Redefining luxury in design
Maison& Objet Asia 2016 Designer of the Year Andre Fu talks about the philosophy behind his new brand of artisanal lifestyle products.
HIS looks areboyish, belying his 41 years of age. But his de mean our is all seriousness, heightened by his distinct British accent, a result of having studied in Britain since he was a teenager.
Hong Kong-born architect and interior designer AndreFu is behind notable luxury hotels such as The Upper House in Hong Kong, the Fuller ton Bay Hotel in Singapore, as well as the Op us Suite in The Berkeley in London.
His sophisticated style is also felt in top-notch restaurants such as Kio ku in the Four Seasons Seoul, Motif in Four Seasons Tokyo and Gong Bar in S han gr i-La at The Shard, London.
In March, Mai son& Objet ( M& O) Asia 2016 named Fu as Designer of the Year, in recognitionof his contributionto the design industry.
“It’ s a great recognitionto be en trusted with this title. I always see Maison& Obj etas a very important platform for designs of many disciplines to be celebrated under one roof ,” saysFu during an exclu - s ive interview in Singapore recent ly.
Fu also launched a new brand at M& O Asia called André Fu Living ( AFL), a lifestyle range that “em bodies his design philosophy within tangible objects ”.
“I’ve always had peo plerequ est - ing for furniture and objects that I have used in hospitality projects. But they are not available because they’ re be spoke and customised for the project itself. Last year I thought that maybe it’ s time to challenge myself and see whether I can extend the spatial experiences that I have accomplished into something that’ s tangible ,” says Fu, when asked why he decided to em bark on A FL.
Thefirst pro duct by the brand is a scent called Fargesia, which he created in collaboration with wellknown perfumer Julian Bed el of Fu egu ia 1833 Pat ago nia.
“I was inspired to make the emotionof the spaces that I design tangible and I believe that a scent is the best way to capture the tactile essence of my works ,” says Fu in explaining the creationof the unisex eaudet oil et te.
“The vision is to build a collective of scents that are aroused from the key materials featured in my spaces. Fargesia is a type of Asian bamboo, a material that is close to my heart and that has been featured in several of my signature projects ,” he elaborates.
Fu adds that the fragrance evokes a sense of freshness and is very crisp and po et ic.
Also under the brand is a be spoke hand-tufted rug collection with TaiPin gC ar pet sand a book entitled A nd re Fuby the luxury book publisher As sou line.
At M& O Asia, which ran in Singapore from March 8 to 11, Fu also showcased his first bathroom collection. Called Sky liner, it is an artisan al collection of bathroom fittings created in collaboration with American luxury bathroom brand Co o per & Graham.
“Skyline risa concept driven by modern Asian life, by the fact that all these modern architecture forms are juxtaposing each other
in the context of the urban world we are living in now. In the collection, you will see blocks that almost inter lock with each other ,” says Fu, who speaks in a calm, somewhat calculated manner.
The metal fixtures are all made in brass but plat ed in different finishes like polished chrome or oilrubbed bronze.
How different is it to design products as opposed to designing an interior or a space?
“In an interior space, it’ s very much the overall picture and ambien ce, and there are many elements that are combined to create t he experience. But when you are dealing with a single object, every little tweak in proportion, detailing and functionality( is important ).
“In the essence of Fargesia, the scent itself, the unisex quality of t he eau de t oilet te, t he way we package it , t he paper we use, all of t hat ext ends as part of t he experience. So it ’ s hugely challenging t o creat e an impact wit h t hat one it em,” he says.
In April, AFL will also be unveiling a new light ing collect ion at Salone del Mobile Milan 2016 – t he world’s biggest int ernat ional furnit ure and furnishing exhibit ion – wit h renowned Czech glass manufact urer Lasvit .
The youngest of t hree siblings, Fu left for Brit ain at t he young age of 14 t o st udy in a boarding school. He graduat ed with a Mast ers in Archit ect ure from Cambridge Universit y in 2000 and founded his design st udio, AFSO, in t he same year in London. In 2004, he ret urned t o Hong Kong and complet ed his first big project , t he Upper House, in 2009.
The st udio’s current project s include Park Hyat t Resort Phuket in Thailand and Bangkok’s Waldorf Ast oria Hot el.
Fu has previously described his st yle of design as “approach driven” , and elaborat es on it during our int erview.
“I get asked about my st yle a lot , especially from t he media. Typically t hese days, I would say t hat I hope every project is unique in it s own way, and t hat we are t rying to t ell a different st ory every t ime.
“But , overall, I am pursuing a definit ion of luxury t hat is relaxed and comfort able. And I guess t hat t ies in wit h t he ways of life, how luxury has evolved in t he past few years. People are looking for much more genuine, honest experiences, as in, t hey won’t mind paying a premium but t hey want t o feel at ease and feel t he qualit y and genuineness in what t hey physically experience. That is t he way forward,” he says.
Nonet heless, t here is a commonalit y in his designs, wit h t act ilit y, purit y and comfort being some of t he charact erist ics.
One of Fu’s most recent project s is t he Kioku Japanese rest aurant in Four Seasons Seoul, launched last November.
“It ’ s a modernist bamboo t heat re, wit h double height and very dramat ic spaces. It ’ s a very int riguing journey t hat in some way really celebrat es t he t heat re of dining,” says Fu.
A privat e person who’d rat her t alk about his work t han his personal life – t hough he emphasises a work- life balance – Fu’s ideal living space is “just a place t hat is comfort able, simply” .
“I love what I do, so work is an int egral part of my life. I live quit e a balanced life. On t he work front , I am int eract ing wit h very high calibre people on a daily basis but in my leisure t ime, I am like any ot her person. I enjoy life, food and t ravelling. Keeping t hat sense of balance is t he key,” he says.
As someone who chooses his words carefully, Fu divulges a t iny bit about himself.
“I t hink people sense t hat when t hey t alk t o me t hat I do t hink about what I am going t o say. I explain t hings in quit e a st raight - forward manner, but t here’s slight kind of philosophical edge t o it . Maybe t hat ’ s how I am,” he says, wit h a laugh.
The Kioku restaurant at the Four seasons seoul by Fu, who describes it as a ‘ modernist bamboo theatre’. — Photos: AFsO
The Fargesia unisex eau de toilette, the first product by Andre Fu Living, created in collaboration with well- known perfumer Julian Bedel of Fueguia 1833 Patagonia. — AFL
Fu’s first bathroom collection, skyliner, was created in collaboration with American luxury bathroom brand Cooper & Graham. — Cooper & Graham
The main living room of the Opus suite, Berkeley London. — AFsO
The skybridge at Fu’s The Upper House luxury hotel in Hong Kong. — Michael Weber Photography
Fu brings a relaxed approach to his luxurious designs. — M& O Asia 2016