VW+BS (Singapore, Malaysia)
OF the designers featured here, Singaporean Voon Wong and Penang-born Benson Saw, the creative sparks behind VW+BS, qualify as the “old timers” on the global design scene. Their iconic Loop Lamp, manufactured by Italian lighting company FontanaArte, was shortlisted for the prestigious Compasso d’Oro (the Oscars of the design world) in 2004.
Over the years, Wong, Saw and their team at VW+BS have consistently produced thoughtful and striking works, and have also teamed up with design brands like Decode London, Singapore-based Air Division and craft-based companies like Royal Selangor here in Malaysia and Lin’s Ceramics Studio in Taiwan.
With offices in London, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, VW+BS’s impressive portfolio lists over 250 architectural, interior and product design projects in Europe, Asia and Australia. Their recent work on the upper class bar and cabin interior for Virgin Atlantic Airways clinched the FX 2012 Product Design of the Year awarded by FX International Interior Design Awards ( FX magazine is a leading, global interior design publication for the contract industry).
Not bound by any sort of set-in-stone “look” or style, the studio constantly explores the possibilities of different materials and processes in innovative and surprising ways.
“Everything we do comes from our background. Where we grew up, what we were exposed to and experienced influence our thought processes and outlooks,” says Kuala Lumpur-based Saw, who studied furniture design at the London’s Royal College of Art.
However, in their designs, VW+BS does not set out with a mission to create a distinct “South-East Asian look”.
“We don’t think that design needs to have a specific identity, national or cultural references,” explains Saw, 40.
Take Setcast, their collection of bone china tableware. Launched in 2007, Setcast was manufactured by Asianera, a bone china manufacturer in Tangshan, China. While researching the project, Saw traced his Teochew ancestor’s history in China and discovered how they excelled at making red clay teapots, still highly coveted by Chinese tea connoisseurs today.
“Through these explorations, we understand and learn about the constraints of these materials and processes, which then spur ideas for different projects,” he
explains during an interview in KL.
For the Landscape collection, a collaboration with Royal Selangor, the duo fashioned sculptural, functional pewter pieces that resonate with contemporary lifestyles. Both Saw and Wong share fond memories of growing up with pewter tankards or accessories in their homes.
“Objects are designed and meant to be used in any context not withstanding the identity references. Otherwise, it will end up like souvenirs that tourists pick up on their vacations,” Saw sums up. (Website:
Founders of London-based design firm VW+bS, Voon Wong (left) and benson Saw.
Loop Lamp by VW+bS for Italian lighting brand Fontana arte, was nominated for the prestigious Compasso d’oro in 2004. (Originating from Italy, the Compasso is the first and most recognised industrial
design award internationally).