Italian designer Luca Nichetto has opened the first physical store for ZaoZuo, the Chinese startup furniture brand for which he is creative director (+ slideshow).
ZaoZuo products represent one of the first forays by a Chinese design brand into creating original, high-quality but lost-cost designer furniture.
In an interview with Dezeen, Nichetto said that Chinese design brands were growing in confidence and could soon be exporting products to the west.
Located in the Indigo shopping centre in Beijing's Chaoyang district, the first ZaoZuo store uses the grid of shelves to showcase these products individually instead of styling them in groupings.
"Rather than displays that lay out 'furniture sets' or combinations, Nichetto instead chose to focus on the detail of each and every product," said the brand in a statement.
"The customer is inspired to create their own combinations and create a more individualised home space."
The brand refers to this concept as "no display". Objects are arranged from floor to ceiling, creating opportunities for the customers to examine them from multiple angles.
As well as the grid shelving, Nichetto created custom modules for the store that can be arranged in different ways. He worked with local architecture firm DAMU on the design.
"The colour-rich products can begin to write the history of Chinese design within the setting of this 'blank notebook'," said ZaoZuo.
To stop the number of products on display from overwhelming customers, the furniture is arranged into colour zones, with cool colours at lower levels, warm in the middle and neutrals at the top.
ZaoZuo, which means "design and production," launched at Beijing Design Week last September. The brand is the brainchild of Chinese graphic designer and entrepreneur Shu Wei, who approached Nichetto to be her creative director.
Nichetto got involved with ZaoZuo after seeing how the country's economies of scale could allow a company to manufacture design products at a high volume that would lower the cost.
At the same time, a growing middle class was creating a market for these kinds of products that may not have existed previously.
"I started thinking maybe it could be interesting to have European designers working for Chinese companies that only want to sell in China and also to educate the Chinese customers that a copycat is not what they need to have," said Nichetto. "They can have local design pieces."
The designer also has his own brand – called Nichetto – which launched in 2014. It includes furniture like the Dubois Bed, with its oversized wrap-around headboard, and the Blanche bergère armchair.