Tell us about the Zaha Hadid connection. “My internship year was 2001-02, while studying at University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture. Back then her office was tiny – only around 40 staff, compared to almost 500 now. At the time Zaha didn’t have many jobs, so she hired students to help with competition bids.
“One that I worked on, which we won, was the BMW Central Building, in Leipzig, Germany. It received the 2006 RIBA European Award and was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize. After that I worked for [London-based] Future Systems – the directors were good friends of Zaha and they shared similar design philosophies. I developed an interest in innovation and got thinking about doing my own projects. That’s why I opened my own studio.”
When was that? “In 2010. Eravolution was established in London, but the work I was doing was mostly design research. Part of the reason I came back to Hong Kong, in 2012, was to convert my research-based studio into a business. Opportunity-wise, I don’t like to compare the two cities. There is more competition among peers in London, but less emphasis on design in Hong Kong.”
What have you been doing since? “I look for inspiration from nature and sciences – I am very much a person of ‘cause and effect’. I’d designed my Zpine Lounger, a chair made of thin plywood based on the honeycomb structure, with a reference to the human spine, in London. It was a very academic and experimental project – something between art and design, which I hadn’t intended to commercialise. But it won a couple of awards, which gave me confidence to keep going in this direction and develop a career in furniture design. In Hong Kong, there aren’t many brands developing their own furniture. I saw a niche, and brought back the Zpine Lounger to test the waters.”
Did it sell? “I soon learned that it was too expensive. There were specific purchases, but mostly by collectors. Since then I’ve been doing different projects, mostly furniture. Foremost has been developing my own brand, along with client commissions.
“Skeleton in the Closet was an installation for a private group that advocated against consumerism. The idea was that people would bring in new, unused clothing to hang on it, and take away clothing left by others. It was installed for a pop-up event in Sheung Wan and has since been exhibited twice.”
Any other furniture? “The Ztealth Chair is a collapsible chair that folds like origami. It was a collaboration with furniture manufacturer Honed and came out in 2015. I primarily designed this chair for event spaces, but many potential customers think it is such a functional show piece they would use it in homes and offices, too.
“Last year I launched a customisable modular shelving system called Zystem Kershner. The design arises from a unique type of tessellating pentagon discovered by mathematician Richard Kershner in 1968. It can adapt to different spaces by changing the number and arrangement of module units – a process made swift and tool-less via an ingenious connector system.”
What’s your latest product? “UpHold is a collapsible cup made for hot beverages. My client, The Good & Peckish Company, is in the ethically sourced coffee and tea business, and wanted something with a social meaning. The plastic cup is washable in the sink or dishwasher and may be reused thousands of times. When we launched this product, in September, it sold out within a week. It will go into selected stores and supermarkets towards the end of this year. The 8oz cup has been so well received that in the pipeline for 2017 is a bigger version people can take to their coffee shop.