Andre Fu, architect of Upper House in Hong Kong launches lifestyle collaborations

The architect’s new project, Andre Fu Living, features lifestyle products that follows his concept of ‘relaxed luxury’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 6:05pm

When people think of Hong Kong designer and architect Andre Fu, they imagine being ensconced in one of his beautifully designed, quietly luxurious spaces. Scenes from his standout work at The Upper House in Hong Kong, of Seoul’s Kioku restaurant or of the Gong Bar at the Shangri-La in London’s Shard spring to mind.

What they may not know is that his carefully conceived concept of so-called “relaxed luxury” is something attainable in their own homes. This is exactly what Fu is setting out to deliver in his new project, the launch of Andre Fu Living, a carefully considered collection of products and collaborations that will form a lifestyle range from the man generally thought of as the master of sumptuous yet understated Asian design.

“I set up my studio over 10 years ago,” he says. “We’ve been involved in a lot of projects in hospitality and even in pop-up spaces for Vuitton and COS and last year I had a moment when I thought, ‘Ok, I have created all these experiences, but what if I can do the same in products’. I wanted to see whether I could express a similar sensibility in much smaller, tangible objects. I think that’s probably the main thing.”

From the base of a new retail platform created on his own website, Fu will take on collaborations with different specialist artisans found all over the world to produce a series of distinct and items that reflect his aesthetic.

“Every collaboration is different and happens for a different reason, but the whole vision for the website is that people can actually access these products and see them all together and be able to purchase them on this platform,” he explains. “In my view, it’s like a select show. It’s about working with people that have intrigued me. They could be artisans in an undiscovered workshop somewhere, or established big brands looking for an injection of new ideas.”

The first product off the blocks was a fragrance conceived in tandem with Julian Bedel, a perfumer whose laboratory in Buenos Aries has quickly achieved a cult following.

“Some of my friends had been talking about his products and I started to look into it. I realised this is a brand that has only been a few years in the making and yet has such an artisanal quality to it, from its niche Argentinian background to his use of organic products and how they are packaged. So when I got the chance to meet him in Tokyo, we decided to collaborate,” Fu says.

The result is Fargesia, a musky yet fresh unisex fragrance created using a specific type of bamboo seen often in Fu’s designs.

Next up, Fu is turning his hand to taps and bathroom fittings in a collaboration with US brand Cooper and Graham.

“I met the owner in Hong Kong and found his proposition for commissioning designers to come up with a collection that embraces 20th century modern really intriguing,” he says. “We’ve called the collection the Skyliner and it’s really a celebration of modern Asian life. This is not about ethnic references or things that are very literal, instead it’s about that juxtaposition between a fast paced and dynamic life.”

Fu uses a food analogy to explain the juxtaposition.

“If you look at French cuisine, in just a few years it went from being a very formal, three-starred Michelin experience with a lot of fluff and frilly stuff to now, this evolution, with people responding to this idea of ‘farm to table,’ to dining environments where they don’t have to dress up in a formal way, but where they can enjoy great food and great wine in a very comfortable environment. Comfort is always key to my world, and in this way cuisine can in fact be used as an analogy to how I see luxury going forward.”

For Fu, this desire for comfort alongside a much more timeless approach to design is something he has been striving for since the get go. Look at the long lasting allure of projects such as the Upper House, and you see that his philosophy is not one that fits a certain trend, but instead one that resonates no matter the era.

“In Hong Kong especially, there are architecture and interior projects that happen really quickly. Typically, if you are working in a restaurant, you might gain a space and have to get it open in two months – things happen instantaneously. But the projects I did before, like a hotel, they took four to six years. And because of that timespan, it became critical that the [design] language I use can stand the test of time.”

It’s a philosophy that stands out from today’s social media-driven, short attention span world.

“People are constantly enticed by the next thing and information gets dispersed immediately. So at the high end of the market, where people have already seen everything, they don’t want to go to places that do not have a soul or vision. When all the big brands have a store that looks identical globally, the desire for items that are much more bespoke and personal and intimate emerge as the way forward.”

If that route ahead looks anything like Fu’s spaces, products and vision for Andre Fu Living, then we’re all in for a rather a beautiful ride.