It’s a freezing December evening in Beijing, but 120 architects and designers have braved the frigid winds barreling down from Siberia to discover how color and light inspired Shaw Contract Group’s latest collections.
We’re chatting over glasses of chardonnay when suddenly the lamps go out and an ethereal figure in sequins appears in the center of the room. With a graceful wave of her arms, green lasers flicker and spread in a cloud of smoke. As she moves her arms, they appear to push the lasers – now purple, then pink – like bolts of glowing cloth. The crowd is silent, breathless and snapping photos of the performance with their smartphones, instantaneously posting the pictures to Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
This seamless display of movement, color and creativity echoes the design process at the heart of Shaw Contract Group.
After the performance, Marcy Ewing, a member of Shaw Contract Group’s design team confirms that notion. The collections on display grew out of months-long explorations of the world. Healing elements found beneath the earth’s surface inspire the “Unearthed” collection. High beams photographed in motion and Aurora Borealis shimmering across a pitch-black night sky are reflected in vibrant linear compositions in “Light Series.” An exploration of natural dyes and dyeing processes inform “Dip Dye,” reinterpreted ancient wash and dye techniques.
Ewing is here to launch these collections globally, with a focus on Asia-Pacific. With Shaw’s China-based production plant set to open in Nantong next year, feedback from the leaders of China’s design world is essential, she says. “We really want to understand the needs of our customers here and they really want to understand our process, so it’s amazing to have the opportunity to talk face to face.”
Chinese designers agree. As director of the Beijing-based design firm Inkmason, Kin Lam says that the creative journeys behind Shaw Contract Group’s patterns have helped lead him and his team to results clients want and appreciate. “These stories elaborate the bigger picture and allow us to evolve ideas into different dimensions,” he says.
For proof, he cited a recent design project for a Chinese technology company that Inkmason created, based on a minimalist Chinese garden. When Lam saw how the pattern in one of Shaw Contract Group’s carpet collection mimicked traditional Chinese brushstrokes, he was able to develop the concept into a complete package the client loved. “For any designer to be successful your creation has to have reason,” he says. “Shaw Contract Group’s designs all have logic and that links everything together.”
Shaw Contract Group’s ability to inspire the design conversation goes beyond the visual. Many designers here say they are noticing an increasing interest among China-based clients in environmental sustainability and they are happy to oblige. “A lot of companies now want green products, which are not only good for their brand but beneficial to their employees too,” says Steven Li, WTL Design’s Executive Director, as he sips a glass of wine. WTL has worked with Shaw Contract Group on several projects and expects many more as awareness of the need for environmentally sustainability grows here.
“We’re talking the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “This is just flooring material. Tomorrow it could be paint, the next day ceiling supplies – it all adds up to a more green China.”
See more images from this event on Shaw Contract Group’s Flickr page.