World's fair: what to expect from Design Shanghai 2016

latest collection
Design Shanghai – China's largest design show – opens today. Emerging homegrown brand WUU has been making small and delectable pieces out of concrete. Its latest collection – launching at the fair– comes in ultramarine blue with brass details
(Image credit: TBC)

China’s biggest design show opens in Shanghai today. Design Shanghai, on view until 12 March 2016, will host around 300 exhibitors and welcome more than 42,000 visitors. International design brands like Vitra, Magis, HAY, Cassina, Moroso and Swarovski will be in residence alongside many established and emerging Chinese designers and brands. 'We started off two years ago with about 80 per cent international brands, now we are at the 50/50 mark and it’s good to have that balance,' says Ross Urwin, creative director for the international trade fair. 

Of the homegrown designers to look out for, the Xiamen-based duo WUU is at the top of Urwin’s list. Wuu’s designer Chen Furong won the AD China Emerging Designers award in 2015, an initiative set up by Urwin, for his 'innovative approach and contemporary aesthetics'. Chen returns this year with his own stand and more pieces exploring the use of concrete in small everyday items. In the past, he has made unexpected table accessories such as cellotape dispensers and tape measure holders out of the construction material; this year at Design Shanghai, WUU will be showing a series of concrete tabletop containers and accessories decked out in brilliant ultramarine blue and featuring contrasting elements such as brass lids and bases. With confirmed participation in this year’s Wallpaper* Handmade event in Milan and the launch of a new lighting range in the summer, 2016 is set to be a big year for WUU.

Highlights among the products being showed as part of this year’s emerging designers platform include Yuan Liang’s 'Water Ripples' series of low and high stools and tables made out of recycled newspaper (created in response to what he sees as the environmental degradation of life in Chinese cities); Beijing-based Yin Sheng’s sculptural table, seat and shelf made out of walnut and vegetable tanned leather; and Mario Tsai’s 'Basket Tables', the lightweight metal frames of which make them easy to lift and move around.

With the exponential growth in creative studios, design companies and architecture practices in China (over 10 million at the last count), design is an emerging and growing trend that is destined for big things, believes Urwin. 'When I came to China eight years ago I worked for a fashion brand and it was all about the new season’s bags and shoes,' he says. 'Then art really took hold of China and everyone was mad about art. Now it’s time for the design world to shine. There’s a new design movement that is coming from China and it’s really exciting.'

mist screen

Highly accomplished Beijing-based designer Darui Chen (lead designer of the Maxmarko brand) is showing, among others, his sculptural 'Mist' screen. His work references Chinese culture but also celebrates highly contemporary forms and shapes

(Image credit: press)

Basket Tables

Mario Tsai is showing his 'Basket Tables' range as part of the Emerging Designers Platform. The lightweight metal frame means you can lift the tables with one hand while you hold your coffee cup in the other

(Image credit: press)

Beijing-based Yin Sheng’s tactile and sculptural table

Beijing-based Yin Sheng’s tactile and sculptural table, seat and shelf are made out of walnut wood and vegetable tanned leather. The tabletop can double up as a tray

(Image credit: press)

stools and tables

This series of high and low stools and tables carries a water ripple design and is made out of recycled newspaper. Its designer, Yuan Liang, is concerned with sustainability and what he sees as a reduction of quality of life in many Chinese cities due to increased pollution

(Image credit: press)

cabinet and screen

A new design movement is growing in China that celebrates homegrown craft and craftsmanship and embraces contemporary aesthetics. This cabinet and screen by SUYAB perfectly demonstrates this duality

(Image credit: press)


Beijing-based Frank Chou Design Studio returns with a series of chunky yet minimalist armchairs and side tables called 'Bold'. The armchair comes in monochromatic black-and-white but is also upholstered in electric turquoise

(Image credit: press)

time killer

This rather dramatic timepiece by young Berlin-based duo yuue design is called 'Time Killer'. The pair specialise in conceptual and behavioural design pieces and this one is no exception: when no-one is present the blade of the saw moves downwards and slowly cuts through the clock. As soon as someone shows up, it stops!

(Image credit: press)


For more information, visit Design Shanghai’s website


Shanghai Exhibition Centre
Nanjing W Road


Giovanna Dunmall is a freelance journalist based in London and West Wales who writes about architecture, culture, travel and design for international publications including The National, Wallpaper*, Azure, Detail, Damn, Conde Nast Traveller, AD India, Interior Design, Design Anthology and others. She also does editing, translation and copy writing work for architecture practices, design brands and cultural organisations.