Toni Bretón; a Valencian in China

 

Why I left Valencia and landed in China.

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I always loved travelling, thanks to my parents it runs in my blood, but from my point of view trotting the world becomes essential for a designer. I believe it is an indispensable tool, because journeys are full of new experiences, offering new inputs that, as a designer, I can observe and translate into knowledge and inspiration. Visiting another city in your own country already provides you a lot of different ideas, new feelings… So imagine how much you can get by travelling to India, Central America or China.

The moment I left Valencia I was actually working in the furniture field, which makes it more difficult for your grandmother to understand “why are you going so far, dear?” It was a personal decision rather than a necessity. There are no limits beyond our plan, and the possibility of exploring and discovering is always exciting.

 

Living in China, differences and surprises.

 

China, a controversial and fantastic place. Other exotic countries seem to belong to another world due to their diversity and incredible landscapes, but China… China really is a different planet. Their way of thinking and logical interpretation remain totally different from ours. Together with their curious and unfamiliar habits, the Chinese environment makes you feel a kind of funny discomfort. So this funny thing means that when they give you the explanation of their unfamiliar behaviour, you finally understand them truly, and moreover, everything suddenly makes sense in your mind and overshadows your western theory. So you can just shut up and nod.

To give you a sense of this, Chinese people all drink hot water, every day, at any time; it does not matter if it is summer with 40 degrees or winter. My first reaction to it was: ‘seriously? I cannot drink that’. You think it makes no sense and is not comfortable for your body. But then, here comes their logic… -When drinking very hot water your body always keeps the same temperature and when eating, fats ingested are easy to diminish and the body does not absorb them but discards them. But if you eat while drinking cold water, it solidifies the fats so your body absorbs them and they stay in the form of flab … How about that! Who’s the madman now?

(Unconfirmed scientific truth.)

Same situation when using the hole-toilet; you find yourself squatting in a (usually dirty) Chinese latrine and from that moment you just can remember your beloved mom-home-toilet. But then the ‘unfamiliar logic’ shows up and you realise that the sitting position is unnatural and Westerners are suffering from many colon diseases originated by sitting on the toilet. And then you are speechless and without any arguments… But I used to joke about it saying that when squatting you cannot text on Whatsapp…

 

How HOMWO came about.

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HOMWO is a Spanish and Chinese project that Luis Mateu began 4 years ago; it is a Valencian design project created together with a Chinese business guide and logistics. It has gradually increased and at this moment is growing very fast.

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Last year HOMWO opened its first centre in Lanzhou, a 14.000m2 shopping centre dedicated to furniture, houseware and decoration. The concept is linked to Spain and its culture. Its miscellaneous style combines different influences; western product development and style matched with functionality and traditions of Asiatic households.

We found that Spain, specifically Valencia, and China have many things in common, that is why they fit together so well. Both use their colours in similar ways, the same tendencies related with ceramics, similar traditions such as firecrackers and fireworks, similar food like oranges and rice, or the great ‘siesta’ habit. Even the sense of belonging to the family and the way to hold celebrations are so much the same.

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From these similarities in culture and customs, the interest of HOMWO appears to recover forgotten traditions and give them new functions through its products. In the same way we introduce traditional Spanish products already restyled for the Chinese market.

The creation of this brand comes about due to a detected gap in the Chinese market. The company offers a solution to this need of quality design products at affordable prices.

 

My position, what I do.

 

I am Product & Experience designer in HOMWO. I dedicate myself to leading our product process, from conceptualisation to production, embracing design consolidation, the possibility to develop products and where to produce them, always backed by a Chinese speaking team. We usually work so fast that sometimes we do not even know what phase we are in.

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I also take responsibility for the design experience, I make sure everything holds a meaning, makes sense, and all elements are directly linked between one another telling a story and flowing to make customers capture the  HOMWO experience. That is my guideline for HOMWO experience design.

 

New projects and the future.

 

Now, we are involved in our new centre design and concept, which will be open in the coming year. From all the achievements and mistakes we have learnt from the development of the first centre together with the new course of the project, there will be a qualitative leap in our new work. HOMWO will offer workshops, a language school, western cooking classes and much more. We keep on creating an enjoyable place where customers can live a real shopping experience, learn and have fun.

We are very excited about this project’s new stage and we will soon move to a new city ready to work in the front line.

We are also very proud that the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in China recently gave HOMWO the Entrepreneur Award of 2016-2017, as an emerging company strongly contributing to the cultural bridge between Spain and China.

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