In the month of March, in Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia, you find two furniture exhibits in the same period, MIFF – Malaysia International Furniture Fair, and EFE – Export Furniture Fair.

This year we visited them, and discovered several Italian designers who work with Malaysian companies, so we thought about interviewing them, to understand a little better why Italian design is so appreciated around the world, and to deepen a little how the furniture industry in Malaysia works.

Let’s start from Manolo Bossi, who has been working in Malaysia for 3 years now and has a number of projects under his belt. Manolo Bossi was awarded the Best Product Design Award at the EFE 2017 and also received two awards in the 2018 edition, with first and third place, again at EFE, for two products from the PDP, a special programme for the implementation of Malaysian furniture design.

How did your collaboration with companies in Malaysia start?
Initially, I was involved in a government project, the PDP-Professional Designers Program, which involved other Italian and European designers, to develop new products, in collaboration with Malaysian companies. After the conclusion of the first edition, the company I worked with, Deep Furniture, decided to continue, and we came to develop the collection of tables and chairs Zix, which won the award for best product at EFE-Export Furniture Fair, in Kuala Lumpur, in 2017.

Table and chair from the Zix collection, by Manolo Bossi for Deep Furniture.

Do you find differences in working with Italian companies and Malaysian companies?
There is a certain diversity in the methodological approach, and we certainly have a different cultural background, but it is precisely this that has made this adventure more interesting: I believe that differences offer more possibilities for developing creativity.

What made this experience unique?
From the point of view of design, the richness of Malaysian materials is unique; there are woods of many species, which encourage to unleash the design imagination, and companies are always very willing to listen and collaborate. Moreover, from a human point of view, the Malaysians are an extremely hospitable and welcoming people.

Do you think you will continue to work with Malaysian companies?
With the third edition of the PDP-Professional Designers Program, which was specifically developed for the Australian market, I again won first and third prize for two of my projects, the Palafitte sofa, developed with First Flames, and the Mastello stool developed for Jarblo, a company which was born with an e-commerce focus: this makes me think that my projects are appreciated. I already have some products in the catalogue with some companies, and we are continuing. In addition, South-East Asia and Asia in general are booming markets, so I definitely see a bright future at those latitudes.

Mastello stool, by Manolo Bossi for Jarblo.
Palafitte sofa, by Manolo Bossi for First Flames.