Like countless young spirits before and after him, Daniel Shi landed in New York City one winter’s day in 1984 hungry to pursue his dreams. A graduate student in painting at the Pratt Institute, Shi, then 25, who is from Taiwan, couldn’t wait to begin exploring the world class museums and avant-garde art exhibitions that were drawing creatives from across the globe, despite the city’s then-urban decay.
But Shi soon decided he wanted to mix his love of art with something more practical, and he switched his focus to interior design. So, in addition to the gallery visits, he found himself wandering through midtown Manhattan on the hunt for fabric samples and other design materials that he needed for design class projects.
Much to his dismay, design showrooms had no interest in handing over their prized materials. “If you said you were a designer they would ask for a business card to prove you’re a professional,” Shi recalls. “But all we had were student ID’s.”
His luck changed upon entering Shaw Industries’ showroom, where the sales team was more than happy to furnish the young grad student with samples. Shi used the samples to compile material boards and other projects critical to learning how to craft design themes for clients. “Everyone else would say, sorry we only give to designers, but Shaw was really helpful,” he says.
Nearly three decades later, Shaw’s generosity shines brightly for Shi, who is now a successful interior designer in Chengdu, China. This vast metropolis in the country’s southwest also happens to be a prime focus for the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, which is building a carpet tile factory in Nantong, near Shanghai, to service to growing Asia-Pacific market. As Shaw works to understand what local companies are seeking, it needs input and cooperation from local designers. Now, Shi is in a position to support the newcomer in a foreign city. It is a twist of fate that brings a benefit no amount of marketing can buy: good karma.
Shaw’s investment in the next generation of designers continues to this day. Last year, the Shaw Contract Group design team collaborated with the Savannah College of Art and Design on a fiber art competition in which students submitted innovated designs for the company’s recent Natural Palette collection. The students experimented with herbs, metals and flowers, as well as indigenous weaving practices, to push the limits of color and texture. The winners’ designs were incorporated into the carpet tile line. The students behind them gained critical networking experience with industry leaders.
Half a world away, Shi has incorporated Shaw carpet into numerous projects across Asia and especially in China, where he has been based since 2000. China’s roaring economy has created tremendous opportunity for global companies and designers, most recently in the country’s interior boomtowns, like Chengdu. Since relocating from Beijing to Chengdu last year, Shi, the founder of the Formula Integration Design Center, has worked with both multinational and Chinese clients. But his design work is increasingly coming from domestic companies, including a 107,000-square-foot office space.
Shi’s connections to private companies and state-owned enterprises in Chengdu make him a valuable resource for Shaw. He sees the relationship as mutually beneficial in a country in which quality carpet is still largely a rare species. “I feel we’re helping each other,” he says. “In China there’s not so much good product for designers, so it’s great Shaw is opening for business here.”
Shi’s early support from Shaw has inspired him to pay it forward. Today, half of his staff is comprised of recent college graduates just as eager for to launch their careers as he once was. “I want to train them because they’re the future,” he says.