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Is The Australian Design Industry Too Introspective?

We take a critical look at Australian design brands, and whether we are doing enough to engage the Asia Pacific market.

Is The Australian Design Industry Too Introspective?


March 30th, 2015

The Australian design industry is a bit like a small town of 600 people where everyone knows everyone’s business; what they had for breakfast, who they fancy, what their favourite movie is and how often they change their underwear.

It’s true, that because we are all tucked away down here in our little pocket of the globe, we can sometimes be guilty of looking a little too inward rather than what the rest of our region is up to.



When say, Europe and the US design community looks at what we are doing, they rarely just see Australia. They see a much larger regional – Asia Pacific – out put, of which Australia is part.

So while, sure, it’s great to have a local objective and participate in your own national design culture, are you (and by extension, your brand) doing enough to engage the larger South-East Asian market?

Geographic obscurity aside, it isn’t hard to get swept up by what is happening next to you, but it does put Australian brands in danger of forgetting the region it is part of – and how the rest of the world look at that region.



CULT, Stylecraft and SPACE Furniture are great examples of brands that have a solid local and international identity in place and an active engagement strategy to fly the local flag. CULT for example, are moments away from launching the talents of Sydney-based designer Adam Goodrum and his collection in Singapore at the upcoming Singapore Indesign event, to be followed by Hong Kong and the rest of Asia Pac.

Likewise SPACE furniture have five purpose-built showrooms in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, each with architect-designed interior environments that represent the quality and rigor of the furniture collection, and with local design initiatives to participate within the local market.

Schiavello is another strong instance of a regionally active Australian brand. With offices in all major Australian cities, and an expanding international presence in Singapore, New Zealand and the UAE, The company operates from 10 showrooms and a further six office locations, and six manufacturing plants comprising of a total of 100,000 square metres. As a project based business, they are mobile enough to service and support their clients regardless of where they are located in the world. The teams can be mobilised to fulfil our clients’ immediate and long term requirements.

A very clever set up I must admit, where the old “feet on the street” adage means that Schiavello can work just as actively in, say Singapore and Hong Kong, as they can in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane; commanding the market’s attention in South-East Asia as region – not just “another location’.

Zenith Interiors have also been swift in adopting regional lenses with the recent opening of its Hong Kong showroom in August 2014, bringing its Australian brands; S&A, Yellow Diva, Keith Melbourne, Tom Skeehan, Tom Fereday, not to mention their own Zenith products; to the Asian market. In addition, the brand has also added a fourth manufacturing plant in Shanghai to compliment the existing two Australian facilities. While certainly active in Australia – with showrooms in every major city in Australia and NZ –  Zenith Interiors now have 9 showrooms including Hong Kong, sharing their national Australian flavour with rest of the region.




Further, with a showroom in Singapore to support the local Stylecraft market, the brand has planted the flag for local Australian brands including Derlot Editions from Alexander Lotersztain, LEN by Helen Kontouris, Greg Natale, Ross Gardam, Keith Melbourne, ESO, Go Home, Thinking Works and the One Third collective of Australian designers, together with their own exclusive, in-house collections designed and manufactured in Australia.

Cross-pollination is really the name of the game, and if you’re only activity is focused and executed within Australia, chances are you’ll be left out of the larger, global conversation about what’s happening in the Asia Pacific region. So what can be done to bolster your presence in the region? Participate in local and international events, collaborate with local partners and design houses, launch a showroom, create a pop-up, do a guest spot… GET ACTIVE.

To workshop your brand’s next creative move into Asia Pac, get in touch with Raj and the team at indesign.com.au

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