Everyone needs a break now and again…



I am finally ready to write again after three months of ‘work-detox’ period. This is the first entry since I went on my sabbatical, and I am writing solely because I feel like it, rather than seeing it as some kind of obligation.

After running the business for over six years (plus a year of preparation beforehand), I made a rather risky decision to close the e-shop and take six months off work. I did not take this decision lightly, and I even asked a few good friends for their advice. Why? The reasons were quite straight forward: I was losing my enthusiasm, passion, and I was getting bored. This is not a good sign when you are running your own business! I felt like I have devoted the last seven years to this business, and I felt stuck/ trapped… work became a drag, and I was quite unhappy for the last two years. I felt like I needed an adventure rather than routines. And I simply couldn’t carry on as usual anymore.

The word ‘sabbatical’ originates from the Greek word sabatikos, which means “of the Sabbath” – the day of rest that happens every seventh day. According to Oxford dictionary, it means: “A period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.” However, mine is neither one year nor paid; well, whatever you name it, it is a long break nonetheless.

In recent years, the word ‘sabbatical’ has become more ubiquitous because it is regarded as a positive act for both the worker/teacher and the company/university in the long run. Well-known designer Stefan Sagmeister is a forerunner in encouraging workers to take sabbaticals. Every seven years, he closes his NYC design studio for a one-year of ‘creative rejuvenation’, and he has been promoting this idea for years.




Of course not everyone is lucky enough to have a boss like him, or financially secured to do this. Nevertheless, I still believe that even if you can’t take six months or a year off, it would be beneficial to take short breaks now and again to revitalise yourself. We are living in a world that is obsessed with speed and productivity, and it is only by slowing down or stopping that we can feel what is missing and gain insights about our lives as well as the world around us. We are not robots, so don’t treat yourself as one.

I can safely say that after three months of traveling, learning new skills, and spending time with family and friends, I am already feeling more enthusiastic about returning to work, and have some new ideas for the future. I feel more relaxed, open, and most importantly – happier. Taking the sabbatical is not a step backwards, it is in fact, a step-or several steps- forward.


Pop-up shop at White Conduit Projects

chapel market  chapel market

chapel market

The vibrant Chapel market


Gentrification in many parts of London has turned the city a soulless place dominated by chains and corporate companies. When I was a student a long time ago, my cousin and I hired a stall selling vintage fashion at the Camden Stables market, and it had a very different vibe back then. Both Camden and Portobello markets used to sell an eclectic mix of genuine vintage and independent fashion, accessories and furniture. These days, the two markets have become tourist traps; and even food markets like Borough and Broadway have become victims of their own successes.

Luckily, there are still some traditional and authentic markets that cater to locals like Ridley Road (Dalston), Whitecross Street food market, Walthamstow Market, and Chapel Market.

One of the reasons we chose the pop-up shop location was due to the market. This is not a posh market, it is an unpretentious working class market selling food, plants and household products at very reasonable prices. Spending the four days working in the vibrant and friendly neighbourhood was wonderful, and we were spoilt for choice with the vast array of eateries around us.


Costumier and Furrier  Costumier and Furrier

Costumier and Furrier

Costumier and Furrier – Possibly the coolest vintage shop in London


Next to the White Conduit Projects is Costumier and Furrier, a fun vintage shop selling fashion, ceramics and knickknacks. Once inside, you feel like you are in Aladdin’s cave and you could hardly move around inside because it is so jam-packed. It is one of a kind, and a rare hidden gem in London.



pop up shop party  pop up shop party


Our opening night party


On the opening day of our pop up shop, the temperature dropped dramatically and it even snowed a little around midday. Thankfully, our friends braved the cold in the early evening and came to support us nonetheless.

Over the four days, we had many passerby dropping in including locals and tourists. Sunday was the busiest day partly because of the farmers market, and partly due to shoppers buying Christmas trees at the stall opposite the gallery. Situated opposite the Christmas tree stall helped us immensely, as many tree shoppers spotted us while they were making their purchases.



pop up shop  pop up shop



baby girl  pop up shop


Overall, we did quite well with the sales and met many locals who were very supportive – including the little 10-month old baby girl who felt very at home at the gallery. Although we were exhausted by the event, the experience was a positive one and we probably will do it again in the future.


