Maison&Objet Asia lights up

SINGAPORE - The first Maison&Objet Asia, which began on Monday and ended on Thursday, was an event filled with lights, cameras and action.

Two things stood out at the furniture and lifestyle accessories trade fair held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. For one, the lighting options were vast, and in some cases, outrageous.

For example, Belgian label Spiridon Exclusive Collection showed off futuristic-looking lamps in metallic sheens, while Italian company Melogranoblu drew shutterbugs with its glass- blown lights that dripped down in style.

Tableware and accessories were also clearly pitched at the high-end market.

Home-grown company Luzerne, which specialises in ceramic and stone tableware, propped up its dinner plates like colourful cake pops, while French porcelain manufacturer Bernardaud, known for its classical tableware, accessories and furniture, set up its booth in a luxurious living room setting.

The inaugural trade show drew 272 international and local exhibitors looking to do business and make contact with local and regional distributors interested in carrying their labels. Brands were separated into three areas: luxury, design and interior decoration.

It was also a good platform for companies to announce their arrival. French furniture label Habitat, which left the Singapore market in 1996 due to poor business, told Life! that it was re-entering the market here with a new 1,500 sq m store in October. It will be located in a new megamall, Big Box, in Jurong East. Mr Vincent Destailleur, chief executive officer of Cafom, a French home furnishings retailer which bought Habitat here in 2011, said: "In the last two years, we have refreshed the concept of Habitat... The Singapore market will get most of the items such as lighting, home accessories and furniture that the other markets do."

Local luxury brand Akar de Nissim, which sells items such as handcrafted furniture, ceramics, leather products and candles, also made its debut at the fair.

The show here is comparatively smaller than its French counterpart - it took up just 6,000 sq m across three halls at the Marina Bay Sands Expo versus the eight sprawling halls and 130,000 sq m of space at the Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center, 30 minutes outside of Paris. The event, which takes place in January and September in France every year, has been going on for the last 19 years.

Ms Penny Sloane, managing director of Siren Design Singapore, a multi-disciplinary design service, who visited the fair on Tuesday, said: "I brought my team here to get inspired by the looks on show. I was concerned that there would be too many lifestyle booths just selling tassels and cushions. But it has been a good mix of furniture, lights and accessories."

Visitors also attended packed talks at the first ever Interior Design & Lifestyle Summit. The line-up of speakers, which included British designer Tom Dixon and the fair's Designer Of The Year, Kenneth Cobonpue from the Philippines, spoke on issues such as selling design online and tracking trends.

At the well-curated Rising Asian Talents showcase, six up-and-coming designers showed their products to visitors within a small space.

The designers are Mr Mike Mak, 29, from Hong Kong; Ms Lo Yu Fen, 39, from Taiwan; Mr Melvin Ong, 29, from Singapore; Mr Denny Rasyid Priyatna, 24, from Indonesia; Mr Sittichai Ngamhongtong, 25, from Thailand, and Ms Lilianna Christina Manahan, 28, from the Philippines.

About 14,000 visitors pre- registered for the fair, a number the organiser Salons Francais Et Internationaux described as "a good surprise". The event cost about €2.5 million (S$4.4 million) to put together and promote.

Maison&Objet Asia's managing director Philippe Brocart, 50, already has plans to make the show bigger when it returns next year. He said that it might take up two levels instead of just the current three halls. However, it is likely to remain closed to the public.

On his long-term plans for the fair here, he said: "Maison&Objet Asia is taking place during Singapore Design Week, with other major events happening at the same time. There's additional reason for people to come to Singapore during this week, and we're not competing events. So, there's something for everyone."

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