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8 design studios grow global ambition with Dsg's support

12 min read

Eight Singapore design studios, to be mentored by four veteran in-market consultants, aim to gain foothold into key overseas furniture and lifestyle product markets.

Products by (from top right clockwise direction) Lanzavecchia [Tracing Identity Scribble], Jarrod Lim [Chrystalline tealights & Candles], Orcadesign [Flipper Mira], Gabriel Tan [Detail Column Chest for Ariake + Chair Ariake], wohabeing [Bintan Collection].

What will it take for a homegrown design brand to become a globally-recognised one?

Probably oodles of talent, consistently great work, persistent knocking on doors, compelling brand story, and maybe a lucky break here and there. In a nutshell: it can be a long and tough journey.

Now, eight Singapore-based design studios will get a bit of a leg up thanks to their participation in the inaugural run of the DesignSingapore Council’s (Dsg) Business of Design (BOD) programme, which focuses on furniture and lifestyle products. The selected studios are Gabriel Tan Studio, Jarrod Lim DesignLanzavecchia + WaiOlivia Lee AssociatesOrcadesignSCENE SHANGStudio Juju and wohabeing

The American Hardwood Pavilion designed by Jarrod Lim using thermally-modified timber.

We believe that through the … partnership, we’ll be able to transform our business to cater to international audiences and provide growth to the brand and business.

Jessica Wong, Designer and Co-Founder, SCENE SHANG

Gaining access to key markets

All eight have made forays into markets such as Europe, China and Japan with product collections and projects. They were among others that had responded to Dsg’s public call for expression of interest for the BOD programme during Singapore Design Week 2019.

The BOD programme will help the designers grow their brand internationally and gain access to key markets in Europe, the USA and China. Ultimately, the aim is to grow the export value of Singapore design by generating new business opportunities.

A panel of four veteran in-market consultants were appointed to assess and shortlist the applicants. The final eight studios were picked for their compelling and unique brand philosophies and aspiration towards excellent and impactful design, as well as their strong business fundamentals and ability to scale up production to meet international demand.

XUAN table by Scene Shang was designed based on the harmony of age-old traditions and contemporary purpose.

“SCENE SHANG’s vision is to be the go-to … lifestyle brand that celebrates the beauty of Asian culture,” said co-founder Jessica Wong. “We also hope … to bring our brand to overseas markets, providing new designs and experiences that are different but still carry the DNA of SCENE SHANG.

The BOD programme has paired SCENE SHANG with mentors that have a depth of experience in growing businesses for an international audience. We believe that through the … partnership, we’ll be able to transform our business to cater to international audiences and provide growth to the brand and business.”

Sharpening the sell

To help the eight studios penetrate the major furniture and lifestyle product markets, the four consultants will work closely with the designers to identify and secure business connections and, eventually, contracts with international brands, manufacturers, commercial owners and specifiers.

The Ulu Outdoor furniture collection by wohabeing combines modernist aesthetics with silhouettes inspired by the cultural history of Bali and Nias islands.

The veterans will mentor the designers by sharpening and strengthening their portfolios and honing their skills in business pitching.

The consultants were chosen for their extensive business networks and experience in the key markets as well as mentorship experience. They are Nathan Yong of Nathan Yong Design, Tony Chambers, former Editor-in-Chief of Wallpaper*, Lin Wei of United Design Practice and Rita Bonucchi of Bonucchi e associati srl. (More information about them here)

“Being selected for the BOD gives us the opportunity to take full advantage of our expertise in the Italian design scene and business landscape of manufacturers with our experience in Singapore to leverage the remarkable opportunities available,” said Bonucchi.

Work has begun, she revealed, with the three design studios she is mentoring. The work includes developing a new business model to analysing brands’ media exposure in Europe, as well as matching them to suitable partners in Italy.

Besides providing mentorship and business opportunities, the BOD programme will also enable the designers to build brand assets and garner media coverage with in-market public relations support. The first run of the BOD programme will culminate in showcases of the studios’ collective works at identified platforms.


Gabriel Tan Studio has designed furniture and products for Blå Station, Menu, Design Within Reach, The Conran Shop, Ishinomaki Lab, Lemnos Clocks, Authentics and Abstracta. Founder Gabriel Tan is also the creative director of Turn handles, Japanese furniture brand Ariake and Portuguese craft brand Origin. His works have won the Industrial Designers Society of America’s IDEA Award, Japan Good Design Award, the President’s Design Award and have been exhibited at design fairs globally.

Jarrod Lim Design focuses on developing creative concepts for furniture and products as well as distinctive spatial designs for interiors, exhibitions and public locations. Established in Singapore in 2011, the studio has created interiors and products for global brands such as Herman Miller, Royal Selangor, Oasia Hotel and more. Founder Jarrod Lim has worked for several acclaimed international design houses including the studio of Patricia Urquiola in Milan and the iconic furniture brand SCP, in London.