Maison et objet (autumn 17)

maison et objet

Hall 6 at Maison et objet


The term ‘enochlophobia’ means fear of crowds, a phobia that I suspect I have – mildly. Although I don’t experience blackouts or panic attacks in crowded places, I do feel overwhelmed, as if my energy is being sucked out of me, and I often feel exhausted afterwards.

This can be a problem when I visit business-related trade fairs, hence I rarely spend more than a few hours at a trade fair (or even art fairs). However, once in a while, I have to conquer my fears and plunge into it. It took me some time to decide whether I should spend €60 on a ticket to Paris’ mega design trade fair, Maison et objet, particularly when most trade fairs in the world are free of charge. Perhaps the reason why they could charge so much is because of its reputation and history (it is 22 years old); and it attracts luxury and well-respected brands, independent names, as well as up-and-coming designers from around the world. If you want to know the trends of interior, furniture and products and what is happening in the design world right now, then this fair is most likely to provide some ideas. With over 3000 brands exhibiting at Paris Nord Villepinte (about 45 mins outside of Paris) for 5 days, it would be wise to do some preparations before the visit.


maison et objet

maison et objet  maison et objet

maison et objet

maison et objet


My strategy was to spend a day there focusing on 2-3 halls only (there are 8 in total), because it would impossible to see everything in a day. But soon after I arrived via the entrance of Hall 6 (the largest hall), I was lost, stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed. I thought I was mentally prepared, but the sheer scale of the venue was staggering. The layout of this hall was like a vast maze and it wasn’t easy to navigate at all. Luckily, Hall 7 (Now! Design a Vivre) was more spacious and it gave me some breathing space. Six hours later, I only managed to cover 2.5 halls, but it was sufficient for me already.


vitra eames  marimekko


Flensted Mobiles

Top left: The classic Eames Elephant at Vitra; Top right and 2nd row: new collection by Marimekko; Botton row: Flensted Mobiles


But was it worth all the fuss and sweat? Yes, I suppose. Since most of the trade fairs in London focus mostly on British brands and businesses, M & O provides a more global perspective of the design world outside of the U.K. There are many interesting brands that I have never heard of before, and many of them are based in Asia too.

Here is an overview of some of the brands/products that I encountered during the 6 hours at the fair including many Asian participants:



Gmund papermakers and stationery (Germany)


papier machine

Papier Machine (France) is a booklet gathering a family of 13 paper-made electronic toys ready to be cut, colored, folded, assembled or torn.



Samesame recycled glass products (Germany)



Storytiles from the Netherlands


Animal theme



elephant table and chairs element optimal

peacock at Element Optimal  Zoo collection at Element Optimal

Top and 2nd rows: super cute cuddly toy chairs at AP Collection from Belgium; 3rd row: elephant table and chairs; Bottom left: Peacock; Bottom right: Zoo collection at Element Optimal from Denmark



wonders of weaving

luce couillet

dsc_0063-min  img_4998-min

Top row: Wonders of weaving (Indonesia); 2nd row: Luce Couillet textiles (France); Bottom: origami textiles at the Material lab



In the last few years, Japanese art/digital collective teamlab has created some fascinating immersive installations around the world. After their popular installations at Pace London earlier this year, they have teamed up with tea master Shunichi Matsuo to promote his new brand, En tea, a new tea grown in Hizen.

Visitors were led into a dark room, where they would sit at the table and be given a bowl of green tea. Then virtual flowers would appear when tea is poured in the bowl; the visuals are rendered in real time by a computer program and are not prerecorded. Petals and leaves would scatter and spread as you move your bowl. It was a fun experience, and a nice way to rehydrate and enjoy a bit of downtime away from the hustle and bustle outside.


