Steve Lau, CEO of Shanghai Design Week, discusses an ambitious collaboration between Shanghai Design Week and London Design Festival that seeks to build a bridge between East and West


Words: Will Moffitt

After making its much anticipated debut in September at the China Exchange Centre Shanghai Design Week will serve as a prominent global platform to spotlight Chinese innovation across diverse creative sectors, including architecture, art, fashion, and beauty, within the vibrant cultural hub of the UK capital.

This event marked the first overseas fashion and design event from China in London since the outbreak of Covid-19, and far from being a straightforward homage to China's creative heritage, Shanghai Design Week was also statement of ambition. The country was vocal in its aims to grow its creative design industry’s output to 2 trillion RMB by 2025 — an expectation of double digit growth annually.

To achieve this goal is seeks to build a bridge between the design industries of China and the UK in the form of a three-year cooperation memorandum between Shanghai Design Week (SHDW) and London Design Festival (LDF). We sat down with Steve Lau, CEO of Shanghai Design Week, to discuss what the cooperation entails, its focus on innovative, sustainable design, and how will London artists and designers can benefit from the partnership.

Can you tell me what we expect to see from the three-year cooperation memorandum between Shanghai Design Week and London Design Festival?

The three-year cooperation memorandum between Shanghai Design Week(SHDW) and London Design Festival(LDF) will seek to jointly build an open strategy on a diverse range of design exchange programs on the basis of mutual trust and benefit, to promote the exchange and cooperation of creative design and talents, and the interaction between industries and markets, jointly advance the in-depth cooperation between the two cities in wider fields of the creative industry, so as to promote the mutual development of design in China and the UK.

How important is sustainability within the London / Shanghai collaboration and what impact would you like this to have on a global scale?

Sustainability has been a key focus for SHDW and is incorporated and reflected in various aspects of what we have done during the past few years. London is the hub of creative and industries and we’ve seen excellent sustainable designs and ideas from London. And within the London/Shanghai collaboration, we will look to explore the many facets of sustainability given that it’s such a complicated issue and bring out more fresh perspectives and practices through exchange.

What other issues /themes might the partnership focus on during the 3 year collaboration?

The partnership programmes during the three-year collaboration is focused on bringing out the best of design from what’s presented on SHDW and LDF, curated around design issues/themes that are most relevant to both parties, and those that can generate that generate in-depth and truly long-term impact for attending stakeholders.

How will London artists and designers benefit from the collaboration specifically?

Built on carefully curated programmes, the collaboration will provide an open and flexible platform through activities such as exhibitions, forums, media publicity, business interaction opportunities and more, for London artists and designers to express their ideas and design interests, and explore possible collaboration. We would be delighted to see designers and relevant organisations from London establish all kinds of creative partnerships with stakeholders from the design field in Shanghai.

What are the development design trends globally are you specifically excited about?

We’re excited about practically all relevant design trends. We keep track of design trends of the global scale and get involved in relevant discussions and initiatives to build a unique world-class “design city”. Under the five major design domains, industrial design, architectural design, fashion design, digital design and service design, we’re especially interested to see how the current design trends are interpreted and evolved in different fields of design. And we offer such a platform where interdisciplinary design ideas collide and converge and inspire new creations.

Will there be more Sino-British collaborative projects happening in the near future?

Of course. With the successful landing of Design to Wonderland exhibition in September, we have introduced a group of Chinese brands and designers to make their first debut in London, and have also get to know many outstanding designers in London. Such exchange became the catalyst of ongoing connections. We’re keen to see it continues in the future.