Highlights from Design Shanghai 2023: ‘Now is the golden age of Chinese design’

Our Design Shanghai 2023 highlights, from leading Chinese designers and brands to emerging creatives

Design Shanghai 2023: frank chou display
(Image credit: Courtesy Frank Chou)

Design Shanghai 2023, Asia’s largest design fair, returned for its 10th edition in June, and this year proved to be one of the most expansive yet. 600 brands and studios hailing from China and 40 other countries set up shop at Shanghai’s Expo Center in riverside Pudong. 

Over the four days, in addition to the product launches and brand presentations, Design Shanghai organised talks by international designers such as Neri&Hu’s Rossana Hu, Zandra Rhodes and Ross Lovegrove; curated exhibitions, including a survey of contemporary weaving in China; and hosted an off-site partner festival in the Xintiandi district that inserted interactive design installations by up-and-coming names across the busy shopping district.

While there was a significant presence of international brands — like Acerbis, Christofle and Gubi, all of whom were debuting new projects in Asia — the fair’s main draw was the homegrown talent. As the first edition since visitors have been able to freely travel to the country since the pandemic, the wealth of new studios, many having opened in the past three years, proved rich. 'If you are a designer and you are in China at this moment, you are lucky,' Zhuo Tan, the fair’s founder, told Wallpaper*. 'Because now is the golden age of Chinese design.'


Talents Section

Design Shanghai new talent

envy envy’s ‘Beat’ collection

(Image credit: Courtesy Design Shanghai)

Among the feature presentations, one of the most anticipated was the Talents exhibition, a cross-section of up-and-coming designers and studios predominantly based in China. Twenty-two independent studios were chosen by designer Frank Chou and, unsurprisingly, the selection represented a wide range of concepts and ideas. 

Design Shanghai new talent

(Image credit: Courtesy Design Shanghai)

From File Studio’s jigsaw-like furniture made of coloured metal sheets to Restudio’s slouching textile-based vessels composed of traditional cloth produced by the Dong people of southern China, which won the Best Experimental Product Design award. Another highlight was envy envy’s ‘Beat’ collection, formed of square aluminium tubes that have been strategically battered, named Best Art Product Design.

Frank Chou

Design Shanghai 2023: frank chou display

(Image credit: Courtesy Frank Chou)

As the curator of the Talents section, Frank Chou had a significant presence at the fair, but his own contribution was also of particular note. Chou riffed on classic Bauhaus-style design with his Stand coffee table, composed of a low, round body with a glass top, it trades the movement’s typical palette of utilitarian materials with soft upholstered wool, proving a particularly effective contrast. 


Design Shanghai 2023: Bias

(Image credit: Courtesy Bias)

Recently-launched lighting brand Bias was one of the most captivating we found at Design Shanghai. Founded in 2021, Bias debuted the first standing floor lamp in their Chao-Xi collection, the Chaoxi-6. Utilising industrial aluminium die-cast casing, the spindly lamp is formed of six stacked modular units that have been programmed to softly pulse roughly at the rate of human breath, meant to elicit a feeling of calm.


Design Shanghai 2023: U+

(Image credit: Courtesy U+)

Design shanghai 2023: u+

(Image credit: Courtesy U+)

The line to enter U+’s stand, one of China’s most popular furnishing brands, was amongst the longest at the fair. Their sprawling booth contained many of their most popular designs, but much of the attention was on the latest launch, the Rong Armchair designed by Shen Baohong. Formed of a slim, stainless steel frame with a smooth leather seat and narrow backrest, the defining feature is the wire-thin armrest supports, which are tightly twisted similar to the neck of a coat hanger. 

Papa Furniture

Design Shanghai 2023: Papa Furniture

(Image credit: Courtesy Papa Furniture)

Four-year-old brand Papa was present at the fair with a colourful booth reminiscent of a circus tent complete with an oversize disco ball hanging in the centre, which threw swatches of light onto their showing of colour-blocked chairs, screen and stools. However, the brand’s latest launch, the DouDou designed by Yuyao Zhou — a solid wood dining chair with softly curved lines, a woven wool seat and a bright, lacquered wood finish — was front and centre.

Laura May Todd, Wallpaper's Milan Editor, based in the city, is a Canadian-born journalist covering design, architecture and style. She regularly contributes to a range of international publications, including T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Azure and Sight Unseen, and is about to publish a book on Italian interiors.