china design Shanghai sustainability

Piling On The Contemporary Design: URBAN FABRIC

Currently, the growth of China's middle class means there is a larger demand for great design, ranging from furniture to architecture to fashion. High-profile design shows like Design Shanghai and Salone del Mobile Shanghai are becoming a mounting force in purveying unique and innovative designs from across Asia and beyond to the Chinese market.

The concept of “fashion” goes far beyond that which meets the eye or strikes the mind. It is, perhaps arguably so, a form of wearable yet all-encompassing art; one that bases itself on the relatively graphic rudiments of lines (structure) and tactility (textiles) combined with a gluttonous zest of Zeitgeist. As innovation and inspiration always hail from education, Temper decided ‘twas high time for some spacious supplementary training and subsequently hunted down Shanghai-based Architect and Co-Founder of Urban Fabric Rugs Andrei Zerebecky. Educate us, Zed!

URBAN FABRIC - Forbidden City
Beijing’s Forbidden City rug by Urban Fabric. Photographer: David Dinh

“We often use the term ‘urban fabric’ to describe the various forces at play within our urban environments and the elements that weave together to make our cities unique,” Andrei Zerebecky of Urban Fabric Rugs 

 

Artist and architect Elena Manferdini for Urban Fabric
Model A2 from “Building Portraits” Limited Edition by artist and architect Elena Manferdini for Urban Fabric. Courtesy of Andrei Zerebecky

 

The Very Fabric That Is Art

Whether we’re talking visual arts, fashion or (interior) architecture; textiles have long had a major impact on people’s lifestyles ever since the first tapestries — a rather bespoke sum of all three aforementioned artistic crafts — made their way into Hellenistic living quarters (some 323 BC- 31 BC).   Different textile art forms include tie dye, embroidery, felt craft, fabric block printing, fabric fusing, textile blending and, of course, the weaving of carpets. Woven carpets feature tremendously thick pile, consisting of wool or silk, knotted on closely woven backing. This overall production process allows for a level of extreme versatility in terms of both design and texture. Which brings us to…

Rugs. Once upon a time, in a land not that far away, shepherds began tying wool into heavy woven patches of cloth. These substantial cloths were consequently developed into rugs that provided protection from the elements. Whether the first rugs were made in the near East or Siberia remains foggy, yet it is crystal clear that as time passed by, the humanly essential pastime of rug-making transformed from a craft into a fine art form. Slowly sprouting form a mixture of patterns, vibrant colors and countless knots per square inch, the rugs created by these early artisans eventually showcased a quilt of truly artful skills and ingenious designs. With name came fame and via the earliest established trade routes, think the Silk Road, this handicraft knowhow made its way all across the Ural Mountains, right into China’s Forbidden City. Tradition had it that the different rug designs referred to their diverse tribal or village foundation. Or, in this 21st Century case, their urban one.

"London Plan" by Urban Fabric. Photographer: David Churchill
Urban Fabric London rug. Photographer: David Churchill

A very much non-run-of-the-mill designer brand, Urban Fabric Rugs (aka “Urban Fabric) describes itself as “an exciting series of area rugs inspired by urban patterns”. In recognizing that each city possesses its own unique urban form – much like a human fingerprint — there are no two cities in this world that are exactly alike. As a result, each Urban Fabric rug design is one of an exclusive kind; an inimitability articulated in luxurious hand-tufted and -knotted rugs of the highest quality. Varying pile heights – the term “pile” referring to the material or fibre used in weaving the rug — give the rugs their signature visual depth and playful texture, displaying color schemes inspired by the cities themselves.

With a 16 percent increase in furniture sales in the past year alone, China’s consumers are veering away from the typical or superstar brands and looking to independent designers or fresh new companies that have a unique product or voice.

 

Urban-Fabric-Time-Zone-Rug-in-Grey-Gradient-by-Four-O-Nine
Time Zone rug in Grey Gradient by Urban Fabric. Photographer: David Dinh

The Touchy-Feely Temper Chit-Chat

In addition to their wide assortment of signature urban rugs, Urban Fabric has now developed a number of highly-anticipated collaborations with notable artists and architects on unique Limited Edition collections. And so before artistic powerhouses such as the likes of sculptor and famed musician Magne Furuholmen land the brand on the cover of Architectural Digest, Temper seizes the moment and has a hoggish heart-to-heart with Zerebecky as we discuss urban living, artistic alliances and  tactile sustainability. Grab yourselves a Double-Double or a Two-Four, put on some Leonard Cohen (or The Weeknd if that’s your thing) and let’s go crazy Canuck!

URBAN FABRIC - Forbidden City
Beijing’s Forbidden City rug by Urban Fabric. Photographer: David Dinh

Temper: What spurred you on to set up Urban Fabric?

 Zerebecky: We often use the term ‘urban fabric’ to describe the various forces at play within our urban environments and the elements that weave together to make our cities unique.  Architects are always looking at our building sites from a macro-scale perspective in order to understand just how a building can fit within its context and how it can respond to or improve its place within our environment.

Whilst studying Architecture at the University of Toronto, I frequently flew home to Saskatchewan [for those who hadn’t guessed it at “Cohen”: We’re in Canada alright!]. On these flights, I would anticipate the moment when the plane descended through the clouded coverage and we’d be able to see the stunning myriad of green textured agricultural fields surrounding my hometown. I found beauty in the patterns imposed on our environment from the practice of agriculture and began comparing this specific one to those of other cities and countries I encountered on my travels.

