Design & Living

DESIGN MAKES SHENZHEN RISE

t专题FEATURE

Runway show of A Tree Grows, the Gold Award Winner of 2019 Shenzhen Global Design Award. Photo credit: JANCHO

Runway show of A Tree Grows, the Gold Award Winner of 2019 Shenzhen Global Design Award. Photo credit: JANCHO

“Shenzhen Design” is a concept that is constantly evolving and being enriched over time. It permeates into almost all aspects of urban life and sets out to convey the contemporary life philosophy, values, and aesthetics of Shenzhen: the City of Design.

With a prominent reserve of leading Chinese designers and brands, Shenzhen has elevated its presence through and by design. Along with the rise of oriental aesthetics, it has witnessed the development of design as a part of China’s art and cultural renaissance. A Tree Grows, the Gold Award winner at the 2019 Shenzhen Global Design Award, and TTF, a designer jewelry brand that advocates aesthetics and philosophy of the Song Dynasty, are two examples of such trends. In this “Design & Life” section, we asked four “representative designers” based in Shenzhen to share their stories of the fast-growing city, and their secret recipe of blending design and life with a wide range of influences.

 

01

Xing Lili
Gambiered Guangdong silk for modern couture

In Dadawa’s dreamlike, distant singing voice, JANCHO, a fashion brand, presented its collection, A Tree Grows, at the ceremony of the 2019 Shenzhen Global Design Award in a classic oriental setting. “Bright moon gleams; My dear love beams……The moon shines bright; My love’s snow-white.…” The lingering charm of the oriental beauty illustrated with the poem from the Book of Songs in this seven-minute show was the award winner’s self-explanatory interpretation.

Between Clouds and Waters, SS20 Collection. Photo credit: JANCHO

As a contemporary fashion brand in China, JANCHO specializes in applying traditional crafts in modern times, particularly through the use of gambiered Guangdong silk (or mud silk) – a national intangible cultural heritage of Guangdong Province, China. The tradition of using handmade, natural materials severely limited its supply, because it required more complex techniques and a longer production cycle. Gradually, the desire for this precious silk faded away and even disappeared at the end of the last century. In the past decade, however, thanks to the dedication of professionals, mud silk has been brought back from the verge of extinction. But its strong association with traditional culture unavoidably led to such stereotypes as “Chinese Style” or “new oriental style”. The public’s concept of this material is that it is often used for traditional chi-pao and mandarin jackets, and also that it is associated with middle-aged and elderly people.


"In The Complicated Production Process, There Is No Process That Can Be Replaced By Machines. It Is Not Only The Delicate Coordination Of Human, But Also More Dependent On The Care Of Nature — Sunlight, Herbs And Soil Are All Production Materials. Every Inch Of The Unique ’Personality’ Of The Cloud, Is A Dialogue With Nature."

 Gambiered Guangdong silk production: river mud application. Photo credit: JANCHO

Gambiered Guangdong silk production: river mud application. Photo credit: JANCHO
By upholding the faith of “Design Brings Renaissance of Craft Art”, JANCHO remains focused on building a bridge between craft, fashion, and art. It is, no doubt, the practitioner and inheritor of the oriental aesthetic legacy that is deeply rooted in the Chinese traditional aesthetics and the cultural life of high-class elegance and grace.

Xing also said that the long-term support and care from Shenzhen has enhanced designers’ confidence, because it has offered a pioneering and inclusive environment with a global vision and local strengths. The Shenzhen Global Design Award provides leading designers from home and abroad with a vast platform for exchange. In an environment seeking diversified, multi-angled and inter-disciplinary practice, crossover design has been a long-time pursuit of JANCHO. The brand talks to the key opinion leaders of contemporary art and lifestyle, and produces crossover derivatives with movies, music pieces, paintings, and other classy artworks. It has played a positive role in bringing aesthetics closer to people’s daily life through its bridge connecting folk crafts, fashion and art.

