Late April saw the launch of SCENE SHANG’s new flagship store on Beach Road in Singapore’s creative Kampong Glam district. Showcasing the SCENE SHANG line in contemporary design, inspired by historical and cultural Chinese icons, the new space also hosts a curated collection of similarly inspired design pieces. With pieces from Japan’s Kinto Glassware, the US’s Middle Kingdom and Singapore’s The Rug Maker, this exclusive collection compliments the beautiful signature design pieces from the SCENE SHANG line. These include the newly released JIA JU line, which comprises a dining table, chair, sideboard and rocking stool. These pieces, influenced by Ming Dynasty elements and local nostalgia, are designed to fit into the modern home, providing a contemporary take on classic designs. We met with the co-founders of SCENE SHANG, Jessica Wong and Pamela Ting to find out more about the inspiration behind the label.
NS: What inspired you to follow a career in design?
Jessica: An active imagination has always been my biggest playground from a young age – my mom would read to us every night and take us to the library and I loved imagining things. My dad, as an engineer, would teach me how to solve things, to combine design and function. I had access to his tool box and I built things to play with in my imaginary world – a fishing rod that could really reel things in, cardboard boxes that became homes, and so on. Following a career in design was natural as it allowed me to imagine and to create, while technical aspects and know-how made things and ideas a reality. I studied architecture, so I have a solid grounding in combining design and technical functionality. Gradually I found myself becoming very interested in history and culture, which opened up a world of possibilities where I could design combining all these values. SCENE SHANG is the result of this – designing homewares and furniture that incorporate history or cultural stories, putting a contemporary twist to them, and making it relatable to today’s culture and context.
NS: How do you decide what products to stock in the new store? What are you looking for in a brand?
Pamela: About 70% of the products in store are designed by us, under the SCENE SHANG brand. For the remaining stock, we look for like-minded independent brands that make products matching SCENE SHANG’s design philosophy.
Jessica: There is a distinct sense of respect and awe for heritage and culture. These are rendered in contemporary, modern lifestyle products in a new language or form that creates conversation of these themes, be it in their design, function or philosophy. The products need to speak for themselves and say that they’re designed today, but are deeply influenced by a contextual heritage.
NS: How would you describe the Scene Shang line itself?
Jessica: The SCENE SHANG line is inspired by Asian history and culture, with a perspective and voice that is contemporary. Customers will hopefully be delighted by looking at the pieces and recognise elements from the past, and at the same time consider a new way of looking at history and culture. For example, the JIA JU table has a marble inlay that recalls traditional tables where Chinese families would gather for a steamboat or make kueh cakes on; the Jia Ju rocking stool pays homage to the retro rattan rocking horse of our childhood, while incorporating modern lines as well as classical Ming Dynasty design elements.
NS: Which furniture piece are you most proud of and why?
Pamela: We are most proud of the SHANG System, which has won two awards (a Special Commendation at the 2014 President’s Design Award, and the Golden A’Design Award in Milan, 2016) since its launch two years ago. People look at it and recognise the elements – such as the traditional Chinese ‘ears’ – almost immediately and they can then understand what SCENE SHANG stands for. We’ve been told that we’ve added a new voice and perspective to what people usually think of Asian furniture.
NS: What are the advantages of the shop being in a heritage area?
Jessica: The heritage area that we are located in is rich with history and cultural meaning. Many different trades ply in this area, and it attracts people from all walks of life. You have shops selling Middle Eastern carpets and upholstery, Chinese fishing equipment, Indian money changers, Malay fabric stalls – there’s so much to see here and we are excited to be part of the colourful Kampong Glam area.
NS: Do you think cultural heritage is important in modern design?
Jessica: We feel the need to address cultural heritage in our designs as it is our way of saying that it is important and we want to keep it not only alive but forward-looking. In this way culture and history live on and grow through stories, rather than remaining constant or worse, being forgotten. We want to make furniture that will eventually, in its own time, get passed on as an heirloom.
NS: What can we expect from Scene Shang in the second half of 2016?
Pamela: On top of new product launches, the second half of 2016 will see exciting initiatives in design collaborations, cultural workshops and exhibitions held at our new flagship store at Beach Road. We now have the space for it!
NS: Scene Shang is a partnership – how do you work together as a team?
Jessica: Pamela oversees operations and the business side of things while I look after design, production and creative direction. In reality though, we are both very much involved in all aspects of the brand and business – we work together closely with our team to find opportunities and solutions, be it design or logistics. We share the same vision for the brand and that always helps to move things forward.
SCENE SHANG, 263 Beach Road,
tel: 6291 9629, shop.sceneshang.com
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