A small shiny blue chair, with gold armrests, with an orange backrest rests on a small pedestal at the design showroom of Nordic, a Nordic furniture brand. It certainly matters to this space, this brand, this design style. This chair named Queen chair was awarded the second prize of Vietnam Design Week 2021 (taking place at the end of 2021).
The Queen chair was inspired by the royal chair of the Nguyen Dynasty that Queen Nam Phuong used as well as her own dignity. The work looks both minimalist and classical European style, while also being inspired by history, from ancient architecture when using lacquer. The work also uses gold leaf to cover the armrests of the chair.
Designer Nguyen Phuong Chi is both a chair designer and CEO of Nordic brand. She shares stories of interior designs, hidden values in each chair…
The Queen chair is a contemporary and distinctive design inspired by history. Are all other Nordic designs up to that level, ma’am?
We always want to do different designs. But a young designer, who has not collaborated much with famous brands, must have a source of income. That revenue of course still comes from good design, but it has to be more popular. That gives me time to reflect, cultivate, and then create something different. If everyone wants to make a difference right away without a cumulative thickness, it is difficult.
Making a contemporary design is not only my desire, but it is not easy, so we have to spend time on it. Every year, we have a time budget of about 6 months to design, and about 3-4 months to develop our own products such as Queen chair to participate in some competitions or exhibitions. That way we can both experience the product and build our position at the same time.
What is the output of those designs?
Currently we put samples into production ourselves. Our company as a design center and mainly designs for Nordic. Later, we can design more product lines.
How about the output of the product, ma’am?
We also have celebrity clients. They also bought the Queen chair. They are elites and tycoons. Through the stories, they see their evaluation (about the furniture market – NV) in the South has District Eight, and out here is Nordic. In terms of size, Nordic is much smaller than District Eight, but it seems to be starting to have a counterweight. This group of customers buy actively, stable quantity. We didn’t have a headache to find customers, and I didn’t even know where they were before. Before, I also had to consider doing what I like, strange or what meets life. And now we understand to whom this product line will belong, intuitively telling.
Design and manufacture at the same time, that is, from start to finish?
There are famous brands they only make based on stable models, then do it carefully and change a few small details. They still position themselves as producers of sophisticated, high-quality products. We try to separate from that concept.
When Vietnamese people go shopping, like buying a sofa, for example, they often ask how much money a meter long. That is productive thinking. We want to think like an international brand. Products are designs, have stories…
Nordic customers ask for the meter length?
Previously yes, now no. One of my sofas costs 40-50 million dong, but if you ask how long is a meter, say a meter long 25 million? Long meters are the way to go to the market to buy meat and vegetables. Here’s a product that looks like this but can take years to design, how much does it cost. The cost of personnel is one thing, the cost of a product pounded over and over again so that you can have an extremely comfortable and convenient product is worth mentioning. We produce 100% in Vietnam, materials imported 100% in Europe to have the best products.
100% made in Vietnam. In fact, is it advantageous, in terms of the ability of the worker to perform, for example?
I had to change dozens of units. It’s okay to have a heated argument like this, why is it so difficult on my side. The current unit working with us is quite progressive. There is a difficult thing to do, we have to research how to do it, look online to see how the technique is, and then show them. The two sides can cooperate. They got 6 points at first, then they worked with me bit by bit to 9 points. Still want to go up, but it depends on the craftsman. Working for too long, the cost also increases.
What about the possibility of plagiarism, ma’am?
The first collection I introduced in April, September, when it was sold, it was already copied in December. Now Taiwan, China have a lot of fake products of mine. We still release the collection every year to locate. Sometimes, just needing to know that the collection is about to come out, people have been eagerly waiting for the release date to see how the images are. Maybe they don’t buy it but want to see the design.
After releasing the first collection, I just thought of making and selling so I don’t have to import Chinese goods. Because importing Chinese goods, the price competition is very fierce, if I import 1, they import 100 chairs, I can’t compete, I can’t sell. So I have to design so that no one can compete with me.
How do you plan the future?
I am someone who has the ambition to build a long road. I really hate the mentality of poor self-positioning, then doing bad, meager products, making myself cowardly, then copying. When I design products, I think what Vietnam does not have, I do. I also position Nordic products as premium, although I don’t know where to sell yet, but I have to do the best I can.
If I can’t succeed then at least I can inspire that VN can be designed, can be located.
Is it difficult for a Nordic furniture brand to develop in the Vietnamese market?
Nordic is a brand that I designed my own logo. It is the Scandinavian equivalent. In the concept that we registered for protection, it is the Nordic way of life. They have a very civilized lifestyle, focus on the inside, see everything just enough, balanced, not wasteful, live Beautifully. That spirit spreads, making interior spaces and interior products also have the same spirit. I was inspired by the story. The product design is also studied with Vietnamese anthropometry, climate, culture… However, it still aims to make a more civilized lifestyle.
Why does Nordic style spread to the world? Coming to Japan in recent years has also combined Japanese and Scandinavian styles. Why would a country with a style like Japan, so strict, accept this Nordic style? Nordic style when coming to each land is transformed, adapted and accepted. Well, I find that style partly beautiful, but importantly, it has the criteria that the contemporary world is aiming for. Including balance, enjoyment, connection with nature. Later, a few more product lines can be developed. Currently Nordic is bringing in revenue for the company. Queen chair also generates revenue for the company.
Designer Nguyen Phuong Chi and model Queen chair at the design competition
Talk briefly about Queen chair, about the products you design, what would you say?
It’s a contemporary language. Queen Nam Phuong is a pure Vietnamese, she has a Western approach, is liberal, receptive, has abandoned old-fashioned but still traditional. We wanted to design with that spirit in mind. Go from the very Vietnamese and give it contemporary language. It’s like she’s still Vietnamese but with more cultural diversity, it’s perfect.
The same goes for Nordic products. If Nordic furniture is neutral in white, then there are blue, pink and purple in Vietnam. Vietnamese people like to be fussy, like flowers and flowers, so they can’t design plain clothes. The pillow, for example, will have additional decorative strings. Nam Phuong chairs use square – round language, which is contemporary and succinct, as well as expressing the brand’s capacity.