Runway show of A Tree Grows, the Gold Award Winner of 2019 Shenzhen Global Design Award. Photo credit: JANCHO

 

02

Li Jiong
Design for the City’s Highlights

Li Jiong is a designer dedicated to using design to intervene in people’s lives. After moving to Shenzhen in 2003, he started his own business in 2006. His designs address Shenzhen’s needs for its city image to be promoted, including the city logo of Shenzhen, as well as the logos of “Shenzhen Gift”, the Motorcycle Patrol Unit of Shenzhen Traffic Police, and the Shenzhen Symphony Children’s Choir (SSCC). The SSCC logo, designed by Li, is adorable and full of children’s playfulness. It gives a rhythmic visual effect with six singing children abstractly drawn with music notes and its English abbreviation, SSCC. According to Li, he gained inspiration from his daily experience with children. The simple yet delightful design proposal was widely recognized, and has won him this year’s Red Dot Design Award.


Logo of Shenzhen Symphony Children’s Choir (SSCC). Photo credit: Zdesign


Performance by SSCC. Photo credit: SSCC

Poster design for SSCC. Photo credit: Zdesign


Poster design for SSCC. Photo credit: Zdesign


When it comes to the design for the Motorcycle Patrol Unit of Shenzhen Traffic Police, “There were two challenges. One was to highlight the local features of Shenzhen, and the other was to tailor it to the motorbikes. We designed a special set of Chinese and English fonts for this project, and adopted “SZ” (Shenzhen in abbreviation) as the basic element for the pattern. In Chinese, “Shen” refers to the water, while “Zhen” to the land. So, we chose blue and yellow to represent the city and the land, respectively, and organized them into a two-dimensional composition of moving arrows. The completed pattern symbolizes the city of Shenzhen as a place that seeks innovation and is always marching forward. The logo is a combination of a sense of speed and the pioneering spirit of Shenzheners. It is simple, straight-forward, and easily identifiable.”

Visual design for the Motorcycle Patrol Unit of Shenzhen Traffic Police. Photo credit: Zdesign

Visual design for the Motorcycle Patrol Unit of Shenzhen Traffic Police. Photo credit: Zdesign

Visual design for the Motorcycle Patrol Unit of Shenzhen Traffic Police. Photo credit: Zdesign

Over the course of a decade-long career, Li has come up with his own design theory which he calls “vertical design”. By vertical [Chinese: 纵], he reads from the word that a thread [“纟”] connects one person with another [“从”]. The very thread of design connects all disciplines of design together and, as a result, links the individuals who are exposed to the process, and works to realize person-to-person, person-to-brand, and person-to-product connections. That will ultimately lead to commercial conversion. As a designer, he believes that unique creativity is essential. But more importantly, the awareness of “vertical integration [Chinese: 合纵]” needs to be nurtured, which means to “integrate the joint efforts from different people to conquer the strong rival”. The word “vertical” can be interpreted as a uniting force for solidarity. Therefore, “vertical design” is to unite together different design skills and methods without being limited to a certain form or a way of presentation. The purpose is to take a more holistic, integrated approach to create appropriate solutions. Li believes that the “vertical” approach is the key to design, as the solution to all kinds of challenges and needs. It is the link to form a “design system”.

 

03

Fei
A contemporary music activist

The Old Heaven Books and B10 Live, located at the northern end of the OCT-LOFT, are familiar names to the young book lovers and music fans in Shenzhen. These two art and cultural spaces share a lot in common, as Fei is both the founder of Old Heaven and the event curator of B10. Every year, B10 hosts almost 300 performances, of which the most famous ones are the OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival and the Tomorrow Festival. And Fei is the initiator of both events.

