‘Childhood Series’ by Wanghe Studio

Wang He’s debut collection is designed for young urbanites

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China has a staggering 160 cities that each accommodate more than a million residents; at least fifteen of them are home to over 10 million people. The younger generations, like in many parts of the world, are drawn to these cities and the career prospects, culture and lifestyle they offer. Urban sprawl and density are increasingly serious issues in the world's most populous country, and with the recent end to its one-child policy, who knows what the future holds for affordability and average living space sizes.

Up-and-coming designer Wang He knows all too well the issues facing the younger generation who live in China's most crowded and expensive cities. Beijing, where he lives and works, ranks third in terms of overall population.

The young designer graduated from London's Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design programme and stayed on in the UK to take up a job offer at Theo Williams Studio. During his time with the studio Wang worked with clients such as IKEA and John Lewis & Partners — both of which helped shape the designer's ideas about affordability and design democracy.

Upon returning to his home city in 2016 Wang landed a job with the in-house design team of Chinese furniture brand ZaoZuo (read more in DA11), a brand quickly establishing a reputation for desirable, high-quality products made in China and designed by an impressive roster of international designers, including Sebastian Herkner and Luca Nichetto.

Earlier this year Wang moved on to establish his own company, Wanghe Studio. His breakout collection, titled ‘Childhood Series,’ was exhibited at the London Design Festival this September. Consisting of five essential pieces, the collection was designed with the younger generation in mind: ‘drifters,’ as Wang calls them, are those who sacrifice personal space for the dream of city living. The collection is meant to be affordable and appealing to these young urbanites.

The materials used are simple and don’t require expensive moulds or tooling. This means that production in China is quick and affordable, and the results are of good quality. The shapes, profiles and colours are playful and youthful, but most importantly they are lightweight and portable, with the rental market in mind.

As large cities the world over become increasingly crowded, average home sizes are shrinking while prices rise. The need for well-designed, flexible and affordable furnishings is not unique to China. However, taking the lead in the design and production of pieces so widely appealing and attainable may go a long way towards changing the stigma attached to the ‘Made in China’ label.

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Wanghe Studio

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