Espace en tea X Teamlab  Espace en tea X Teamlab

more trees

Top row: flowers blossom in the tea bowl: Bottom row: En tea & More trees space outside of the installation



Misoka – an award-winning toothbrush that requires no toothpaste



The quirkiest lamps ever… Pampshade is made from real bread by bread lover/artist, Yukiko Morita. I have ever seen anything like this before!


washi paper


Osaka design centre – Washi paper and K-ino Inomata


draw a line  suzusan

suzusan  suzuzan

Top left: Draw a line tension rod by Heian Shindo and TENT; Suzusan shibori textiles and lighting




lee hyemi


small good things  kim hyun joo

Top row: Ceramic products at I.Cera; 2nd row: Lee Hyemi; 3rd row: Korean craft & design foundation; Bottom left: Small good things; Bottom right: Kim Hyun Joo studio



A notable presence from Taiwan at the fair, aside from the Taiwan crafts & design stand, there were other independent brands like Haoshi, Toast, EY products, new brand called Melting, and the 2017 Rising Asian Talents: Kamaro’an.


taiwan craft design






1st row: Taiwan crafts & design; 2nd row: Haoshi; 3rd row: Kamaro’an; 4th row: Toast; 5th row: Melting; bottom row: EY products



Meanwhile, Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) also showcased TALENT THAI, which introduced various Thai lifestyle/design brands to an international audience. Thai design studio, Atelier 2+ was also selected one of the 2017 Rising Asian Talents.


zen forum  saprang

atelier 2+ Greenhouse MinI

salt and pepper studio  img_4968-min

1st left: Zen Forum; 1st right: Handmade jewellery by Saprang;  2nd row: Greenhouse Mini by Atelier 2+; Bottom left: woven chair by Salt and Pepper design studio; Bottom right: wooden panels by Deesawat




The stand of Singapore-based architectural practice WOHA was named Designer of the year Asia 2017


Hong Kong


2017 Rising Asian talent: Lim + Lu Studio




London Christmas fairs 2016

stock  christmas leaflet

Left: Selecting products for the Christmas fairs; Right: New postcards with info of the Christmas fairs


Since our e-shop first started 5 years ago (I can’t believe it has been 5 years already!), we have participated in different pop-up Christmas fairs around London. They serve as our opportunity to meet customers/ potential customers face to face. Since it is becoming more competitive these days, some popular/reputable Christmas fairs may require sellers to apply before summer! It is advisable to do research as early as possible and start preparing/applying around summer because usually by October, many major fairs would be booked up.

I had a blast at the Barbican Christmas fair last year, however, they decided not to do it this year, hence I had to look elsewhere in central London. Finally, I opted for two smaller fairs over the first two weekends of December. It is exhausting and stressful to manage online sales and do Christmas fairs at the same time, so I try not to overwork this year.


candid arts gallery  angel christmas fair 16

angel christmas fair 16

angel christmas fair 16

angel christmas fair 16

Top left: Candid arts gallery; Top right and the rest: our stall at the Angel Chrismas fair


I picked Candid Arts Trust‘s long-running Angel Christmas fair because my shared studio/office is based there. I moved in last year and have been told that the fair is a popular one with the locals. The trust’s gallery hosts art/design exhibitions all year round, and it offers affordable studios for artists/designers/makers in an affluent area of London.

At the 2 1/2 day fair, all the sellers were placed on the ground floor, while upstairs was turned into an art gallery and bar. I was told that the fair this year was quieter than the previous years, but as always, it is hard to predict the footfall or sales at these fairs. Though one thing I love about doing fairs is the opportunity to meet and make friends with fellow designers/makers/business owners. At the Angel Christmas fair, I met Winnie from Minute & Azimut, a new stylish watch brand that was launched via a Kickstarter campaign. Winnie, who is originally from Paris, is the designer and owner of this new brand. And a week later, I was invited by her to the opening evening of her pop-up shop near Bond Street, which turned out to be a cosy and enjoyable event.


angel christmas fair 16

minute & azimut  img_9045-min

madeleine marsh

Top: The upstairs art gallery; 2nd left: Winnie from Minute & Azimut; 2nd right: the friendly Ecuadorian ladies selling tagua nut jewellery and handmade scarvies; Bottom: The wonderful scupltures made by my artistic and eccentric stall neighbour Madeleine Marsh


The week after, I did the 1-day ethical Fair Christmas Fayre organised by The Salvation Army. The fair took place at Regent Hall inside their headquarters on Oxford Street. I had no idea that the organisation owns a massive buildling on Oxford Street, and was somewhat surprised to see such a big hall behind an inconspicuous entrance.

