TIFS 2011 Makes Up for Small Scale with Diversity

Posted in Taiwan on Monday, 27 June 2011. Print

Green Life is a major theme this year. The 21st Taipei International Furniture Show, or TIFS 2011 and held March 11-14, raised curtains fatefully on the same day when the record-setting quake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan. While the global business communities held their breath in the aftermath, the Fukushima nuclear plant and others nearby darkened the mood further as the prospect of meltdown quickly turned into a potential nightmare for the local area, even Korea and for a time Taiwan.

TIFS 2011 Makes Up for Small Scale with Diversity

With the full impact of the disaster in Japan still being evaluated, trickling downstream and having shaken the Taiwan bourse immediately afterwards, the TIFS organizer, the Taiwan Furniture Manufacturers' Association (TFMA), believes the trade show will recover basically unscathed to see bright future in the long-term.

The TIFS is the largest of its kind, the pioneer and the only export-oriented furniture show held in Taiwan. "The event was the largest international trade show in Taipei but has shriveled to become the smallest, reflecting changes in Taiwan's furniture industry over the past decades," says TFMA chairman Ruca Chien.

The TIFS was first staged at the zenith of the industry when Taiwan led the world in furniture export, enabling the island to be honored as the "Furniture Kingdom."

Premiered some 20 years ago, the TIFS was the largest among the shows staged at the Taipei World Trade Center (TWTC). Its scale meant the TIFS was scheduled at the top of the yearly calendar, says Chien.

As even GM faltered to the disbelief of any carmaker just a few years ago, the TIFS also began a path of descent with the changing furniture sector in Taiwan, where cost of doing business rose, a trend exasperated by China's liberalizing its economy in the 1980s. "While the major furniture exporters have all moved offshore, the TIFS lost its attraction to foreign buyers. However, the TFMA valiantly insisted on holding the TIFS annually lest the event should lose its lead as the first international trade show in Taipei," says Chien. Eventually the TIFS was terminated.

The rebirth and perhaps recovery to its former glory of the TIFS depends on improving labor conditions in China ironically. As labor cost continues to rise in China and eventually match those in Taiwan, furniture makers on the island will be motivated to relocate production to their original sites, which will benefit both the trade in Taiwan and trade fair, says Chien.



On the one hand Chien believes the Taiwan furniture industry will not dominate furniture export globally as in two or three decades ago, on the other the island's furniture industry is likely to transform, from mere OEM to one more fashion-oriented that crosses over to related sectors such as home decoration, construction materials, furnishing and interior design, presenting new lifestyles as shown in this year's event.

The TIFS 2011, despite the modest scale, seems to be more diversified, with furniture for offices, residences, outdoors, casual use, and DIY assembly, as well as hardware, construction materials, lighting products, dining ware, kitchen equipment, furnishings and decorative items.

This year's event differed from those in the past to showcase high-end, fashionable items, with also importers introducing foreign-branded furniture, decorative items, and construction materials.

Alexandra Home Decor
Alexandra Home Decor, a subsidiary under the Wei-Barng Group, presented high-end interior decor showrooms that combined furnishings and home decorations made either in Taiwan or abroad. "Furniture is an industry closely linked with the MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conference, Exhibitions) industry, with the two being complementary," says Walter Chiang, chairman of Wei-Barng Weeden Industrial Corp. and executive director of the TFMA, who encourages companies to attend the TIFS to enhance the event's value as a comprehensive sourcing platform, as well as believing in product appeal of trade shows and not size to draw visitors.

Kuoching Furniture
Kuoching Furniture also exhibited a wide array of both foreign and Taiwan-made furniture. Established in 1968, the maker is one of the pioneers among furniture companies in Taiwan, originally focusing on the domestic market and then gradually expanding into export. In 1995, the company set up production in China as a critical move to expand sales into Greater China, and later imported furniture to offer more choices to buyers. The Xten Office Chair shown at its booth is supposedly the work of a Ferrari designer.

Shing Hwang Co. showcased the H8 Super White Glass that is another Italian-branded item, with crystal-clear transparency, paper-thin 1.8mm thickness, and diamond hardness. "The glass is especially suitable for kitchens and dining rooms to achieve bright ambiance," says the company.

