Wekino is Putting K-Design on the Global Stage

At Stockholm Furniture Fair, Wekino partnered with Note Design Studio to launch itself onto the global market and present the rising stars of Korean design. We find out more.

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The global appreciation of Korean culture is at an all time high. K-Pop and K-Beauty have become hugely successful in recent years, and now – K-Design is following in its footsteps.

At least that’s what Seoul-based brand Wekino is pushing for. At this year’s Stockholm Furniture Fair, its team unveiled an entirely new identity and initiative – both of which are designed to take the work of designers from the region to the global stage.

To aid its mission, Wekino embarked on a conversation with Stockholm-based Note Design Studio. “That was about four years ago now,” says Cristiano Pigazzini, the studio’s co-founder. At first, he says, Wekino simply wanted the studio to create a product for their range. “We thought about whether or not we should do it, because there are already so many East Asian companies that contact Scandinavian designers to create a collection typical of the region’s minimal aesthetic.”

Instead, they worked together to develop a vision that puts the Korean design scene at the forefront. “The cultural scene from Korea is exploding globally – in film, music and fashion. Our goal was to help Wekino to became the powerhouse for Korean design abroad.”

This led to a two-part project: the first, a rebrand, and the second, the curation of a new incubation collection that commissions works from up and coming designers.

The new logo and overall brand identity represent a freshness of sorts. This, according to Joong Han Lee – a product designer at Note Design Studio, who was born in Seoul and has done much of the steering of this project – was informed by the landscape of the city. “In Seoul, there is a real contrast between the hypermodern and also the very traditional aspects of the city,” he said.

The concept for Wekino With also came from this idea of old and new. The designers selected for the first collection were given the keyword of “juxtoposition” to work with – “we wanted them to explore those two versions of the city contrast and coexisting at the same time”, Lee adds.

Among the six studios selected by Note Design Studio, craftsmanship is blended with a “hypermodern vibrancy”. Pieces range from large furniture, to small homeware objects. While some appear less “useable” than others, functionality is at the core of the collection.

This kind of curatorial project marks a bit of a step change for Note. Although prolific, the studio’s work typically manifests in objects, interiors or graphics. For Lee, though, the chance to offer a platform to fellow designers in Seoul made perfect sense. “In Seoul, it’s hard to get your career started in terms of collaborating with brands in Europe – geographically, we are very far, far away,” he said. “It become our role to find opportunity for them, so we decided to kind of step back and then help them to grow.”

Read on to find out more about the six studios.


Studio PESI

The designs of Studio PESI (founded by Byounghwi Jeon in 2015) are rooted in functionality. For the Wekino With collection, they created “Stout” – a dining chair and armchair made from tubular steel that is powder coated in fresh hues. “As the name implies, this sturdy seating option brings durability and comfort to a variety of commercial spaces including cafes and restaurants-as well as dining spaces at home,” the studio adds.

Studio Word

Kyuhyung Cho and Jungyou Choi began working under the Studio Word moniker in 2018. Both studied in Europe, at Konstfack and Design Academy Eindhoven respectively, and with design backgrounds rooted storytelling – their work traverses the fields of graphic, product, furniture and space. For Wekino With, they brought a rug titled “Oddly”, which looks distinctly modern in its pattern but is actually based on an old, abstract painting of rocks.

Kwangho Lee

Kwangho Lee has become a well-known name within the design industry. His playful work has been snapped up by the likes of HEM, and now, he worked with Wekino to bring an old prototype to fruition. Named Pirouette, the shelving collection is dynamic and multifunctional, and combines slabs propped up by circular panels.

Studio-Chacha

There is an etherial beauty to Studio-Chacha’s work. Headed up by Cha Shinsil, the studio’s work often brings together familiar materials that wouldn’t ordinarily be placed together, before shaping them into amophous forms and adding soft colors. The mirror designed for Wekino With, titled Chroma, is inspired by a patchwork wrapping cloth. “[In Korean culture], and in addition to wrapping or transporting objects, these useful cloths were sometimes hung on walls and used as kaleidoscopic interior decorations,” the designer says.

Studio Kunsik

Kunsik Choi is based in Stockholm, and runs a studio that focuses on researching ways in which artisans prouce work. Deeply inspired by the power of the handmade, Studio Kunsik has created a table named “Salong”, which is envisaged as a surface for any number of tasks. Inspired by the idea of a “Sculptor’s Atelier”, it features octagonal wooden legs and is finished with durable materials to render it suitable for dinner parties and workshops alike.

Kuo Duo

Kuo Duo, led by Hwachan Lee and Yoomin Maeng, have created two pieces for the collection – the Reel Hanger and Book Worm. Both take on a squiggly form, and eschew the archetypal forms for something entirely unique. As a studio, the pair like to push the boundaries of what design is, and what it can do. Both have a background in industrial design, and with it, a knowledge of materials and performance, which they use to combine ultimate funcationality with a playful aesthetic.

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