A new ambassador for the school in Hong Kong
After Myriam Picovschi in Canada, it’s the turn of Xavier Ferré to take on the role of school ambassador in Hong Kong. He completed a 2-year work-study program in Product Design in 2009 and has been based in Asia ever since – which makes him an ideal candidate to help newly arrived students and consolidate the local alumni network.
Upholding the school’s values, the ambassador is both the local point of contact for alumni and the school representative at Hong Kong events. Xavier Ferré, designer and 2009 alumni, is our new ambassador. We had a chat with this young expat who has adopted China as his home.
Xavier, can you tell us about your apprenticeship?
After my 1st year at L’École de design, I decided to continue my studies in BTS Design de produit par alternance. I started working for Le Coin des Enfants specialized in developing and manufacturing toys and decorations for children’s bedrooms. Alternating two weeks in the company in Machecoul with two weeks at school, I developed new product ranges for them including a fun playhouse made of foam. This product won first prize in the trends category at the “Jeux et Jouets” toy show in Paris.
As the two-year apprenticeship went so well, we made the decision to continue working together for another year in the Philippines. This meant I could finish the projects directly on the production site on the island of Cebu where the wooden toys are hand painted by local people.
After my experience in the Philippines, I then did a VIE (International Volunteer Program), also with Le Coin des Enfants to develop their production in China. Then I joined PSL who were developing an emergency telephone. Powered by two AA batteries, it holds its charge for around 15 years.
For the past five years I’ve been working for four companies in a international group: RPS (specialized in the manufacture and development of phone accessories for operators such as Vodafone and distributors like HAMA in Germany), Eyestyle (specialized in the distribution of luxury glasses brands - L.G.R, Kuboraum, JPlus, AM Eyewear, Lotho - or the development and production of prescription glasses and sunglasses for luxury brands), MYKITA Asia (distribution of high end glasses) and DesignLink (distributor in Asia of over 50 brands of designer furniture such as Tom Dixon, Stua, Moooi...). For these companies I work on everything from marketing stands for international fairs and merchandising tools for glasses stores (e.g. display units and window dressing), to developing concepts for stores in Asia, but also all the printing and advertising that we need for promoting our brands.
Why did you choose a career as an international designer? And why Hong Kong?
When I was working in the Philippines, I made several business trips to Hong Kong and I loved the pace of life of this city. 7.5 million people concentrated in a tiny and still relatively undeveloped territory – that leaves a lot of space for outdoor activities only 20 minutes from the city centre! It’s very easy to meet potential partners who can get involved in our projects, and the business world is one of the main topics of conversation at parties and events organised by the city or by local companies.
For me, after the years spent living here in Hong Kong, an international lifestyle was an obvious choice. I’ve found that my career as an industrial designer has evolved much more interestingly given the proximity of Chinese factories but also because French designers are recognized and valued. Since design and its processes are new for Asia, there were many more opportunities up for grabs.
You’ve been there for several years now. Can you tell us about the role of the designer in Asian society?
These days, many international companies decide to set up their design office in Asian capitals like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and Shanghai since Asian culture is often very different from Europe and the United States. Adapting to the local culture of these countries is essential for the success of brands. Mixing up teams of designers is the best way for companies to combine an understanding of local needs with the techniques and know-how of French designers for example.
What do you see yourself doing professionally in the future?
Having been a product manager and project manager for five years, I’d like to continue managing design teams but in bigger companies. Working for a brand and continuing to develop the brand image is also something dear to my heart. A future job as creative director is probably what I’d like best, so I can keep a foot in the creative process while managing design teams at the same time.
What do you think about your new title of Alumni Ambassador?
I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people, so being ambassador for L’École de design lets me continue doing what I love – meeting other people who are passionate about the world of design. Helping them discover the city where I have lived and found my inspiration for the past seven years. And why not attracting even more designers from the school to the Asian market as they’re in high demand!