The ethical crafty fair has been running for 10 years and I only heard about it last year. Since we sell many eco-friendly and upcycling products, I thought it would be apt to do a fair that showcases these products. I was impressed by the fair organisation and helpful team members/volunteers. I also enjoyed selling inside a spacious and warm venue, which partly explains why I never do any outdoor/semi-outdoor Christmas markets!


regent hall salvation army  Fair Christmas Fayre 16

Fair Christmas Fayre 16

Fair Christmas Fayre 16

Fair Christmas Fayre at Regent Hall on Oxford Street


Unfortunately, the footfall on the day was rather disappointing, and it could be due to the heavy rain on the day. Although Oxford Street is probably the busiest street in London/UK, shoppers usually have their targets on certain shops and so it is never easy to sway them to visit an ethical fair on a not-so-ethical shopping street (this is solely my opinion).

The lower-than-usual footfall at both Christmas fairs this year could be down to an increase of local Christmas fairs and online shopping. Our online sales plummeted after Brexit and it stayed that way until the end of October. Then suddenly, sales surged in November and December, and they ended up being our best months yet! Online sales peaked over the Black Friday weekend and the second week of December, which took me somewhat by surprise after months of stagnant sales. I believe that more UK shoppers were doing their Chirstmas shopping online this year, hence this has given me the confidence that online shopping will continue to grow in the future.




Top: Chau at the Islington Christmas Market; Bottom: our lasercut coasters from Japan


At Fair Christmas Fayre, I became friends with my neighbour, Chau, a young and talented Vietnamese illustrator/designer/owner of Chau art. Chau designs all her greeting cards; she cuts them out by hand initially, and then have them lasercut locally. Chau spotted our Japanese lasercut coasters at the fair, and she thought their styles are similar to hers, so she suggested selling them for me at her upcoming Christmas markets. It was a very kind gesture, and I was more than happy for her to do it. I went to visit her at two of her Christmas fairs the following week, and we spent some time chatting about business and life in general.

Over the last few years, I have made new friends at different Christmas fairs, and although I have not kept in touch with everyone, most of us would support each other via social media like instagram/twitter. It is not easy to run a small business these days, and I think sharing business tips or the difficulties we encounter with each other is immensely helpful.

Christmas fairs are not merely about selling, it is also about supporting, sharing and building friendships. And this is also why we will continue to do them in the future.



Our 4th theme: Read


Charlene’s initial draft of the home page


The initial idea of selling art books and zines emerged about 2 years ago, stemming from my passion for printed matters and reading. Having launched three themes focusing solely on products, it seems like a change of direction to sell books, magazines and zines. Yet I think this change is necessary for the company to evolve. Since our launch 5 years ago, I felt that we have become more of a shop than a platform. My wish is that the new theme and changes to the website will enhance the user experience and encourage users to learn more about the artists/illustrators/designers behind the publications or products.

In recent years, independent publishing seems to be making a comeback. We are seeing a new range of indie aesthetic-driven lifestyle/art/design/craft/food magazines like Kinfolk, Cereal, Delayed Gratification, Dirty furniture, Oh comely, Hole & Corner, Intern, Flaneur, Toilet paper... the list goes on. The same trend is happening in Asia, indie magazines like ‘Science of secondary‘ by Atelier Hoko from Singapore, Design Anthology from Hong Kong, White Fungus from Taiwan and IDEA from Japan are all getting distributed outside of Asia. Many of these magazines showcase bold/conceptual photography, playful illustrations, interesting writings on niche topics and crucially, the standard of printing and paper is much higher than the ones we normally see on the shelves of newsagents. If you think Monocle is expensive, well, it isn’t anymore. Yet these pricey indie magazines are gaining followers because of their quality and unconventional subject matter. One of my favourite magazine is Uppercase from Canada and it is retailed at £14 here, which I think is really expensive for a magazine! I also like Print isn’t dead (£10) from UK, the annual FUKT from Germany and the biannual Weapons of Reasons (free/£6) from the UK.


