Kelvin Giormani - Going Beyond The Ordinary

by Margie T Logarta

Designer-Entrepreneur Kelvin Ng of Kelvin Giormani

Designer-entrepreneur Kelvin Ng doesn’t have to look very far to receive inspiration for his next sofa design. “Nature and objects from everyday surroundings,” he says, get the creative juices flowing.

As do “abstract images which express depth of layers”.

Proof can be found in his product lines reflecting features such as zebra skin (FOZA 2009), leafgrain (SNELLO 2013 and PIANA 2016), sea fan coral (PIANA 2016 and MODULI 2016), corrugated patterns on sea shells (MARE 2014).

The more unusual include a wave pattern (ONDA 2012), metal watch belt (STRATO 2012) and zig zag (PIANA 2016, ONDULARE 2016, MODULI 2016 and LARGO 2016).

After completing university in 1992, Ng entered the furniture field, joining his father’s outfit as export manager. Seven years later, he established his own company with wife Jane, embellishing it with the Italian monicker, “Giormani”, which sounded somewhat like his company’s Chinese name. Italy had also been a country close to the couple’s heart as “it is a rich source of contemporary designs for us”, Ng explains.

Ng evolved from running Kelvin Giormani to conceptualising product lines, due to working closely with German maestro Jurgen Reisenweber. Between 2003 and 2005, Ng had the unique chance to observe his work style, thanks to a commission by German firm WECO to produce sofas for their market. “I was able to see from the beginning, how a European professional designer created a design up to the process of modifying it in collaboration with the factory. This whetted my interest and desire to design sofas.”

Giormani’s founding father describes his creative process as “straightforward”.

“I make my sketches on paper and work with my factory development team to realise the first mock up.

“Usually we will need at least three to five modifications before it is finalised and realised in the sample room.

Ng is reluctant to highlight his favourite project. “I always try not to rate my designs because I think each of them has a unique story.” He will admit that when it concerns fashionable leather crafting features, SNELLO (2013) has gained a large following with three versions – diamond shaped weave, square shaped weave and leaf grain pattern quilting.

“I love SNELLO because it has achieved a good balance of elegance and rich detailing.” Apparently, the American Society of Furniture Designers thought so too, bestowing the Pinnacle Award on Ng’s brainchild in 2014. Kelvin Giormani has four of this accolade under its belt, won as well in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

Aesthetics trumps functionality in Kelvin Giormani designs, Ng openly admits. “Our signature is in fact unconventional shapes and forms.

“With China’s thousand year legacy of high level craftsmanship, it’s easier to find skilled workers there to realise complicated leather cover sewing and irregular sofa frame building.

“On the other hand, we have to admit that our weakness is functionality when mechanical and electrical components are involved to achieve certain new aspects on a sofa. We pretty much rely on other professional companies, which focus on furniture innovation, to do the job for us. That is why we are less proactive in this field.”

Summing up the growth of Kelvin Gormani product lines, the businessman-designer stresses once more his mantra of imbuing “unconventional shapes and designs” as well as “fashionable leathercraft features” incorporated into sofa designs. In 2006, fresh from his experience with Jurgen Reisenweber, Ng began to introduce his concepts slowly and subtly.

He reasons: “At first, my signature elements were not too strong, with some of the designs looking too commercial and lacking in character. I had to do this because when a design concept is unconventional, it is sometimes very difficult to continue brand development and therefore, difficult for dealers to sell the sofas.” This careful approach lasted until 2008.

From his 2009 collection and onwards, Ng grew bolder, introducing challenging sofa shapes and forms and matching stylish leathercraft detailing. Model STRADA signalled Ng’s debut at applying leather weaving features into a sofa design. In 2011, it bagged for him his first Pinnacle Award.

Combining the look, a sense of practicality and commercial viability is not an impossible task, according to Ng, provided certain factors are present from the get go.

He says: “Designers must always be open to inspiration and have strong faith in their concepts despite criticism or misinterpretation.

“A highly capable production team should be available to realise challenging design features that may crop up and maintain quality standards. “Developing a group of dealers in different countries, who understand Kelvin Giornmani design concepts and believe in selling unique products. They don’t have to be large in number to make our operations sustainable.

“After all, we understand well that what we are dealing with is a kind of niche product and concept.”

If furniture branded “Designed in Hong Kong” has now great international cache, Kelvin Giormani most certainly has helped create that quality standing.