Grace Wang is a partner in VVG Lifestyle Village, which is a group of 9 pioneering F&B and retail businesses in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city. It is through VVG, which celebrated its 16th birthday this year, that Wang is attempting, and for the most part succeeding, to bring design, art, and an appreciation for good quality living into the everyday lives of Taipei residents. She is a key member of Taiwan’s design community, and is simultaneously an advocate for and a critic of the development of the local design industry.
For the most part, “people in Asia are just beginning to understand how important design is for a good life,” says Wang. “People in the West are used to having design in their lives; there’s a certain standard there already and a history of design. While that standard and history may not exist in Asia, there’s a certain energy and passion for design that is unique.” That strong desire to create great design products is important for Taiwanese designers because, as Wang notes, selling your work in the local market is difficult. “In Europe, in the United States, even in Japan, the market is very mature,” she continues. “Taiwanese people haven’t had this experience for as long of a period, so sometimes local designers struggle to develop their ideas and sell them in the market.”
For Wang, Chinese design is misunderstood in the international markets. “In Asia, it’s very easy for people to understand Chinese design,” she explains, “but in the West, in Europe or the United States, people have a very cliched view of design from this part of the world.” Designs that come out of Chinese-speaking communities are influenced by different philosophies, education systems, and concepts, and that makes them unique. However, she warns, local designers need to be wary of restricting their vision. “If you focus too much on local cultural influences, then your ideas will only have a small impact.”
If designers want to create products or concepts that impact the world, they need to experience life in other countries. They need to see for themselves what other designers around the world are doing, and then compare that with what they are trying to achieve. “You should ask yourself ‘Am I doing something very important?’ If you only focus on Chinese culture or the Chinese lifestyle, you’ll always be stuck in one place. Of course, you should understand your history, your background, but you should also expose yourself to other cultures, histories, and concepts,” Wang urges.
Establishing strong international relationships is something that Grace Wang feels is key to the success of Taiwanese designers. While local design often gets exposure in new markets and to new consumers through overseas exhibitions and fairs, the products and projects are not always promoted in the right way. This makes it difficult for people from other countries and cultures to understand the concepts behind the design. “Designers in Taiwan need good agents that will help them to develop their products. They should spend less time on exhibitions and put more time into developing their designs. There needs to be more workshops and more cross-cultural opportunities for local designers.”
About Grace Wang
Grace Wang came to VVG 14 years ago, after many years working in retail visual merchandising. Since her first years managing VVG Bistro, she has expanded the business to include four restaurants, a catering business, a bookstore, a patisserie, a bakery and sewing supplier, and a boutique hotel. VVG Catering has catered Taipei-based events for many of the world’s leading fashion brands and also organizes markets, workshops, and exhibitions across the country, all of which encourage people to lead a “heartwarming” life. In 2014, VVG Lifestyle Village won a Best Design in the Golden Pin Design Award.