Following the evolution of Chinese society, design values are changing in China
SHANGHAI – On Friday June 6th 2014, Genevieve Flaven, CEO or Style-Vision Asia was invited as an expert to participate to a panel discussion organized by Yang Design on China design trends and hosted by the DS team from PSA in the DS flagship store in Shanghai.
DS is the new venture of the French car manufacturer PSA to tap into the fast growing premium car segment in China. Jamy Yang who founded the design agency Yang Design in 2005 is the curator of the ongoing exhibition that celebrates the début of DS in China. The exhibition presents the past, present and future of the DS concept while stimulating all the senses: touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste. One of the interesting aspect of the installation are the white curtains that partially hide the cars. “This is very unusual in the automotive industry to hide products. The norm is to show everything”, said Johan Ily, DS brand marketing director, “but we liked the idea of Jamy. It is indeed not hiding the car but revealing it through its distinctive details”.
While the three German brands Audi, BMW and Volkswagen are undisputed leaders of the status driven luxury cars, the DS concept finds its niche on the Chinese market by promoting a sense of fashionable elegance and finesse that increasingly speak to new luxury consumers and particularly to Chinese affluent women. The design language of the DS clearly moves away from the core values of Grandeur and Opulence, which characterizes Chinese design according to Huang Xiaojing, strategy director of Yang Design.
How design values evolve? Yang Design and Style-Vision discussed then two major social issues of China and their consequences on design.
First, income inequality is growing in China and according to a recent China Household Finance Survey, the top tenth of Chinese households earns 57% of the total income in 2010. From a design point of view, this reinforces the polarization of the market with affordable products for the mass on the one hand and on the other hand high-end items for affluent consumers. Designers in China are often obsessed with luxury and exclusive design. However, the challenge is perhaps today in the search of inclusive design for the mass.
Secondly, Chinese cities suffocate from pollution: according to 2013 statistics, 74 Chinese cities had annual pollution levels worse than moderately polluted and over 66% were worse than highly polluted and this accounts for 1.2 million premature deaths annually. Integrated eco-friendly design and inspiration from medical products will certainly become more popular in China to improve and control the quality of their environment. However, a challenge for designers will be to engage consumers and manufacturers to adopt more responsible attitudes. In a world of instantaneity, capturing the attention of the consumers on the topic of long term sustainability is a greatest challenge that Chinese designers will have to address in the future.
The topic of sustainability and scarcity was as well the theme of the event Designing Shanghai, organized by the nonprofit organization Techizu at the Region Rhone-Alpes Pavilion in Shanghai on June 7th. Designing Shanghai provides free training to the local community Chinese and international young designers, engineers and marketers willing to know more about creativity and innovation. Genevieve Flaven participated as facilitator of the workshop focused on “Material Waste”. It appears quickly to the group that the objective of reducing consumption to minimize the usage of material and thus, waste, was difficult to achieve in today’s China. However, transforming waste into resources for new usages and new consumers was much more appealing and promising. No doubt that it will sparkle new business opportunities in the future.
The two events show that Chinese designers are increasingly conscious that their creative ideas has an active role to play in the transformation of the society and consumer attitudes and this is good news!
Genevieve Flaven is CEO of Style-Vision Asia