Hong Kong zines

Various zines created by Hong Kong and Taiwanese illustrators at Open Quote in Hong Kong


Aside from magazines, I also noticed a thriving fanzine/zine market during my travels to Asia in recent years. Artists, illustrators, designers, photographers and independent press studios have turned to self-publishing, and their work can be found in independent book shops, galleries and local zine markets. Earlier this year, I spent some time in Hong Kong, Taipei and Berlin seeking out small independent book/zine shops for research and inspiration. It was an utterly rewarding experience because everyone I contacted was very supportive and encouraging. Since the zine market is not highly profitable, most zine-makers are passion-driven, thus it is a close-knit community. In Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to meet with independent booksellers from Book B and Open Quote, and other local illustrators/artists like Kylie Chan, Gabrielle Tam aka Onion Peterman, Wong Sze Chit, Luna Ng, Kevin Leung from Brainrental. I felt particularly positive after meeting with artists/illustrators, and I wanted to use our platform to promote them as well as other up and coming illustrators/artists/zine-makers in the region.

Back in London, I visited the East London Comic Arts Festival (you can read my blog entry here) and I came across London/Hong Kong-based illustrator Charlene Man. Charlene‘s colourful and playful zines caught my eye, and although I didn’t talk to her, I did get her contact for future reference. Eventually I emailed her and asked her if she was interested in collaborating with us to create an one-off illustration for our new home page. She told me about her upcoming exhibitions in Japan and Hong Kong, but she said she was interested and could work on this before her trip to Asia. We arranged to meet in Shoreditch, had some vegetarian lunch followed by coffee afterwards. We brainstormed and then chatted about work, family and travel. The meeting was casual and spontaneous, and I really enjoyed spending the day with her.

Initially we weren’t sure whether the interactive idea would work or not, and I had to consult the IT guys to see if it was feasible. We thought we would give it a go, and if all things fail, we would make some adjustments to the work. Luckily, everything went smoothly and we were all pleased with the result. Spending the last eight months researching and building a collection was rather bumpy, but I am glad that we finally were able to launch the new theme/collection before Christmas.

I sincerely hope that we can continue to introduce more artists and illustrators from Asia and showcase their wonderful zines and books here in the future.


Our new retail stockist: Anthropologie


 The facade of Anthropologie store on Kings Road


We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Anthropologie, one of America’s most popular retailers this autumn/winter. The company is our first major retail outlet, which is a big step forward for us. It is exciting to see Gongjang‘s eco balance monthly planners in Anthropologie’s inspiring and visually appealing stores across London, and we look forward to working with them again in the near future.

I used to shop at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters when I was living in New York, and so I was familiar with the lifestyle and fashion brand before they opened their first London store on Regent Street in 2009. I just never thought that I would do business with the company one day!


anthropologie anthropologieanthropologieanthropologieanthropologieanthropologieanthropologie

Kings Road’s Anthropologie store


Anthropolgie has four stores in central London including one in Westfield shopping mall. Their 10,000 square foot flagship store on Regent Street has three floors and an impressive 2,000 square foot vertical garden featuring 11,000 plants. The store is one of a kind on Regent Street, and I love the playful and quirky visual merchandising throughout the store. However, my favourite is their store on Kings Road located inside a beautifully restored Grade II listed former Antiquarius Antiques Centre. The 10,000 square ft space was originally a billiards hall in the 1830s offering an alternative to the pub for working men before it was turned into an antiques centre. I love exquisite original features like stained-glass windows and tile work on the facade, as well as the intricate ironwork inside the building. I think what differs Anthropologie from other high street stores are their unusual and eclectic pick of products (i.e. mixing vintage with contemporary designs and crafty products), and their efforts in creating unique shopping experiences in every store through their carefully planned layouts and highly creative visual merchandising.

Many high street stores complain about businesses being hit by shoppers buying more online, but if they are willing to invest more on visual merchandising and better services to enhance shoppers’ in-store experiences, then shoppers would still choose brick-and-mortar stores over the internet. We live in a highly competitive world today, and if stores/companies don’t step up their games and evolve with changing times, then it is inevitable that they will be pushed out of the market one day.


anthropologie life of balance at Anthropologieanthropologieanthropologie anthropologie

Regent Street’s Anthropologie store


Gongjang’s Eco Balance monthly planner (in wine and grey) is available to purchase in Anthropologie’s London stores and online via the link here. The store has just opened a new branch in Marylebone, I shall look forward to visiting it soon.


