Last September, we witnessed the launch of China’s very own designer furniture label, ZaoZuo. Ten months later, the brand has expanded from a digital to a physical presence with the opening of its first flagship store in the capital.
Shu Wei, the founder of ZaoZuo – which means ‘design and production’ in Chinese – invited Italian designer Luca Nichetto to be its creative director, with the mission to form the best possible international design team, to serve the rapidly growing Chinese middle class. ‘When Shu approached me, I thought, "Finally, I've got the chance to do something for the target group I have never had the chance to touch in Europe",' says Nichetto. ‘I want to create a collection that is original, well designed and at a truly affordable price.’ There are more than 40 new products in the pipeline, due to be launched at Beijing Design Week this autumn; among the new names to the team are Noé Duchaufour Lawrance, Constance Guisset and Palomba Serafini Associati.
The 300 sq m Beijing flagship store employs a simple floor-to-ceiling grid display system, similar to those of high-street fashion retailers. ‘It is also like a blank white 3D notebook; we fill in the pages with our vast range of products to help people to imagine the life that they want,’ Nichetto says. The space is divided into three sections, respectively showcasing the label’s accessories, furniture and lighting collections. Customers can learn the story of each design and inspect it from different angles. To give an idea of how affordable the collection is, the two-seater 'Pebble Sofa' by Form Us With Love is priced from RMB2,999 (£340) while the 'Jellyfish' lamp by Note Design Studio is from RMB365 (£42).
One of the positive challenges the startup faces is to find the right balance between quality and quantity, as it needs to produce fast enough to meet the immense demand from its domestic market. But it doesn’t stop Shu and Nichetto from thinking big. The brand is already planning its next steps – stores are due to open soon in Shanghai and Chengdu, to be followed by launches in the US and European markets. Nichetto says: ‘There are no “Chinese” markets, and we don’t need to think only in the “Chinese” way, because what Chinese people need are exactly what we need in Europe and what Americans need in America – nice things, with a nice price.’