As a child, André Fu enjoyed creating mazes and asking friends to solve them. With his knack for drawing, it was the perfect outlet for his creativity. Today, the 41-year-old is a celebrated designer whose projects such as The Upper House in Hong Kong has received accolades such as a 2013 Best Design prize at the Le Miami Awards in the US.
More recently, Fu snagged the title of Designer of the Year at last week’s Maison&Object Asia, showcasing the best of the interior design scene. He also offered visitors a preview of Skyliner — a collection of bathroom fittings inspired by Asian cityscapes.
Fu, who is Hong Kong-born and runs design studio AFSO, has also worked on several Singapore projects including restaurant The Clifford Pier and The Fullerton Bay Hotel. We caught up with him during the exhibition to find out more about his diverse design portfolio and what’s next for him.
Lifestyle Asia (LSA): Congratulations on being named Maison&Objet Asia’s Designer of the Year. What does this award mean to you?
Andre Fu (AF): Maison&Objet is a very unique fair because it brings together things from all sectors of hospitality and lifestyle, under the same roof…For them to name me Designer of the Year is great recognition for myself and my team for the work we’ve done in the past. And it also gives me more initiative to foster new possibilities in my future designs.
LSA: What are some of the challenges that you face in your work?
AF: There are always challenges. First of all, the duration of our projects. A typical hotel project takes four to five years to realize. In our age of social media, that’s a long time. Trends come and go, it I start a hotel today, it won’t be ready till 2021. So one really needs to come up with an idea that will hopefully be relevant at the time it opens, and then it needs to last. That’s the ultimate challenge.
LSA: What inspires you during the design process?
AF: Definitely the location — the neighbourhood around it, the local culture and history, the story we’re trying to tell with the property. And the vision we’re entrusted with by the owners and clients.
LSA: Your portfolio is quite diverse, how would you describe your aesthetic?
AF: It’s pure tactile, relaxed luxury. For interior design, it’s about creating luxury with genuine experiences and making people feel at ease. I think that’s pretty much the quality of experience I’m looking for.
LSA: How do you marry form and function in your designs?
AF: It’s a very organic process. I don’t try differentiating form and function. For instance, in Seoul, Korea, we designed a Japanese restaurant called Kioku. It’s got amazing height; we called it a modernist bamboo theatre and it’s got amazing skylights and spaces. But ultimately, we’re creating a place for people to eat, so that all becomes part of the backdrop. And that’s the essence of design: You create an experience and hopefully people will respond to it in a positive way.
LSA: What has been your most challenging project to date?
AF: Every project is challenging in its own right. The most challenging would probably be something we’re working on right now in Provence, France. We’ve been entrusted with an amazing opportunity to work on a vineyard called Chateau La-Coste, and within it is a hotel named Villa La-Coste, as well as a spa, a cellar, bar, restaurant and library. And all these need to showcase the modern Provence-style experience. It’s very different from what I typically work with. So it’s very challenging. [The project will] be ready by early summer.
LSA: You recently launched a product line titled Andre Fu Living. What sparked this decision?
AF: Andre Fu Living is an extension of what I do. Within my spatial work, we have to design furniture, and lighting. But earlier last year, I had a thought about whether I should challenge myself beyond that experience into something more tangible.
LSA: The first item in Andre Fu Living is a perfume named Fargesia. Why did you decide to start with a scent?
AF: The perfume may come as a bit of a surprise given my background. Even in the world of scents, people might have expected something along the lines of candles or diffusers. But I met Julian Bedel, the founder of the perfume brand Fueguia 1833, and we talked about wanting to celebrate the materiality of the things I do. Bamboo is one of the materials that’s used most extensively in my work so we used it as a theme and extended it as an eau de toilette. The perfume itself is a mix of bamboo, citrus and ginger.
LSA: You are presenting Skyliner, a new bathroom collection, at Maison&Objet. Can you tell us more about it?
AF: It’s a collaboration with a US bathroom brand called Cooper and Graham. We started designing the collection last year with an aim to do something as a paradigm to modern Asian life. In my view, Asia is all about the urban life that we lead. So I was looking at architecture, building forms and cubist qualities — I guess the collection is very much a celebration of that. It will be available for retail later in the year.
LSA: What’s next in the pipeline for you?
AF: We have projects in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. The Singapore project is the Andaz Hotel in the Bugis area. It’s slated to be completed early next year. We’ve really tried to explore the essence of the neighbourhood and extend it to the hotel.