If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, China has become master of sweet-talk, studying its neighbours' design innovations and tweaking them for its own discerning population. Now the innovative Dutch design outfit Droog has turned the tables with a new collection that pirates the pirates.
The practice recently launched 26 new pieces for the home, each of them indebted to classic Chinese design yet spun in a new and creative way. From a squat clay teapot that plays on traditional contours to a witty take on the fish tank, each 'New Original' improves upon the archetype, either in form, usability or simply the message it sends to the world. Replication, they seem to say, can actually be a driver for innovation.
The role-reversal was first proposed by Droog Lab, Droog's in-house think tank. Enlisting Chinese architects Urbanus, Hong Kong graphic designer Stanley Wong and Dutch designers Richard Hutten and the late Ed Annink, the Lab led a field trip to Shenzhen, hub of China's so-called copycat culture. In that environment the team studied the local design heritage while also surveying the modern approach to development.
The results go far towards alleviating the stigma of the copycat label while enabling a fresh appreciation to time-honoured products. Taking the theme one step further, the designers chose to exhibit the collection at the Zhen Jia shopping mall in Guangzhou, a neighbour of Shenzhen, where the original copycats can learn about us learning about them.