In his capacity as Immediate past President of Design Business Chamber Singapore, Lawrence Chong was the Guest-of-Honour at the launch party to mark MAISON&OBJET’s entry into Singapore. Below is the address delivered during the cocktail party at the National Design Centre.
Mr. Philippe Brocart, MD of MAISON&OBJET ASIA, fellow designers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. First of all, on behalf of the professional community of designers, welcome to Singapore. Philippe, as you will notice during your trips here to our city, like Paris we love our gardens and our latest pride and joy is the one by the Bay, filled with exotic plants from around the world. So I am sure MAISON&OBJET, like a delicate and exotic flower, will be a wonderful addition to our design garden, a rich environment which we have carefully nurtured over the years. With just a few points, I like to share with you on the vision of our industry and how we see our place within the broader neighborhood of Asean.
It is said that the European Union beats with two hearts, one German and the other one, French. If Germany drives the economic leadership of Europe then France represents its soft power. Paris then is at the heart of this constant exchange of ideas and is relevant because it beats for a creative Europe. Likewise, Singapore is only useful because our city, our heart, beats for a creative Asean. This diverse population of 600 million, shaped by regional powers and ideologies is on the threshold of sustained growth and innovation. Our region is well-positioned on numerous fronts: The financial crisis in 1997 has resulted in stronger economies. Philippines and Indonesia, two of our larger member states, now have a stronger infrastructure and software in place and are now growing in more predictable ways. World Bank forecasts that Indonesia will achieve 5-6% growth in 2014 and Philippines just got upgraded by Moody’s as investment grade. On the political front, our patient engagement, the Asean way, has made it possible for Myanmar to come out of years of isolation. At a time when other regions are still plagued by a rogue state, our approach of soft and patient engagement convinced a rogue state of 56 million to end its isolation and open up as one of the last frontiers in Asia.
Through it all, Singapore, through our patient and consistent engagement with different member states, with our capabilities as an efficient and stable city and reach in terms of our strong private sector, is well-positioned to support the rise of a new and creative dynamic that is bubbling up in Asean. Thousands of young people, professionals from Asean and many parts of Asia study and work in Singapore. Our design sector, continues to benefit from this access to the rich talent pool from the region. Additionally, a study which the Design Business Chamber Singapore conducted a few years ago showed that most of our member companies have business and presence in the region. In other words, it is this constant flow of culture, ideas, talent and trade that enables Singapore to function effectively as a creative heart for the region. Without it, we cannot hope to have any meaningful function. As a city seeking to rise as a global capital for design, we need to retain that preferential option for diversity. MAISON&OBJET’s presence can further enhance this diversity and help us achieve our vision.
From our perspective as the Design Business Chamber Singapore, whose members consist of design firms and professionals from architecture, branding, interior, industrial and new media disciplines in the region, we see an exciting horizon opening up before us. For friends who are new to Singapore, eventually you will notice that the Singaporean way is always about taking the best approaches and putting them together efficiently, just like the refreshing Singapore Sling cocktail that you can order from the Raffles Hotel at the Long Bar. What is needed for our design cocktail? To produce a uniquely Singapore Sling for the design industry, we believe the following five ingredients are critical:
1. Designers as Family
Singapore’s designers must first commit to build a welcoming community. To this end, I am proud to say that with the help of Design Singapore Council, all the different associations have worked in a far more collaborative way. We have launched the DesignS network which is a common platform for all of the 8 different professional design institutes in 2010. This year, all of us collaborated for Singaplural, a week-long design event which saw the participation of thousands of Singaporeans in public spaces and massive trade-show at the Expo.
2. Business Community to embrace design
To ensure a more holistic embrace of the role of design, we want to bring the business community in and help them see the tangible value of design. I am pleased to announce that for the first time, we will organise the equivalent to the Singapore Lecture – The first Singapore Design Business Summit in 2014. This will act as a platform to bring business and creative leaders together and help them understand the role of design in shaping the future.
3. Unique Partnership with Government
The special relationship that we have in Singapore between public and private sector is what enables the design sector to have policies that take care of the immediate and long term needs. We continue to value this relationship and is necessary for Singapore to stay ahead.
4. Active Young Talent
Philippe, you mentioned about talents and we share the same goal. We want young design talents to be engaged, we want them to be involved as design entreprenuers and professionals. We want all of our design students, when they leave the schools, to have the confidence that they can have a future in the design industry.
5. Global Partners
Lastly we need global partners like MAISON&OBJET. Partners like yourself enhance our understanding of issues and the trends in the world. It allows us to play a bigger role in shaping global developments.
All this, I believe, should add up to become a pretty potent ‘Singapore Sling’ for the design industry. I sincerely hope that the ‘flower’ of MAISON&OBJET will get used to our climate and blossom. Lastly, this is what I like to wish you as you begin your journey. I just learned this phrase in French from an acquaintance which I think is very apt for this evening: La vie est faite de petits bonheurs. Which means: Life is full of little pleasures. I hope, Philippe, as MAISON&OBJET begins its adventure here in Singapore, your organisation will experience many little moments of pleasure. Thank you.