On Brands, Fakes and Product Design…

B Beyond talks to designer Danful Yang

Danful Yang was born on Chongming Island, Shanghai. She did International Business Studies and more interestingly, work experience in Production for European Designers. The crafts, she says, included embroidery, wood carving, enamel and cloisonne, red carved lacquer, porcelain, reverse painting…

In 2003 she took a job at Pearl Lam’s Contrasts Gallery in Shanghai which marked a turning point in her career. Pearl Lam is no ordinary employer. Quite apart from pushing the boundaries in everything she does, she “pushes everyone to give their best” and encourages them to design, says Danful.

Danful started with drawing jewellery, with Pearl acting as a mentor, and then moved on to creating quirky, single pieces of furniture, such as trunk sofas (quite literally produced from reclaimed trunks).

During a trip to Osaka, she accompanied Pearl on a shopping expedition. Both women were struck by the “sameness” of what was on offer in stores, so Danful decided to make an original bag. She bought two fake Chloe bags from a market, cut and mixed them together and added antique Chinese locks to the newly fashioned item.

This first inspired her “Fake” concept installation and after she created the “FAKE” series sending up brand madness and brazen imitation, with her best know work, the fake chair, acquired by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in Canada, and a number of private collectors in America, Canada and Switzerland. The chair was also taken and auctioned off by the Dallas Museum.

Danful thinks of herself as a product designer but has an artist’s approach. Her mentor, Pearl Lam, thinks she “jumps all over the place” in terms of ideas and would like to see her develop a series.

Danful has experimented with porcelain sculptures, bought by different private collectors, and has created a “mushroom sofa” and a LiaoLan bench, both exhibited at Art Basel .

“I had eyes embroidered on the cushions, so that as you sit on the sofa, the eyes are watching you at all times. Do not try to escape or hide the “true” you.”

The idea may sound disconcerting but the bold and thought-provoking pieces speak for themselves.

Danful is currently on a curatorial scholarship for contemporary design in London. She has created a small series of highly personalised alphabet letters, one of which was drawn for John Caudwell’s partner Claire Johnson’s birthday.