What is the concept behind Design 1+1? "It means one designer plus one product and the creation of infinite possibilities. We are a strategic design platform, exploring options for emerging designers. Many of them have extraordinary ideas but might lack the funds and commercial know-how to bring their concepts to market. Design 1+1 tries to connect these designers with consumers through retail and also with companies to form co-branding partnerships. I'm not interested in making corporate products without interesting designs or taking on clients with big budgets and doing what they say if it goes against Design 1+1 principles.
"Design 1+1 is also an online-to-offline platform. People who might have seen a product on our website can go and see it offline in accessible locations."
Why is it hard for emerging local designers to gain recognition? "Hong Kong is a materialistic city and values luxury goods and designer brands. Many Hong Kong people think that if a product hasn't come from somewhere like Europe or the USA, it isn't worth anything. They would rather pay thousands of dollars as long as it has a designer brand name that everyone recognises. They don't rate Hong Kong design and can't understand why something made in Hong Kong - even if it is beautifully crafted - might cost a lot of money. A lot of people aren't aware of the incredible variety of local design and designers on their doorstep. The public prefer to put their money into brands they know, which means emerging designers don't get the resources they need to fuel further projects and gain recognition. It's a vicious circle."
How do you choose which products to promote? "We feature products that are simple but have brilliant visual form and a sense of quality and class. Design doesn't always mean coming up with something totally new but can also be the reinvention of an existing idea; for example, the Serenity box set by BeCandle was inspired by tea ceremonies and is a different treatment of the traditional candle.
"We work with all kinds of designers, from students at SDWorks [a platform that helps those studying at the School of Design at Polytechnic University to launch their ideas] to European designers such as Alexis Georgacopoulos, who collaborates with the brand Praxis."
Are you working on anything new? "We recently partnered with the Chiny & Mercury workshop on the Sai Kung waterfront. They sell their own handmade products, such as jewellery featuring origami, as well as items by other Hong Kong designers. We are hoping to start running design workshops there during the week."