Sixteen years after the Handicraft and Woodworking Association of Ho Chi Minh City (HAWA) launched its first furniture design completion Hoa Mai, the 2018- 2019 competition was launched in October. Platinum sponsor is the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) which has enjoyed a long cooperation with HAWA. As ever, the competition is intended to foster furniture design skills by young designers and, as last year, the competition will focus on the use of red oak (Soi Do) in furniture.
Launching the new competition Mr Nguyen Quoc Khanh, Chairman of HAWA, emphasised that successful designers also need successful companies if their work is to become meaningful. The shortlisted candidates will have the opportunity to develop their prototypes with commercial manufacturing company members of HAWA who support the competition.
Hoa Mai is also co-sponsored by eight local organisations in support of HAWA, which is committed to call for entries across the whole of Vietnam – aided this year by the innovation of online submissions to the judging panel. Judges are drawn from local and international organisations working with the Vietnamese furniture industry and will meet for the final judging. Entries are required by 22nd November 2018, after which a shortlist will be announced, calling on 20 successful entries to produce their prototypes for judging in the New Year. The winners in several categories will share prizes ranging from VND30 million to VND5 million with eight different awards. The winning prototypes will be displayed at the entrance to the VIFA international furniture fair in Ho Chi Minh City from 7th to 10th March 2019.
The criteria for the completion require designers to consider the aesthetics of their designs which have to show creativity. They also have to be in trend with today’s fashions in the market so as to have a chance of commercialisation. Finally all designs should take into account environmental considerations.
Speaking at the launch Mr Ly Qui Trung, CEO of AKA Furniture Group, suggested that it is not the money but rather the publicity and exposure that the winners receive as their main benefit. He said, “Beautiful, or great furniture is the one that has its uniqueness, its very own characters. However it has to be practical, usable and meeting the real demand of the customers – no matter how beautiful or unique the furniture is. And this “uniqueness” should be applied not only to the furniture but also the way, the attitude, the view, the approach of the architect or designer towards the whole the process of the making and selling of furniture. In other words, an excellent architect or designer should own several skills other than the technical skills. Understanding the customer or the market is very important, but to me, one of the most important skills that most young architects of designers often overlook is to be able to build personal brand. It is a very long term task that requires awareness, patience and continuity. It can be started from now, today. Winning any prize of Hoa Mai contest is a perfect way of personal brand building,” he concluded.
A HAWA ‘Road Show’ to promote the competition at 13 universities and design schools around Saigon and Ha Noi is now an essential and regular part of the whole programme. It seeks to educate young designers about the use of wood in furniture and its benefits to the environment on account of its low embodied energy and renewability and sustainability. On behalf of AHEC, Mr Michael Buckley suggested that choosing a sustainable and legal material that is “fit for purpose and fashionable in key markets” is a good recipe for success when using American hardwoods. While American white oak is well known and widely used in Vietnam, red oak which is more plentiful in the USA is underutilised despite being highly suitable for furniture and interiors.
As the Hoa Mai was being launched in Vietnam, the prestigious Stirling Prize for architects in UK was won by Foster & Partners London office design for Blomberg in American red oak, demonstrating its international design appeal.