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Reinventing a Classic: Butcher’s Deluxe

Indesign’s Hong Kong correspondent Ben McCarthy and 12 other designers reimagine the iconic butcher’s lamp as part of the Butcher’s Deluxe exhibition.

Reinventing a Classic: Butcher’s Deluxe


December 2nd, 2010

Hong Kong is a rich visual melting pot of east and west cultural icons. But perhaps one of the most abundant is also the most invisible due to its ubiquity. The red plastic ‘butchers lamp’ illuminates marketplaces all over the city, and has done so for decades.

The cultural contribution this subtle product adds to the urban landscape is ever-present. In an age where the bulk of Hong Kong’s manufacturing base has since shifted to the mainland, these lampshades are still produced locally in a small factory, in two colours. A red glow makes food look fresher, while the white variety denotes pawn brokers and second hand stores.

I have been fascinated with this anonymous object since I arrived in Hong Kong nearly four years ago. I wrote about it two years ago for indesignlive.com and around that time purchased a bunch and sent them to a factory in China to have a gold mirror finish, vacuum metalised on the surface.

The purpose of this research project was to play with an icon, reinterpret a classic, give the inexpensive object value and, selfishly, make a nice product for my flat.

My design friends, manufacturing colleges and muso friends all responded positively to this weekend project. Now, two years later, Johan Persson (designer, curator, and the drummer in my band has created an exhibition asking 13 other designers to do the same: make their own mark on a piece of Hong Kong street culture.

Design by Max Lamb. Photo by Fred Lam

Exhibitors include British designers Max Lamb and Michael Young, Dutch designers Richard Hutton, Danny Fang and Studio Makkink & Bey, local HK designers Alan Chan, Sean Kunjambu, Freeman Lau, Winnie Lui, Adrian Wong and Dorophy Tang, Swedish curator Johan Persson, and myself. Amongst this group is a mix of artists and fashion, interior, graphic and product designers whose different disciplines offer the exhibition a rich diversity and individuality.  

Danny Fang with his design. Photo by Fred Lam

The event, which opened on 28 November, runs for a week as a satellite event during Business Of Design Week (BODW). Themed annually around a different nationality, this year’s BODW sees several Japanese designers giving conferences and seminars in the Exhibition Centre. Along with several satellite events, which can be found on the Detour website, the Butchers Deluxe exhibition offers locally inspired, internationally aimed pieces for a good cause.

Design by Jurgen Bey. Photo by Fred Lam

The one-off lamps will be auctioned through the gallery, with all proceeds going to Room To Read – a charity that works to establish libraries in the developing world.
For me, this exhibition is also a snapshot of my time in Hong Kong. The city is diverse, but culturally rich. It is creative on an industrial level; it is driven by money, but lined with good intentions. Such is the nature of this exhibition.

Design by Ben McCarthy. Photo by Fred Lam

Design by Alan Chan. Photo by Fred Lam

Design by Dorophy Tang. Photo by Fred Lam

Design by Michael Young. Photo by Fred Lam

Design by Freeman Lau. Photo by Fred Lam

Gallery Contemporary By Angela Li
90 -92 Hollywood Road, Centarl, Hong Kong,
28 Nov – 4 Dec
Mon – Sat 11am – 7.30pm
Sunday 12pm – 5pm.

Butcher’s Deluxe

Business of Design


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