With ongoing worldwide industrial revolutions, how should Taiwanese manufacturers explore new opportunities while faced with cost and transitional challenges has become an increasingly popular topic in recent years. One particular designer’s boutique brand mind-set, combined with his enthusiasm in showcasing Taiwanese processing skills through his works, has not only won him numerous awards and recognition from New York-based Luxury Lifestyle Award, but also highlighted Taiwan’s industrial acumens to the global market.
LAJOS was founded by Bryan Leung the moment he left school. Having positioned his first product, letter opener “Memento” as a sophisticated gift, the product comes in six distinctive styles to suit their respective, intended professions so that gift-givers could better convey their thoughts for the receivers. Full of intricate detail from the product itself to the packaging, Memento was not only a successful crowdfunding project, but also received Best Concept Design from 2015 Golden Pin Design Award as well as Platinum Award from A’ Design Award. It is also the first Taiwanese designer product to have also caught the eye of celebrated Milanese designer, Rossana Orlandi!
“Not only was this a positive recognition for my work, but also the most authentic compliment to Taiwanese craftsmanship,” said Bryan Leung, Founder and Brand Strategic Consultant of LAJOS.
“I want to make things that can show off the skills of our processing firms and hope to advertise Taiwan’s industrial strengths to the global market through designer home accessories,” answered Bryan Leung firmly, his eyes sparkling as he was questioned on his intention for founding LAJOS.
Award-winning Vessel Displays “Designer-class” Surface Workmanship
To achieve designer-class products, meticulous designs need to be created. Vessel, a new product from LAJOS, is a vase-shaped diffuser. Its Chinese vase-inspired rounded curves are shiny metallic on the outside and matted on the inside. Light dances on its body in a shimmery shower, while the polished, curved reflection allows Vessel to blend perfectly in any environment. Its organic shape adds to any space without distracting from it, just like how aroma is meant to make an environment more comfortable without being overpowering. Vessel has helped LAJOS to bag the 2019 Golden Pin Design Award and a Bronze Award from A’ Design Award soon after its launch.
“Diffusers we usually see in the market are basically glass jars with sticks in them. One time, I visited my friend’s new place: the living room was impeccable, you can tell the owner really put a lot of thought into it. But sitting in the middle was a diffuser that was also used in their bathroom. And suddenly, the space was all off.” Bryan Leung believes that people have different perceptions and values about space and would naturally be more dedicated to spaces they are more emotionally attached to. And it is up to the designers to fill in the space. “Aroma shouldn’t be just a scent; it should also be highly decorative in that space.”
Therefore, he designed an organic shape with a hollow in the middle that could seamlessly blend into its environment. Once he has finally confirmed its exterior after multiple sketching, the product has gone through three mockups and countless adjustments to its width, thickness, curves, and balance to make sure the arches were all in the right places. The final product was one that was bottom-heavy and naturally exudes serenity and calm.
Design Hits A New Snag at Mass Production
This beautiful, perfectly curved shape immediately runs into production problems. Though deceivingly simple, Vessel’s thickness actually changes along with its curves and comes with exterior hooks. Finally, it was decided that the diffuser would be made by investment casting. This process breaks its wax mold, thus allowing for all types of complex shapes to made. Nevertheless, in order to control the thickness, an artisan needs to ponder ways to break the mold while preparing the mold, since the wax would not pour as easily when the mold is too thin, leading to gaps.
The diffuser further troubled the manufacturers during its surface treatment. “We mostly did processing for auto parts and daily hardware, and basically all metal components would require polishing. But we had never made designer products before.” The second generation of Putian Technology Co., Ltd, situated at New Taipei City, is committed to taking polishing to the next level after inheriting the store. Rather than seeing the daunting task as a nuisance, they fully committed to making the diffuser.
“The designer requested for something ‘would not show any lines’ but the shape itself is complicated. It is matte on the inside and glossy on the outside. So, we sought for advice from many master craftsmen and studied new techniques and materials. It was a brand-new challenge for our factory,” said Allen assertively, General Manager of Putian Technology, the artisans behind the polishing.
Numerous Obligatory Handmade Processes
One of the most important processes in making Vessel concerns its glossy outer and matted, sandblasted inner side. After multiple attempts including using jigs, dismantling, and polishing before sanding, multiple polishingwas used to achieve the design.
After a rough polishing, the glossy side is covered with stickers before the inner side is sanded. This concealed sanding process can also be used to make jigs to accelerate the processing speed after the production volume increases.
After treating the inner side, the glossy outer is again partially polished. But the diffuser is still far from complete!
Allen explained, “The edges are difficult and cannot be made by machines because they could easily bend under pressure. So, we have to slowly polish along the curves using small tools.” After eight processes, the finished product is finally cleaned using ultrasonic cleaner.
Synergies Created from Challenging Industrial Strengths
Putian Technology has taken a major step away from the bounds of traditional manufacturing process after their initial success with LAJOS and started accepting projects from other designers. “In fact, factories will resist designs that are considered too novel, and most of the ones we worked with are second or third generation owners looking for transformation. But we are usually so satisfied after the products are made that they become benchmarks for the factories.”
Bryan Leung believes that designers should discuss techniques and processes with the factories and to remain flexible to the factories’ needs. Not only will this ensure product quality, but it would also enhance their mutual trust for one another. Different from the majority of brands that sign confidentiality contracts with their OEM factories, LAJOS sees factories as partners. During the production stage, LAJOS wishes to enhance the factories’ technical know-how and makes difficult demands; however, it spares no efforts in singing praises for the factories afterwards, thereby giving the manufacturers chances to be seen in international exhibitions.
“There are many small and mid-sized processing firms in Taiwan, and they are all located closely together. This is a major advantage in making products here. Designers can visit up to two or three factories in a day and to discuss their requests face-to-face. This production chain is unique to Taiwan. It also comes extremely handy in developing high-end or even customized products.” Currently, LAJOS is also focused on promoting their collaboration with processing firms, “Some works may not ever go into mass production, but they are cool works of art that could showcase the persistence for quality and execution from Taiwanese processing firms at international exhibitions. They wouldn’t just help to increase the number of orders, but they also serve as the key to improving the factories’ strengths.”
Designer brands usually demonstrate unique styles and offer tasteful designer aesthetics and quality to their products. However, their hefty price tags also require them to target tasteful high-end consumers and lead to higher entry barriers. By using a brand-new mindset founded on processing skills, LAJOS uses “design” as a transformational opportunity for the manufacturers. Let us look forward to a new industry vision that combines designers’ imaginations with manufacturers’ execution skills.