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Moving with the times

by MAVIS WONG on Oct 21, 2011 in Products
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With exquisite craftsmanship at the very core of the brand, Halo continues to evolve

When it comes to purchasing a product, it’s only natural to check where it is made. If it’s somewhere like Japan, the UK or Italy, most people immediately assume it’s a good buy. But what if ‘Made in China’ is inscribed on the product body or label? Quick as a flash, concerns over quality and labour practices come to the fore, as this is the place which has long been regarded as the world’s factory.

Eager to correct this impression is lifestyle brand Halo, which produces luxury handcrafted furniture. “In five years’ time, ‘Made in China’ will be promoted because what it means is better quality. People today think it’s poor quality, but it’s not true,” says
Timothy Oulton, owner and creative director of Halo, who believes Chinese artisans are fast learning skills and are capable of doing the best job. “If you’re just doing a modern sofa range, I’m sure Italy is good. But if you want a complex product, I don’t know anywhere better than China.”

Without doubt, Halo is proud of being ‘made in China’. Evident to this is its newly-opened showroom – a four-storey building of steel and salvaged timber with a natural industrial ceiling, reminiscent of the brand’s contemporary yet vintage sensibility – in Gaoming, Foshan. Just 90 minutes by car from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, this 4,000 sq-m showroom not only is located in the vicinity of its China workshop, but also incorporates Chinese elements – a huge Mao Zedong sculpture placed right at the entrance and the ‘Five Star Red Flag’ pattern carved into the lift’s ceiling – forming a visually-interesting contrast with its setting, where collections featuring the Union Jack pattern could be found.

Dating back to 1976, Halo started off as an antique business in England but then repositioned to focus on the recreation of antique pieces with a modern viewpoint. When asked about this move, Oulton emphasised that bringing a modern perspective to the brand is essential: “I think if you do not put a modern flavour, it’s not relevant today. I love heritage, but I want to reinvent it.”

Offering a diverse range of products from furniture to trunks, bags and travel accessories, Halo is known for a unique aesthetic with exquisite craftsmanship at its very core. “You want to make something you are proud of. You want to make something that’s going to last,” says Oulton. “That’s what we do; that’s what we’re good at. We could never get anywhere if we hadn’t captured craftsmanship. Never.”

‘Big pieces’ are another signature of Halo. “It tells you who we are,” notes Oulton. “We have small chairs as well, but of course, the accent is big. I’d like to show oversized items.”

Today, Halo has gone a step further by collaborating with a number of international designers – Kelly Hoppen and Michael Yeung included – to create intriguing sub-brands. The Kelly Hoppen for Halo furniture collection is glamorous with clean lines, while Yeung creates futuristic designs with an unusual blend of avant-garde modernism. Among them, one interesting crossover is a range created with the Oxford University, the second oldest surviving university in the world.

According to Oulton, collaborations are not restricted to designers, as long as they interest him while having a completely different style with Halo. “When we do the sub-brands, we always learn something. You don’t feel it, but it happens by osmosis. I know the quality of our fabrics has improved since we did Kelly’s line, because I got a better idea of how to do it.”

 

A new space

Why is the showroom in Gaoming, instead of a big city like Beijing or Shanghai?

Timothy Oulton (TO): I want it in Guangzhou; I want it in Gaoming, because the factory is part of the story. I want it to be next to the factory. That’s fundamental to me. Some customers won’t come because it’s in the middle of nowhere. But I’m okay with that.

What do you expect of this new showroom?

TO: I would like our customers to bring their customers here and use it as a permanent showroom, not just for show twice a year. When people come to the showroom, they can go to the workshop, too. I want them to see how the products are made.

What kinds of guest experiences are created here?

TO: Obviously we want people to come and spend all day; that’s why we’ve put a shower room in, as well as the kitchen and the fireplace. They’ve come a long way. Before they go back to the airport, they can have a shower, relax and have some food and coffee. 

 

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