gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is trying to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
gooood Under 35 NO.10 introduces Zhao Lei, founder of MZGF
▼视频 Video （全文深度采访见下方文字。视频为3分钟精华版，建议选择蓝光1080p观看。）
gooood x Zhao Lei 赵雷
“I want to do “simple” things.”
I grew up in a simple and beautiful small town of Zhejiang Province. I was interested in architecture when I was a child, and later I am admitted into the Tsinghua University to learn architectural design. When I really became an architect, I found myself not suitable for this industry. Architects need to coordinate with complex social relations, and to compromise and balance them. All I want to do is just something simple. I am responsible for my own results by my own hands and grasp. It is a better choice for me to work on furniture.
▼创业初期，自己动手把控产品。Early stage of mzgf, control the products by himself
▼第一个作品 – “小蛮腰”衣架，earliest product – SLIM WAIST Coat Stand
“I am concerned about the brand’s significance to this industry and the society …. Innovation and efficiency for the public is greater than the original design … and I aspire to compete with other international brands … The ultimate pursuit of the brand is able to fit into the mental state of Chinese people. ”
When MZGF has just been established, our goal is not to do the original design furniture brand. Original design, the word more embodies the designer’s self-consciousness, and it emphasizes the designer himself or the design itself. And we are concerned about that the brand has profound significance on the users, the industry and the society.
Compared to the original design, to meet the needs of users and continuous innovation and efficient operation, continuous self-improvement is the fundamental driving force in our progress. We believe that innovation and efficiency are greater than original design for the society and public. Innovation of design ideas includes four aspects, which contains product innovation, aesthetics innovation, business model innovation, and corporate culture innovation. Original furniture brands generally pay more attention to the product itself innovation, but this is only part of our pursuit. Maybe now our brand and other original furniture brands look no differences on the market, but this is only a stage of our development.
▼木智工坊产品，从单独的家具设计到家居设计，products of mzgf, from furniture design to interior design
At the early stage of MZGF, it is simple that our goal is to produce some favorite products which are liked by ourselves and people around. We spent a lot of time studying and learning to produce a good product as the the main work from 2012 to 2014. While I was doing both products and the marketing, I accumulate some fans on the Internet, so I obtain market recognition by virtue of high-quality products and services. Finally, the company come into the virtuous circle of rapid development. By 2015 and 2016, we have grown into a team, and our goal is to expand product lines, which means product concept need changing to achieve self-transcendence. Into 2017, a larger goal clearly emerge: we compete with not only the domestic brands but the international brands.
▼早期作品 – 蹼椅，early product – WEB FEET Armchair
From the status quo, when China’s top consumers shape their home space, they will use international brands, but we hope that in the future they will use our brand. At present stage of the Chinese people’s living environment, some people’s house is French, some are new Chinese. All kinds of styles all exist, but they are not related to their lives. This is because our state of life has been changing, neither purely local state of life nor western living state, which makes our environment not fit with our mental state in a strange and splitting state. And we want to compete with the international brands, that is to say, the brand can be more in line with the Chinese people’s mental state.
▼木智工坊展厅，创造生活方式，希望成为消费者优先选择的品牌。Showroom of mzgf. Create living style, aiming to be choice for all consumers
Positioning in the design field
“It is more important to create better products than to create new products.”
We think it is more important for designers to create better products than to create new products. For the chair, the number of its products is very large. In so many quantities, we think that adding a special product is not significant. Would it be better to adapt to the local and contemporary life if the goal was to do a better chair or a classic design than a normal chair? Its meaning is quite different. This is our position in the design field.
▼蹼椅，WEB FEET Armchair
For example, the webbed chair is the second chair we designed. The object of study is Hans Wagner who designed more than a hundred chairs before the classic The Chair, which means that I should not take a new path if I want to go beyond the predecessors as a designer without much experience. Because you may spend a lot of time, but failed to achieve very good results. So we made a more realistic choice: improve it based on a classic chair and make it better, which may not be the same as the original concept. We want to do better products, rather than new products. The webbed chair is the fruit of a lot of predecessors’ labor—the good things to retain with the new aesthetics to re-define it. Although it is a classic product as a prototype, sometimes it is simply judged as plagiarism, in fact, it is a new thing.