A new year, a new direction



2014 will be an interesting year for us as we have entered our third year in trading, and I have been told that year three is the make-or-break year for business. We are grateful that despite the unsettling economical period, we have been growing steadily and our Christmas sales have been our best yet.

We will be making some changes in 2014, including postponing the change of the focus theme from October to April/ May, hence, the current theme will stay until spring 2015. Though we will continue to introduce new products surrounding the three themes: work, live and play. This change will enable us to focus more on developing and growing the business as well as working on the distribution side. And since Christmas is the busiest season for all retail and e-tailers, moving the new launch from October to April/ May will also allow us to have more time to prepare for Christmas.

I will soon be making another long trip to Asia, and this time, I will attend two trade events in Singapore and Shanghai. Previously, I have been slightly hesitant about Chinese designed and made products, but I also have witnessed the rapid changes in China, and I believe that it is time to explore the emerging Chinese design scene. I hope this trip will be a fruitful one.

During the past year, we have been contacted by designers, buyers, advertisers, bloggers and industry people from all over the world, it still amazes me how a small e-commerce that has spent hardly any budget on marketing could reach so many! I believe it is mostly down to the power of the internet and social media.

I would like to thank everyone’s support, and I hope that the new year will bring positive changes to us and to all of you.

Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week 2013

business of design week 2013


Of all the cities in Asia, I find Hong Kong and Singapore to be the best representations of the term ‘East meets West’, this is partly due to their historical backgrounds and links to the British. Even though in recent years, the world’s focus has turned to Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore still enjoy the advantage of being ‘freer’, more matured and global than other cities. Now the two cities are trying to find their competitive edge in order to compete with the upcoming Chinese cities.

In recent years, design has become more important and recognised in Hong Kong, especially with government initiatives such as CreatHK which supports and funds businesses and organisations in the creative and design industry. The annual Business of Design Week in December (organised by Hong Kong Design Centre since 2002) is one of the key events on Asia’s design calendar. The week-long event will comprise the BODW Forum (for global design trends), concurrent events (covering brands, design, technology, city and the culture, design management and education, business of intellectual property etc.), exhibitions (for the public and trades) and the Detour community programme, aiming to inspire the participants about the power of design in building a better tomorrow.

Every year, the BODW parnters with another country, and Belgium is this year’s focus. I have previously attended BODW 2009 and BODW 2010 and the partner countries were France and Japan, respectively. I found the talks and exhibitions in 2010 particularly useful because I was at the pre-startup stage and was glad to hear established Japanese designers speaking at the forum.


hong kong old baileys victoria prisondetour hong kongdetour hong kongdetour hong kongdetour hong kong

Photos were taken from Detour 2010 at the former Victoria Prison in Central except for the bottom left which was taken at Detour 2009 at the former Police Married Quarters with a temporary bamboo scaffolding structure designed by a well-known local architect William Lim of CL3 Architects


Britain has participated in the forum every year since its launch in 2002 and was the partner country in 2006. UK industry professionals have been actively participating in BODW due to the unique position the forum offers to enter the Chinese and Asian market. And Asia’s rapidly growing cities and investments have given international and national architects an opportunity to engage in great project and constructions. Well-known UK architects such as Keith Griffiths, Andrew Grand and Thomas Heatherwick have all designed spectacular buildings in Asia. In the past years, Thomas Heatherwick, Ron Arad, Andrew Grant, and Spencer de Grey have also participated in the forum as speakers. This year, Deyan Sudjic, director of London’s Design Museum will be speaking at the forum.


SONY DSCPacific Place -Pacific Place, the symbol of luxury meet design in Asia - Thomas Heatherwick famed project in Hong Kong Learning Hub at Nanyang Technology University - Thomas Heatherwick - Comptition winning proposal for £360 university redevelopment scheme

Main: The stunning Gardens by the Bay designed by Grant Associates and Gustafson Porter; Bottom left: Thomas Heatherwick’s redesign of Pacific Place, a popular shopping mall in Hong Kong; Bottom right: Thomas Heatherwick’s Learning Hub at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore


BODW is a forum that serves as a platform linking all forms of design, architecture and art by merging disciplines and exchanging ideas, projects, and concepts, as well as a gateway to China and Asia. As we all know, we are living in a more globalised world, and so collaborations between the East and the West is crucial in shaping our future. At the end of the day, we are all codependent of each other, and hopefully through design and dialogues between organisations, businesses and people, we can create a better and more harmonious world.


