Industrial Designer Michael Young Sets His Sights On China

British industrial designer Michael Young is no stranger to China, having been based here since the early 2000’s. Although he graduated from Kingston University in 1992 and worked with the designer Tom Dixon in London during his early career, he has, interestingly, settled down in Hong Kong, a now established art capital of the world.

Designing a wide range of objects such as headphones, glassware, watches, bicycles, furniture, lighting and bags, (and having won a slew of awards by doing this), Young combines design with technical abilities of the local industry and often works directly with Chinese manufacturers and industrialists. Throughout his career, he’s worked with a roster of esteemed clients such as Coca-Cola, Bacardi, Cappellini, Cathay Pacific, Giant Bicycles, Georg Jensen, Trussardi, and Steelcase. He’s also been the Creative Director for 100% Design Shanghai for three consecutive years, and his works have been exhibited in the Pompidou Museum and the Louvre Museum in Paris, Design Museum in London as well as, most recently, the M+ Museum in Hong Kong.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Young set up a studio in Shenzhen, a testament to his belief in the talent and technology of the Greater Bay Area. More than a studio, the space was meant to house a café, where you could try beer from Young’s own beer brand, as well as act as a residency aimed at fostering creative exchange and conversation for youngsters based in Shenzhen. Some of his collaborations in the Greater Bay Area include having the carbon fibre stools he designed for Steelcase made there, and he’s been a long-time collaborator of KEF, one of the finest purveyors of British hi-fi, owned by a Chinese family. He’s also worked with Gallery All, a Shanghai and Los Angeles based gallery, on a wide variety of design objects ranging from furniture pieces made of polished stainless steel with white enamel surfaces, to beautiful Chinese dynasty-inspired vases made of aluminium foam.

One of his proudest achievements to date, however, is being able to head the design team at Moke International, a historic and cult car brand that is intended for a life on the beach. Having been produced in the UK, Australia and Portugal over its rich 50 years history, the new Moke by Michael Young has been optimised for today’s technology and handling. For the past twenty years, trying to find a Moke was extremely difficult as this classic cruising mobile ceased production in 1993. Even the parts were difficult to find, and these sexy machines were being kept cooped up in garages and turned into Collector’s pieces. “As a Moke enthusiast , when the email came in asking if I was interested to talk about the project, it was like a call to duty for me. I had recently been commissioned to rebuild a Moke in Australia from the ground up out of old parts, in 2012, and I was fully aware of what needed to be done. This car is from the 60’s, which was a crucial period in many fields of creativity. However, it has been more than 20 years since the last Moke rolled off the assembly line in Portugal, and the world has changed dramatically. We could not just replicate the original model as times have changed, and music and fashion have changed accordingly. So, the car’s main requirements actually needed adjustments too: enhancements, improved road-holding, braking, suspension and so on,” says Young. After redesigning and reengineering more than 160 new parts, the Moke is back, and it’s better than ever.

Although Covid-19 has put a pause in Young’s plans to open up his studio in Shenzhen, he has no intentions of slowing down. Young is soon launching a new optical eyewear brand with partners in Hong Kong as well as launching his own eponymous homeware brand by the end of this year, all things made in China for the local market. Furthermore, he is also working with M2O, a new brand that supports sustainable reusable products (he’s already designed a water bottle for them), as well as spent a year designing for Arrival, a revolutionary British electric vehicle manufacturer. Last but not least, design enthusiasts will be glad to know that Young is also working on a new book with Swedish writer Gustav Kjellin on 30 years of his work.

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