Zhuo Tan is the Event Director of Design Shanghai, Design China Beijing and Design Shenzhen – Asia’s largest international design event series.
Zhuo heads the Design Shanghai portfolio of events and is one of the most influential female figures in the Chinese design world. She’s been instrumental in championing young designers and architects and pushing the sustainability agenda to the forefront.
We chatted to her about her experience within several creative industries and the challenges ahead for the Design Shanghai.
Tell us about your design background and the history of Design Shanghai.
While my educational background is based in business management, with a degree of MBA, in my personal life I have always held a love and passion for art and design and believe I have a very good eye for it; I do oil painting in my free time and while studying for my MBA in the UK I loved to visit exhibitions and events to surround myself with the plethora of creativity and culture that was available at my fingertips. My first job in the UK was working for a brand called CarDesignNews which is the world leading car design media. This gave me insight into the design industry, travelling to visit designers, workshops and events. I was then headhunted by Design Shanghai and joined the company in 2013. My eight years in this role has led me to develop a strong knowledge and network in the design industry. My business background has proven very useful, I am able to approach our shows with both a creative and practical perspective.
What does Design Shanghai represent as a design event?
I feel our tagline, Asia’s leading International Design Events, perfectly summarises this. We represent the best of Chinese and international brands, working with over 30 countries and 400 brands each year, with 70% of our brands being international.
How do you continue to innovative in the industry?
We constantly push ourselves to show our creativity and evolution, so our visitors can learn the latest developments within the design industry. We are both sensible and sensitive to trends, to ensure we are aware and current and always bringing solutions to our shows.
What has been your most successful milestone to date?
A couple of milestones I wanted to highlight focus on the growth of our shows. In 2014 we only had 15,000 sqm of space for the show, we now have 50,000 sqm. We have grown by 20% year on year which is incredible, moving from 3 sections of the show to 8 sections of the show. The most moving achievement for me is being able to deliver the show to the same size quality during the pandemic years. With so many changes and challenges we have stayed strong and kept delivering good quality shows in China. I am extremely proud of myself and the team.
How do you manage working globally?
By working with global partners. We call it our team, we have lots of partners across the world, including Australia, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. Without covid restrictions we would travel around the world to look for exciting new designs, visiting places like Paris, Milan, Stockholm for big international events, sourcing brands to bring designs to China. During Covid we have made sure to be reading global magazines to keep up to date and be well connected.
What is the biggest challenge for Design Shanghai in the global event industry?
I think having a voice in the global events industry is very important. Promoting Chinese design was something we put down as our mission on the first day we launched the show. China is rich in craftsmanship, art and design but has been forgotten in the modern design industries, only being seen as the one to copy, our goal is to promote the rich talent that China possesses. Helping change the perspective from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Design in China’ and being the bridge for the talent globally. Design Shanghai is a hub for the best ideas and designs.
What are you focused on for 2022?
The Design Shanghai show in June is a huge event and we are fully focused on delivering a good quality show. Our second show, Design China Beijing is in September which will be a hot topic as we are bringing 80 experts to talk about sustainable design in the Chinese market. We are also re-launching Design Shenzhen in December. Our main focus this year is to deliver successful shows.