Business of Design Week 2013 will take place in Hong Kong from 2nd – 7th December at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.


Our new theme: PLAY



In the past few years, I noticed a “back to basic” trend happening in the developed countries, and even in product designs, many designers have opted for less decorative style and creating products from natural material. Simple wooden toys also seem to have made a comeback, which I am quite happy to see.

I am sure that most people would agree that as technology advances, our lives are improved in a certain way, yet at the same time, our lifestyles are more unhealthy and we are more disconnected with reality and the people around us. The idea of introducing a collection based around the theme “Play” came to me because I feel that perhaps adults don’t play enough these days ( and I don’t mean Candy Crush saga). I remember board or card games that I used to play with friends and families before the internet days, and it was through these games, we got to know the other players i.e. how competitive one can be or how one loves to cheat etc. I was also fond of origami, paper crafts, jigsaw puzzles and building mini cities with Lego, it was through these activities that I was able to apply my creativity, which I believe is crucial regardless of our ages.




A majority of the products from this collection are Japanese because out of all the Asian countries, Japan offers the most creative and diverse range of games and paper crafts. And products like handmade balloons that can change colours ( Hen-shin balloons) or turn into a dog ( Mammal D) can only be found in Japan! Again, there are some Good design award winners like Funny Face by Cochae, Irokumi colour card set by Studio Pi-pa and Rocca card games by 10inc. I was also quite thrilled to have discovered some less well-known design studios like Mountain Mountain from Japan ( personally, I love the Process balance bird set) and Newcode design studio from Taiwan who have made some wonderful wooden toys including an old time favourite, yoyo.




I started preparing for this collection in July and somehow encountered a lot of difficulties due to all sorts of reasons. There were products that I really wanted to stock but was not able to, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, I was lucky to be helped by many including Susumu-san in Japan who contacted the Japanese companies on my behalf without getting paid for it. I am so indebted to him!

From the very beginning, I already knew that I wanted to collaborate with a local Asian game designer to create some simple but fun games for the website to be more interactive. Yet the process of finding this person turned out to be quite a quest in itself! I eventually found Sam Chau by chance via the London College of Communication website, where I saw an announcement of his award-winning game at a competition. He was on holiday when I contacted him and I was on a retreat when he replied, so it took us a while to eventually meet and discuss the project.

The front page and the three games took about 2 1/2 months to develop and complete from start to finish, there were a lot of changes throughout, but we are both happy with the final outcome. I hope that besides the card games, toys and paper crafts available for purchase, users will be able to enjoy the interactive games at the same time.

Remember that play time is not only for children, adults need it too! Enjoy!



Make, do & meet workshop

make, do & meet


We have been selling on Notonthehighstreet.com for almost one year now, and it has helped us to grow our U.K. market. And as Christmas is approaching, we are anticipating our busiest Christmas yet.

I have never attended their events or workshops before because they are usually sold out early. I registered on the waiting list for the Make, do & meet workhop and it was last week that I received an email informing me about an available place even though I had already forgotten about it!

The event took place at Drink, shop & Do ( I wonder if the name of the workshop was inspired by them? ) in Kings Cross, which also happens to be one of my favourite cafes in the area.


drink, shop & dodrink, shop & dodrink, shop & do


The workshop was an informal event which covered information on sales forecasting for Christmas, SEO tips, new opportunities with NOTHS, Q & A sessions, as well as the opportunity to meet with other local designers and business owners. Not surprisingly, 98% of the attendees were female, which shows the strong female entrepreneurship in the U.K. nowadays.


make, do & meet


One of the best part of the event was the endless supply of food and drinks, from breakfast to lunch and afternoon tea, it was a busy day for my mouth and stomach… However, as much as I love the venue, it was too small for the event, we were all crammed together uncomfortably for most of the day and had little room to eat or socialise. That was probably the only downside of the event.

On the whole, it was an informative and relaxed event that was more fun than the corporate-style workshops I have attended in the past. Though it was also a reminder that it is time to start preparing for the Christmas season! Only 16 weeks to go…