Live performance at OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival. Photo by Meng Xiangyuan

The OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival and the Tomorrow Festival have been successfully staged for 9 years and 6 years, respectively. If music event curation could be understood as a form of design, Fei would be one of the chief designers of the events. Each session of the events is an expression of the music preference and the taste of Fei and his team. It’s reflected in every single detail, including the guest performers, the implementation, the poster and pamphlet design, the live recording, and the CD production and publishing. Fei believes that the music festivals have been designed with a style tinted with a contemporary touch. Being contemporary to the outside world and niche to the local audience, the events have gained a good reputation and become a force of influence in the music community. Many from out of town and even overseas fly here every year for the events. For the out-of-town fans, in addition to the concerts, side events are scheduled for three or four days, including lectures and workshops. Bands, producers, music archive directors, editors of famous music magazines, and other music professionals are invited, based on the fans’ wish lists, to the intense sharing and brainstorming sessions on the contemporary music culture happening in Shenzhen. From Fei’s point of view, it is an innovation by the OCT-LOFT that cannot be easily replicated anywhere else in China.

Live performance at OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival. Photo by Meng Xiangyuan

Live performance at OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival. Photo by Meng Xiangyuan

“The musicians we have invited are the ones who have also left their marks on our lives. The festivals have welcomed fans from all over China, full of passion and enthusiasm. I still remember the year when a typhoon hit the city badly and we had almost 600 guests with us. Even the musicians were surprised. The heat in the air and the passion in their eyes gave us all déjà vu of the East Village of New York City in the 1970s. The music scene in Shenzhen has taken years of effort in building and expanding our fans. The success comes from every one of them. We spent 20 years digesting the 100-year-old western music culture, trying to find the real “food”. During that process, we developed a special – or rather unusual – capability of digesting music. We have finally blazed our own trail out of the weeds. Now, in front of eyes lies the beautiful scenery, delightful and full of fun,” said Fei. For Shenzhen, Fei is, no doubt, an advocator of contemporary, avant-garde music. This year is the 20th year since he moved to the city. Starting from performing in clubs and playing movies in cinemas in the earlier days, he has made himself a bookshop owner, music festival curator, and music publishing expert. He is the witness, participant, and advocator of contemporary music that has grown from a seed in a minor community to an attractive cultural landscape in the city of Shenzhen.

Posters of OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival and Tomorrow Festival. Photo credit: B10 Live


04

Frank Wu
The contemporary translation of traditional Chinese culture

Frank has been busy curating the jewelry session of the “Shenzhen Design for 40 Years” at the 2020 Shenzhen Design Week. He has picked 88 pieces of jewelry works from the 40-year history of jewelry design in Shenzhen. Arduous as the task is, he has fully engaged himself in the preparation for months with tremendous passion.Frank is the founder and art director of TTF, a fine jewelry brand. In the jewelry design community in Shenzhen and even in China, he stands out as a typical example of success. In June 2018, TTF opened its first boutique shop at 9, Rue de la Paix in Paris. It was the first presence of a Chinese jewelry brand since the 18th century in the Place Vendome area, the world center of luxury jewelry. The story of TTF can be traced back to 10 years ago when Frank started the jewelry brand with his ambitious pursuit. It took him 10 years to develop TTF into a world-class brand.

The Phoenixt, selected for Sotheby’s “Jewels of Curiosity: Ode to Nature” online auction. Photo credit: TTF

Frank describes his design philosophy and aesthetic pursuit with four words: implicitness, profoundness, ethereality, and elegance. It originates from the aesthetic stance in the Song Dynasty, and is Frank’s approach to the contemporary “art renaissance” in China through jewelry design. From his point of view, that is also an important path leading to breakthroughs and innovation in China’s contemporary jewelry design. Guided by this philosophy, TTF has presented to the market multiple high-class collections, including Imperial Magnolia, The Golden Pheasant, From Beijing to Paris, and Water Rhythm. The collections were also admired by celebrities such as Sophie Marceau, Juliet Binoche and Isabelle Huppert.

Imperial Magnolia (exquisite craftsmanship). Photo credit: TTF

The contemporary translation of traditional Chinese culture calls for a unique approach rather than blindly following western standards. For Frank, this is an avenue of design that leads to the future. He has been practicing with his own professional dedication to measuring the journey ahead.

 Text/Xie Xiangnan