Lanzavecchia + Wai is a creative collaboration between Francesca Lanzavecchia and Hunn Wai. Their interests lie in the relationships that objects have and can have with the human body and soul as well as future trends. The creatives feed off each other’s different cultural and creative backgrounds, knowledge and skillsets to create works. The studio has garnered attention and accolades at major design platforms such as the SaloneSatellite, Fuori Salone and the Triennale Design Museum in Milan (IT), DepotBasel (CH), Interieur Kortrijk (BE), IMM in Cologne (DE), The Design Museum in London (UK), and Reciprocity Design Liege (BE).

Olivia Lee Associates is a multidisciplinary studio grounded in industrial design, but spanning product to spatial design, research insights to ideation with the goal of creating unique experiences. It has produced work for international partners such as Hermès, The Balvenie, Samsung, Mathmos, Bank of Singapore and the British Council. Principal designer Olivia Lee’s works have been presented internationally in Europe and featured in Wallpaper*, Icon, Dezeen, Axis, Intramuros and Disegno. In 2018, Olivia as named as one of Dezeen’s “Top 10 Designers to Watch from Milan Design Week 2018”.

Orcadesign is a design and innovation consultancy firm that advocates a human-centred approach. It works closely with SMEs, start-ups and global brands to solve problems, uncover business opportunities, innovate and grow sustainably. Orcadesign’s multidisciplinary and multicultural team comprises researchers, designers and engineers. Its work has gained international recognition such as the President’s Design Award (Singapore), iF Award (Germany), Red Dot Award (Germany), Good Design (Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Chicago) and IDEA (Industrial Design Excellence Awards).

SCENE SHANG is a contemporary furniture, homeware and lifestyle brand based in Singapore with roots in a rich Asian heritage. The brand works closely with traditional artisans from Asia to reimagine the silhouettes of yesteryear for the urban home, amassing in a trove of heirloom furniture and decorative fittings, each their own stories to tell. Among its award-winning products is the SHANG System – a modular storage system that combines the best of traditional Chinese design and contemporary sensibilities – which received a special commendation in the President’s Design Award in 2014.

Studio Juju is led by Timo Wong and Priscilla Lui to practice design across disciplines in furniture, products and spaces. It was honoured the “Designers of the Future” by Design Miami/ Basel 2011, based on a body of work that demonstrated originality in the creative process as well as a high level of refinement in the finished pieces. In the same year, they won the Design Report Award at SaloneSatellite in Milan, presenting a collection of vessels titled ‘Drum Cases’, ‘Dough & Piatti’ and ‘Wobble & Mushrooms’. In 2014, the studio received the President’s Design Award, the highest recognition for design in Singapore for their ‘Rabbit & Tortoise Collection’ for Living Divani.

wohabeing is about living well by living simply and sustainably and celebrating the beauty of the world. It is a design brand by WOHA, an award-winning Singapore-based architectural practice that has gained global recognition for integrating environmental and social principles into every stage of the design process. WOHA, which has garnered several President’s Design Awards, has designed interior objects for over 20 years, in the context of their architectural projects. wohabeing collaborates with partners, with excellent social and environmental sustainability credentials as well as superb craftsmanship and skills.


Nathan Yong is a veteran Singaporean designer who runs a multi-disciplinary design consultancy practice. Yong, who was the President’s Design Award Designer of the Year in 2008, has been profiled in international magazines including Wallpaper*, Monocle, Surface and Dwell. His clients include Design Within Reach (USA), Ligne Roset (France), Living Divani (Italy), Domicil (Germany) and Grafunkt (Singapore).

Tony Chambers spent 15 years at Wallpaper* magazine as Creative Director and Editor-in-Chief. He created Wallpaper* Handmade, an annual exhibition at Salone del Mobile that matched the best designers and artists with craftsmen and manufacturers to collaborate one-of-a-kind pieces. Chambers has worked with creative luminaries like Philippe Starck, Karl Lagerfeld, Thomas Heatherwick and Zaha Hadid.

Lin Wei is the founder of United Design Practice, an award-winning multi-disciplinary design studio. A Singaporean, Lin has been based in China for the past 15 years, where he has helped Chinese small and medium enterprises (SMEs) move up the value chain from being original equipment manufacturers to become brand owners that export globally.

Rita Bonucchi is a veteran marketing consultant, who helps Italian companies gain access to ASEAN markets by providing market research and business strategy plans. Since 2010, she has managed a team in Singapore and Malaysia to support Italian companies, especially those in design, furniture and architecture, in establishing themselves in the region.


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Singapore’s highest honour for designers and designs across all disciplines
One of Asia’s premier design festivals that champions design thought leadership
National Design Centre