Comparatively, Seven Oceans Casual Furnishings is more American and introduced outdoor furniture by Canadian Bloominglands and Andrew Richard Designs, whose chairs are of US-patented solattes compounds, which are reportedly fire-resistant, waterproof and anti-corrosion. "It's suitable under any condition, especially in the subtropical humid climate in Taiwan," says the company.

With a mission to provide a completely relaxed, casual living experience to consumers, the company looks for outstanding design and quality in its products. "Consistently, our design brings outdoor furniture into vogue while maintaining the highest level in leisure living," says the company.


Classical Chinese

Yung Shing Furniture, established in 1958, specializes in wooden furniture in Taiwan, showcasing a series of wooden furniture featuring curvilinear forms, with upturned tabletop and convex chair arms. "It of course takes extra work to craft curves into wooden pieces but worth it because the effort achieves unconventional styles, and the Chinese believe upturned form symbolizes 'upward-mobility' and curved form 'flexibility,' " says a sales representative.

The company's "Ensemble for Couple" won the "Taiwan Good Craft" award from the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) in 2010. Consisting of a gender-specific chair each for wife and husband as well as side table placed between the two chairs, the ensemble featuring delicate Chinese craftsmanship epitomizes leisurely living enjoyed by the privileged.

Established over a half century ago, Yung Shing is a pioneer in the local furniture sector. After decades of wooden furniture production, the company set up a wooden furniture museum in southern Taiwan and markets classical wooden furniture branded "WOODY CHIC," a name synonymous with high-end traditional wooden furniture in Greater China.

A notable feature of TIFS 2011 was the pavilion "ROC Centennial Celebration: Taiwan Furniture in Retrospect," set up to remember the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China (ROC), the first democracy established in Asia in 1911 after overturning the Ching Dynasty, China's last.

Displaying dozens of representative furniture items made in Taiwan that are winners of national craftsmanship honors and best-selling exports, the pavilion shows off examples of special design, deft handiwork, or production skills; while the TFMA published a dedicated volume containing the items displayed within the pavilion.

"It took nearly one full year to prepare the pavilion and this publication," says Chien, who regards both achievements as historically significant to memorialize the characteristics of Taiwan's furniture industry.


Green Opportunities

"Green Life" is another major theme of TIFS 2011, where most exhibitors claimed to showcase products made of recyclable materials while others introduced new eco-friendly materials.

The Italian SAIB Particleboard, for example, is of recycled woods and reportedly emits the lowest formaldehyde as stipulated by relevant rules. "It's made in standard specifications of fiberboard and can replace traditional fiberboard of any size," says Daniel Ku, general manager of Island Woods Green Plus International Co.

SAIB is an Italian company, established in 1962 based on the idea to recycle wooden waste to create new, more convenient products than using solid wood.

RUCA Corporation showcased outdoor benches of a new eco-friendly material that simulates wood but has with many more advantages than traditional fiberboard. "It's waterproof, anti-corrosion, and maintenance free, and all these advantages make it an ideal material for outdoor furniture which is exposed to rain and deteriorating sunlight all the time," says the company, which also displayed several dining ware items of the latest corn-extracted biomaterial. "It's fully recyclable," says the company, stressing the technology has been developed in Taiwan.

(by Michelle Hsu)

http://cens.com/cens/news/2011/NPIC_14121.jpg TFMA Charmin Ruca Chien is optimistic that Taiwan's furniture industry would revive with great dynamic in the near future.
http://cens.com/cens/news/2011/NPIC_14122.JPG Alexandra Home Decor makes harmonious combination of the furniture and home decor items made either in Taiwan or abroad, presenting an integrated high-end interior design for household.
http://cens.com/cens/news/2011/NPIC_14123.JPG SEVEN OCEANS Casual Furnishings introduces high-quality outdoor furniture.
http://cens.com/cens/news/2011/NPIC_14124.JPG Yung Shing's "WOODY CHIC" brand has become a synonym of high-end Chinese styling wooden furniture in the Greater China market.



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