In 2013, we established Stellar Works as a way to bring ideas together: East and West, heritage and modernity, craft and industry – bringing the best of the past into the light of the present. Our aim was to inspire a renaissance in Asian aesthetics, taking the forms, styles and motifs that have characterised Japanese design across the centuries and filtering them through the lens of the European tradition to create something new and timeless.
Three years on, and our furniture collections have achieved a unique place in the global market, and can be found in private residences and prestigious hotels, restaurants and public spaces around the world. By drawing together a unique combination of heritage, craft skills and production expertise from Europe and Asia, we have created an international design brand with genuine cross-cultural resonance. Stellar Works has much to be proud of.
I believe that this bringing together of cultures is what sets us apart, both in terms of the character of our creative output and the strength of our business today. From the beginning, Stellar Works has benefited from the strategy and dynamism of Japanese operations management, the high-end craftsmanship of French furniture making and the technical proficiency of our Shanghai production team.
When we opened our purpose-built factory in Shanghai, the city was well established as an international hub for furniture production, but for many brands, its factories were centres of mass-market furniture making, dealing in low-cost, high-volume manufacture with all the efficiency of the production line, but little crafted character. A wealth of technical know-how and traditional craft skill existed, but remained untapped. We set out to change that.
The Stellar Works factory has enabled us to achieve two of the key attributes we have aimed for since the company’s founding. China’s favourable cost environment allows us to create pieces that offer our customers unparalleled value for money, but our approach to making ensures that everything bearing the Stellar Works name exhibits the detail and quality of the hand-guided craftsmanship that created it.In this sense, one of the most important roles that Stellar Works plays is the preservation and nurturing of craft skills that the ease of mass production has placed under threat. Japan and France both have a great tradition of hand-making, but technological advancement and the rise in outsourcing have eroded the skills base in both countries. In Shanghai, we keep those traditions alive.
The other great benefit of our production facility is the end-to-end control it gives us over the entire production process. Because we assume complete responsibility for every stage, we can custom-make pieces with an ease which many other brands do not have access to and, more importantly, we can guarantee the sustainability of our furniture. Complete control of materials sourcing ensures complete transparency – every wood can be traced to the FS C-certified forest it came from, and every metal, fabric and leather can be tracked to its source. It is because of this that all our materials are classified according to Japan’s Four-Star standard – the most stringent in the industry.
Our role as a preserver of the past extends beyond our production methods. The most obvious example would be our vintage lines, which keep the iconic designs of 20th -century greats, such as Vilhelm Wolhert and Carlo Forcolini, in production, with a few material updates appropriate to the modern day. But Stellar Works’ signature collections, too, could not exist without the aesthetic histories they pay tribute to. Look over our contemporary furniture ranges and you see glimpses of design movements from across the 20th century – a touch of Bauhaus crafted functionality or the refined simplicity of mid-century Scandinavian – often seamlessly fused into the classic forms and patterns of the Asian creative tradition. When I look at a collection such as Lunar, for example, I see the patterns of time-honoured decorative arts from China refined into Nordic simplicity and comfort by the Danish studio SPACE Cph. And when I admire Shuwa Tei’s remarkable New Legacy chairs, I’m admiring the architecture of a Buddhist temple in Osaka re-interpreted into the clean contours and unfussy elegance appropriate to the globalised world of today.
Designs and designers like these are the creative heart of our company. Without exception, they have an instinctive understanding of the Stellar Works mission and a talent for drawing and combining creative inspiration and craft technique from multiple places and periods. It would be only too easy to end up with a product that didn’t work – a clash of cultures or a conceptual mismatch – but Stellar Works’ designers have a gift for harmony: they create furniture that is both an extension of an existing tradition and the expression of a new one.
We have chosen this path between the old and the new because I believe good design is timeless design. A particular style of furniture may be all the rage for a while, but if it looks tired after a decade, it’s not good design – it’s a passing trend. Stellar Works aims to be timeless. I would like to think that 100 years from now, our pieces will still be as contemporary and resonant as they are today and, moreover, that Stellar Works will still be crafting quality furniture that is Asian in inspiration, cross-cultural in design and international in its scope.