Asia’s beating heart: highlights from Singapore Design Week 2017

Nabha Make Up Desk
Nathan Yong collaborated with Indian brand Ipse Ipsa Ipsum at IFFS on a new furniture collection
(Image credit: Press)

‘There is no such thing as “Asian design”,’ says Ernie Koh, chairman of International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS), and also founder of successful Singaporean furniture brand Koda. ‘There is Chinese design, there is Thai design, but there isn’t a signature Asian aesthetic. That’s what Singapore is here for.’ With cultural influences flooding in from all over, Koh feels it is Singapore’s moment to create a powerful design trait that can be branded Asian.

All around the halls of IFFS at the Singapore Expo, SingaPlural at the F1 Pit Building, and many other locations around the city (including our very own Wallpaper* Handmade Classics at Gillman Barracks), you could feel a growing aura of design devotion during Singapore Design Week. Building up over the years, Singapore’s cultural heart is beating stronger that ever, and for the rest of the continent it seems. The design week even has its own furniture award that has been around since 1993, acting a platform for upcoming designers.

At IFFS, all the action took place around Singaporean design veteran Nathan Yong’s central pavilion. Titled ‘The White House’, the architectural structure was made up of hanging white ribbons and housed designs centred on the theme of whiteness and purity. Yong also celebrated multiple new launches at the fair, including a collaboration with Ipse Ipsa Ipsum. The shapely new range puts a contemporary spin on classic Indian craftsmanship of marble and metal. Showing for the second time at the fair, Journey East also launched new editions in its vibrant ‘PLAYplay’ collection by Italian-Singaporean design duo Lanzavecchia and Wai.

Elsewhere at the fair, international players also had a moment in the Asian spotlight; an exhibition titled ‘The Italian Hospitality’ curated by Giulio Cappelini acted as lounging space peppered with Italian design, classic through to contemporary.

New brand Ariake also showed the incredible potential of Singapore’s relationship with other design countries, marrying Japanese manufacturers with the likes of Swedish designer Staffan Holm and Norwegian designer Anderssen & Voll for an inaugural collection that includes side boards, table and chairs, led under the direction of Singaporean creative Gabrial Tan.

Heading back into the city, SingaPlural put on a show of installations and pop-ups offering up Singapore’s more experimental and artful side. Here Singaporean-based, Central Saint Martins graduate Olivia Lee launched her ‘Athena’ collection that nods to powerful feminine nature, while creative practice Dazingfeelsgood showcased a two-fold installation inspired by Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings, and brutalism.

Nathanyong Forindia

The range puts a modern spin on Indian metal and marble craft

(Image credit: Press)


Over at SingaPlural, Olivia Lee launched her 'Athena' collection, nodding to the power of women with an elegent vanity table, hand held mirrors, and trays carved as leaves

(Image credit: Press)

'PLAYplay' collection

Journey East made additions to its 'PLAYplay' collection designed by Lanzavecchia + Wai

(Image credit: Lanzavecchia + Wai)


The bright and bold range saw new 'Rail' desk and side console

(Image credit: Press)


Taking centre stage at IFFS, Nathan Yong's installation The White House played host to an exhibition of products centred on the theme of purity

(Image credit: Press)

Italian hospitality

Giulio Cappellini designed the Italian hospitality booth at the fair

(Image credit: Giulio Cappellini)

Cake for sharing

Hong Kong-based designer Grace Cheung showcased her collection, entitled 'Cake', which hones in on the concept of sharing. Left, eraser. Right, two-person straw

(Image credit: Grace Cheung)

'Kumiko' cabinet

New brand Ariake launched at IFFS, hinged on a collaboration between Japanese manufacturers and European designers. Pictured, 'Kumiko' cabinet by Staffan Holm

(Image credit: Press)

Japanese design

Japanese designer Hiroki Sakamoto won the Furniture Design Award with his sweet bean paste-inspired 'Yokan' Chair (left). Right, runner-up Taiwanese designer Shen Yu-Hao's bent wood 'N-S STOOL' was magnetically connected together

(Image credit: Hiroki Sakamoto . Shen Yu-Hao)


We hosted our Wallpaper* Handmade Classics exhibition ‘MultipliCITY’ at contemporary art space Gillman Barracks. Pictured: installation view of 'Shoe Tree' by Beatrix Ong and Joined + Jointed, for Handmade 2016

(Image credit: Beatrix Ong and Joined + Jointed)

Singa plural

Also on view at SingaPlural, Dazingfeelssogood showcased a two-fold installation inspired by Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings (left) and brutalism (right)

(Image credit: Press)

'Chit Chaat' stools

Finalists of last year's Furniture Design Award, Indian brand Bombay Bungalow returned to IFFS with its new 'Chit Chaat' stools. For the collection, designer Parth Sharma hoped to portray a modernist view of Bombay street life

(Image credit: Parth Sharma)

District eight

Vietnamese brand District Eight launched its 'Salk' collection with dark accents of charred wood, smoked oak and blackened steel

(Image credit: Press)


For more information, visit the Singapore Design Week website

Sujata Burman is a writer and editor based in London, specialising in design and culture. She was Digital Design Editor at Wallpaper* before moving to her current role of Head of Content at London Design Festival and London Design Biennale where she is expanding the content offering of the showcases. Over the past decade, Sujata has written for global design and culture publications, and has been a speaker, moderator and judge for institutions and brands including RIBA, D&AD, Design Museum and Design Miami/. In 2019, she co-authored her first book, An Opinionated Guide to London Architecture, published by Hoxton Mini Press, which was driven by her aim to make the fields of design and architecture accessible to wider audiences.