Milan fair chiefs slam China

The organisers of the Milan Furniture Fair have hit out at China, describing it as a ‘country without true culture’ that ‘just produces copies’.

Speaking at a press conference today at the Design Museum in London, Rosario Messina, president of Cosmit, the company which stages the fair, said, ‘We have a democracy of design [in Italy]. We are producing new creations while the Chinese make copies of them.’

Cosmit chief executive Manlio Armellini supported these comments, saying, ‘In China there isn’t the culture; they haven’t arrived at it. It will take them 20, 30, 40 years. China has a stealing culture. It produces “burger” furniture.’

Their comments followed a panel discussion on Italian design hosted by Gareth Williams, design curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which included Italian designers Mario Bellini and Fabbio Novembre, German designer Werner Aisslinger and London retailer Zeev Aram.

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  • Joseph O'Connor November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    While the accusations of copying in China have ample evidence, the suggestion that China is a “country without true culture” betrays an ignorance of China, recent and ancient.

    Having just spent almost 3.5yrs living and working in China helping the Chinese government and companies understand, develop and produce design I can assure you that the prediction of 20,30 or 40 years is wildly pessimistic or optimistic, (depending upon whether you would actually like China to develop its Design Industry).

    I would suggest first of all trying to understand Chinese culture, (the Confucianist variety where students learn solely by copying their master.) It is still how most Chinese education is conducted today. Secondly, try to understand that Chinese society has not had the benefit of a system of Ruler-ship by Law. It is still a society where what some of us might consider the simple moral values of right and wrong are not understood in the same way we would.

    Part of my task while in China was to teach how IPR has its roots in values, not laws. I know through my own experience that there are very many within Chinese Society, Education, Manufacturing, Design Industries and Government itself that are learning that their own creative expression is by far the richer in terms of satisfaction and financial profit. They have a struggle on their hands to hold to these values in the face of easy money that can still be made by just copying but remember this; in relative terms Chinese designers suffer as much from IPR infringement as us Westerners do. Because IPR is still not effectively upheld, local companies do not invest in design, the result being that the average Chinese Industrial Designer with 5yrs experience earns about £300.00 per month. That’s about half what they should when all the conversions and costs of living are taken into account. They are the most undervalued designers I have ever seen.

    Are they any good? Increasingly, yes.

    I have suffered my designs being copied in China. I therefore consistently condemn it. I don’t like it, it hurts financially and it breaks trust, but if you want the situation to improve then you have to try harder to change it. Making overemotional comments that betray a lack of understanding and which damage the attempts being made in China by Chinese Designers to express their own culture is not the way. If you are not sure how the comments in question might hurt that cause then learn a bit more about Chinese culture, especially the bit about “face”. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

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