Designer André Fu's eclectic portfolio has won him recognition far beyond the borders of his native Hong Kong. In this exclusive interview for Perspective, CATHERINE SHAW talks to him about the way he views the spaces in which he works, and his penchant for collaborating with innovators
Shortly after returning to Hong Kong in 2004 to focus on developing his design studio, having gained a master's degree in architecture at Cambridge University in the UK, André Fu was awarded a career-defining project: to create the interiors of Swire Properties' new The Upper House hotel above the city's prestigious shopping mall, Pacific Place.
When the 117-room hotel opened in 2009, unveiling Fu's fresh, bespoke take on relaxed luxury, the thoughtfully curated monochromatic interiors not only set a decidedly elegant new benchmark for contemporary hospitality, but also firmly placed the soft-spoken young designer on the world's design radar.
Nevertheless, while some designers might have been tempted to continue delivering more of the same winning aesthetic, Fu and his studio AFSO have instead gone on to create an eclectic, evolving portfolio, including a glass teahouse-inspired restaurant and glamorous spa at Villa La Coste in the French countryside, a secret boudoir-style apartment for Louis Vuitton's VIP clients, and an avantgarde, one-night-only, pop-up urban landscape perched atop a Hong Kong harbour-front pier for fashion house COS.
This summer, Fu completed the interiors and a series of landscaped gardens for Kerry Hotels' 16-storey, 546-room waterfront resort in Hung Hom, created an intimate, by-invitation members' lounge, Pavilion, at Pacific Place, and unveiled a gleaming new art gallery in Tokyo.
He has also turned his attention to products, launching his own lifestyle brand in 2015 with a second collection of sophisticated, urban-inspired carpets for Tai Ping; his first range, conceived in 2011, is the brand's best-selling product line. He's also developed an intriguing artisanal scent with Argentine cult perfumer Julian Bedel, as well as handmade, modernist, architectural-style lamps in collaboration with Czech glass specialists Lasvit.
In 2016, Fu was named Designer of the Year for Maison & Objet Asia and one of Wallpaper* magazine's Top 20 Interior Designers. He is quick to credit Hong Kong for much of his success. "The city offers a positive mentality and drive that creates unique opportunities and is very liberating for young designers," he says.
Irrespective of location, scale or type of project, Fu says each new commission starts with investing the time and energy it takes to fully understand the client, the brand and their specific brief or vision. "When someone walks into a space – whether it is an Andaz or a Waldorf Hotel – that is what they should see," he says. "My signature touches may be there, but it is very important to me that the design tells a story about the brand."
The designer says he is especially interested in how different senses combine to create a holistic experience within a space, although he notes that nowadays designers need to be aware of avoiding the temptation to design for design's sake, particularly when it comes to creating spectacular Instagram-worthy "moments".
"When I visit a site, I try to accentuate what the place already provides, adding layers without being overly decorative," he says. "I have always been fascinated with the emotional impact of a space, particularly in the world of hospitality. Perhaps it is my exposure to different cultures that allows me to adapt to work in new environments – I trust my instincts will captivate the spirit of a place. But I never consider whether my design aesthetics belong to the East or West – my design process has always been very organic."
This is an excerpt from the “A touch of class" article from the September 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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