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Maison & Objet Autumn 2013: Asian Designers

Innovation from the East at the Parisian design trade show

by Isabelle Doal in Design on 12 September 2013

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The continuous blossoming of Asian designers is both evident and spectacular, especially concerning their contributions to innovation. It's no surprise that Singapore will host the inaugural Maison & Objet Asia in March 2014, as this year's Parisian exhibition already offered up a taste of intriguing and forward-thinking designs. From work rooted deeply in traditional craftsmanship to daydreams of a colorful future, here as some selections that CH feels warrant a mention.

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Observing a decline in the traditional Japanese design spirit and know-how, the aim of Japanese brand Colors is to conceive and develop new applications for this historic design philosophy and methods. The Cartesia desk was developed with this in mind. It's equipped with a highly innovative drawer system consisting of a two-directional structure. This means that the drawers, located at the corners, can be pulled out from both sides. With the help of its beautiful design and the use of extra light Japanese Tamo wood, it has become the flagship of the company.

Pursuing this application of traditional craftsmanship into a modern lifestyle, Colors has continued to develop many other innovative items. Their charcoal candle resembles a piece of wood and bursts with glowing resin when lit. They've also pioneered a recycled hangers system— developed after the simple concept "From Clothes to Clothes."

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Inspired by the traditional table-setting drawn from the zen concept, a new tableware set is composed of thin rectangular plates conceived to be slotted together like a building in construction. They can rest in various positions, either when displayed on a table or piled together and tidied up in the most space-sparing discreet way. The same system has inspired the Mag Containers—a set of wooden boxes connected to each other via embedded magnets.

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At the collective booth of the Seoul Design Foundation, we found four innovations that deserve mention. Each underlines not only the creativity of the young Korean designers, but also their sense of humor.

The Clip Pen by Mozi studio is the most forward and useful. Thanks to a slit carved along the pen, it can be clipped on to the cover of notebooks and files and even serve as a bookmark. It comes in a wide range of shiny colors and means users will never lose their pen or their page.

The peaked hat lighting shades by Yang Hye Eun are not only a smart nod to the Asian traditional accessory, but also include an interesting zipping system: The shade is sold flat as a piece of textile, and is then setup by zipping it around a lightbulb.

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The Mori book rest by Kwak Inhwan (which comes in two sizes) plays with the concept of the dog coat: The idea is to put an open book on the back of the sculpted dog to save a page, or display the book.

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The Rêve notebook by Lightree Design fully embraces the stereotype of daydreaming creatives. The notebook's cover is a puffy air cushion, perfect for napping, and it's even waterproof—in case the owner is a sleep-drooler. The notebook can also be used as a mouse-pad when opened and the pages are refillable.

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While paper and fabric bags are flourishing everywhere, Japanese designer Nobuhiro Sato reinvented the plastic bag for PE. His handbags, cases, card-holders and pouches are made of 24 layers of plastic (for the pouches, but much more for the bags) ironed together by hand with an ordinary household iron. The technique offers a shiny finish, while being ultra solid and waterproof.

The 2013 series of Ball Socks created by the Taiwanese company 25togo are fun and were on show for the very first time. Packaged in a ball form, they come in four playful styles: Sports, planets, skulls and billiards.

Mag Container and Cartesia desk images courtesy of Colors studio; all others by Isabelle Doal

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