unexpected situations, such as catching runaway dogs."
Visit www.fangstudio.com for details.