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The New Original

Design.nl questions Renny Ramakers about Droog's latest project The New Original.

By Katie Dominy / 21-03-2013

Billed by Droog as 'the epicentre of copycat culture', can Shenzhen, China be used as a workshop to 'copy ' Chinese design to create a new perspective?  

Droog Lab set off to find out in a design trip to the city, to take in the imitated and pirated goods as well as the country's rich cultural heritage. The results are currently on show at the Hi space zhen Jia shopping mall in Guangzhou until 9 April 2013.

The New Original project culminated in 26 rapid-prototyped 3D models created by Studio Droog, Dutch designers Richard Hutten and the late Ed Annink, Hong Kong artist and designer Stanley Wong and Chinese architects Urbanus. Highlight pieces include the Fishtank by Studio Droog  – a miniature white dining table and chairs (complete with hanging Chinese lantern) set inside a fish tank and the Chinese Teapot by Richard Hutten in pristine white given an industrial-style red handle. Look out also for the Studio Droog Family Vases that imitate the classic Chinese porcelain shape  but come in sophisticated blurred bands of colour. 

We asked Renny Ramakers about the project's beginnings: 

“A Chinese restaurant in an aquarium. All Chinese restaurants in Amsterdam are equipped with big fishtanks. Here the Chinese restaurant is in the tank. We have turned it upside down. It's not just a gimmick, it is part of the project. We went to China because we wanted to copy the copycat. China wants to get rid of its copycat image and does this by copying the western notion of originality. Instead they should make a virtue out of their copying tradition. I think that creatively copying can be very innovative. In this project we developed a model in which designers can copy each other and the original design will still be rewarded.”

Can you explain how it works?

“Droog would like to see how people in daily situations worldwide can inspire new directions for design. When creating this collection, we were inspired by Chinese copycat culture and the potential that this culture has to create products that are both richer and 'a new kind of original'. To create this collection, Droog worked with both Dutch and Chinese designers; these designers were asked to copy something that was Chinese and to add their own personal twist. We kick-started the design process with a trip to Shenzhen, China. Here we explored factories, as well as local shops, we were inspired not only by the process of copying but also by many of the products that we saw. As a consequence, many of the products that we copied are things that were observed directly by the designers whilst they were in China.”

Finally  –  What are your favourite pieces from this project?


“The Fishtank, Family Vase and The Chinese Teapot – very creative copying.”

The New Original is a partnership with Today Art Museum, Beijing, and OCT Art and Design Gallery, Shenzhen and the collection will be exhibited at the Hi space zhen Jia shopping mall in Guangzhou from 9 March to 9 April 2013.
Main image: Fishtank, Studio DroogOther images: 1. Chinese teapot, Richard Hutten 2.-4. Family Vase, Studio Droog

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