After I graduated and started practicing in Toronto, I encountered a “Call for Entries” for design prototypes to be exhibited at the IDS Interior Design Show — Canada’s largest Interior Design exhibition. I submitted an aerial photo taken through the airplane window using Photoshop and proposed it as a rug. The jury selected my design to be exhibited at their upcoming exhibition, which in turn meant I needed to physically come up with a rug prototype. I didn’t know much about creating rugs at that point, but with the pending exhibition, I researched a Canadian manufacturer and completed the first prototypes.

Detail of Central Park from the massive Manhattan rug by Urban Fabric. Photographer: David Dinh
Detail of Central Park from the massive Manhattan rug by Urban Fabric. Photographer: David Dinh

 

Temper: How does Shanghai/ China add to your creative process or your textile “databank” overall?

 Zerebecky: I relocated to Shanghai to work as an architect back in 2007. Immediately, the sheer scale of this city blew my mind — especially considering this city has about the same population as the whole of Canada. Whilst working on my first design projects in Shanghai and getting to know the city, I looked at maps, figure-ground diagrams and — of course — Google Earth. I soon realized Shanghai’s street grid was very unique, looking more like a bowl of noodles than the rectilinear street networks of the North American cities I was familiar with. This sparked my interest.

Temper: What’s your source of incessant inspo?

Zerebecky: I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world from a very young age. These travels — paired with the study of art, architecture and urban design — definitely opened my eyes to a new perspective on the world.

Shanghai, Paris, Barcelona, New York,… All these cities have evolved out of the influence of specific tangible and non-tangible constructs such as geography, economy, planning, politics, and so on and so forth. I began comparing city grids, studying the influences that made each city’s urban form unique and abstracted them into plush three-dimensional map rugs — starting with URBAN FABRIC Shanghai. Thus the Urban Fabric project was born.

YHU_7254
Model D3 from “Building Portraits” from Limited Edition by architect/ artist Elena Manferdini. Photographer:  Hu Yihuai

Temper: What are some new pieces you’re working on?

Zerebecky: Right now, in addition to wide range of our signature urban rugs, we have begun collaborating with notable artists and architects on a number of unique Limited Edition collections. Collaborators include sculptor and famed musician Magne Furuholmen, architect/ artist Elena Manferdini and, most recently, internationally acclaimed architect Jimenez Lai.

Manferdini’s collection has just been selected by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for their permanent collection, so we’re in the midst of creating some beautiful new pieces for that. We’re really excited to be working with Jimenez Lai and his team Bureau Spectacular. So far, the creative process of developing a collection of rugs with him has been outstanding. We can’t wait to reveal what we’ve been working on together….

We have a couple more really exciting Limited Edition collections in the works for 2018, as well some newly commissioned custom pieces (including a new Great Wall of China rug) for corporate clients across Asia.

Temper: China Design in the 21st Century: What’s the status quo there – in your opinion?

 Zerebecky: The Chinese market is constantly changing and growing. Currently, the growth of a middle class — with their accompanying higher/broader education levels — means there has been a larger demand for great and diverse design, ranging from furniture to architecture to fashion. High-profile design shows like Design Shanghai and Salone del Mobile Shanghai are becoming a mounting force in purveying unique and innovative designs from across Asia and beyond to the Chinese market. As a result, the Chinese luxury goods consumer — who would typically gravitate to the already well-established “brand names” in design — is now seeking out something more original in order to reflect their own discerning tastes. With a 16 percent increase in furniture sales in the past year alone, China’s consumers are veering away from the typical or superstar brands and looking to independent designers or fresh new companies that have a unique product or voice.

We maintain strict hiring practices to ensure the employment of adult artisans. This is extremely important to us as it also allows the age-old craft of hand-making textiles to thrive in an era where robotics and 3D printers are becoming more and more ubiquitous.

 

Urban Fabric: Shanghai
Urban Fabric Shanghai rug as shown in “The People’s Red”. Courtesy of Andrei Zerebecky

Temper: Textile and Sustainability: A happy marriage or troublesome courtship?

Zerebecky: Our textiles are all made with the 100 percent natural fibers of New Zealand wool and China’s very own silk. In our design production process, we work closely with leading socially responsible mills across India and China. Our facilities follow the highest international standards in environmentally sustainable production, all the while maintaining strict hiring practices to ensure the employment of adult artisans — who in turn can make a good living out of it. This is extremely important to us as it also allows the age-old craft of hand-making textiles to thrive in an era where robotics and 3D printers are becoming more and more ubiquitous.  Our artisanally crafted, customized rugs are made with pride and designed to last a lifetime.

Temper: What lies ahead in the (near) future of textile design?

Zerebecky: Despite our focus on using sustainable and renewable resources for our products, we are also very interested in what can be done with the accumulation of plastic waste in our landfills and seas! There is a disturbing amount of plastics that has  been produced over the last 60+ years and we are ecstatic to see initiatives popping up that are chipping away at this problem through the development of new products and materials utilizing this waste.

 

The New Made In China label demands a course of thought which incorporates both fundamental design ratiocination as well as outside-the-box leading-edge association; a combination that only comes into existence through wide-ranging (self-)education. And that is one fact we must not sweep under the rug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on Urban Fabric Rugs, please visit www.urbanfabricrugs.com or follow them on
All images come courtesy of Urban Fabric Rugs
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