▼蹼椅 – 在经典的基础上创造更好的作品，WEB FEET Armchair – create a better product based on classic design
Our best chair is Shell chair. After the process study, we decided to use the latest polyurethane soft foam technology. This new synthetic material is very comfortable and more suitable for modern space. The starting point of Shell chair design which is the better improvement of the chair is similar to the Webbed chair, but its improvement is more thorough and exquisite. This chair absorbs the experience of the Y chair, which is another classic chair besides The Chair by Hans Wagner. The most representative characteristics of Shell chair is the curve of backrest, the handrail and the loop, respectively from the data research on Chinese human body size and three Ming Jie classic-federal stick, goose neck, crescent handrails. Its essence is wisdom crystallization of the modern technology, Chinese traditional design and craftsmanship. Although the design language of Shell chair is from the Chinese culture, the final finished product looks very international. We make a lot of efforts for this, including adventure to develop a lot of new technology, such as the shape of complex leather to how to cut, how to sew in order to perfect package and fit into chair body, which are designed with high-tech means, and then let the factory achieve this product. When we found the details of the inconsistent, then we redesigned and repeated it many times, which almost spent half a year before the stereotypes, and later will continue to improve to make it more perfect. Such a chair, if you can not see or read its meaning, this will feel that it is an international chair, but it has profound meaning because there are somethings in China.
▼贝椅 – 从传统椅子出发，采用现代工艺，SHELL Chair – inspired by traditional Chinese chair, designed and produced in high-tech ways
Produce a good product in the spirit of craftsmen
“We pursue to meet customers’ needs better than other products… There is no relationship between good products and whether or not the manual or mass production.”
It is the most fundamental starting point that should be able to meet the needs of users. There are many needs in this society, such as better design, more efficient business model, a better experience, and more consistent the connotation of Chinese cultural awareness and so on. We have to pursue a sense that better products should meet users’ needs. Producing a good product is a systematic project. After the completion of the design phase, we need to find out the factory through research to make it out. If we did not study it carefully, we could not make the finished product completely. This process requires designers, factory quality control and customer participation so that we have to accept customer feedback and continue to improve our technology by constantly grinding and scrutiny.
This way of doing the product looks like very modern, but it is fit with the traditional spirit of the craftsmen. The core of the spirit of craftsmen is to make a competitive good products. This is not related to whether the product is handmade or mass production. Furniture is more special, and some technology is difficult to be replaced by the machine, so we must retain the texture of the manual and pursue the efficiency of the machine manufacturing in the process of furniture production. These two are combined together. Good works have their own internal characteristics, which can not simply use the manual or machine production to distinguish, or even against it. In some of the breakthroughs in the design process of conventional development, because the supply side does not understand the problems of the production, it requires us to communicate with them. We will try to help the factory find ways to enhance their technology level so that they can produce better products.
▼生产过程中需要用到手工，handmade process is necessary in producing
▼木制家具细部，detail of the wooden furniture
From product oriented to spatial oriented
“Although we worked on solid wood industry as a starting point, but can not be limited to this material …. The fundamental purpose of customers to buy products is not to buy the product itself, but to have a better home.”
We began to focus only on the wood, the performance of wood and wood for the crafts, and made a series of solid wood products. However, after we have completed this task, we have found that the market has more demand. When we try to meet these needs, it is gradually from the product thinking to the spatial thinking. We quickly realized that the fundamental purpose of customers to buy furniture is not to buy the product itself, but to match his family environment. Wood products can not only meet their fundamental needs. For example, they need home more comfortable, which requires the sofa must be equipped with soft material to make people relaxed enough; they need a beautiful home, which requires the furniture material must also be various so that their home becomes more beautiful and pleasant. We worked on wood industry as a starting point, but not limited to this material, so we began to expand the material. The first is the new material series, the metal pieces of rose gold and natural marble and wood are combined together, which retains the brand characteristics and makes the material become rich; and then we launched a modern luxury series which uses modern technology completely aimed at modern home design, and there is a Chinese series, showing some China’s elements and contents. In fact, we do not clearly distinguish the four series. They are blending together. For the Shell chair, for example, it belongs to the modern lux ury series, but there are the Chinese elements. In order to allow users to clearly perceive the brand differences and richness, we interpret four styles—only one style, MZGF style.
▼经典木作系列 -（左）涟漪床头柜（右）高背床，Classical series – (left) RIPPLE side table (right) High-back bed frame
▼经典木作系列 -（左）小蛮腰衣架（右）四叶草镜，Classical series – (left) SLIM WAIST Coat Stand (right) Clover Mirror
▼金石木作系列，New material series
▼金石木作系列 -（左）睡莲茶几 （右）露珠茶几，New material series – (left)LOTUS Coffe table (right)Dewdrop coffee table
▼金石木作系列 -（左）功夫茶几 （右）无边电视柜，New material series – (left) Kongfu Coffee Table (right) INFINITE Side Board
▼现代中式系列，Modem Chinese series
▼现代中式系列 -（左）云栖四柱床 （右）砚台书架，Modern Chinese series – (left)YUNQI Four-poster bed frame (right) INKSTONE Bookshelf
▼现代中式系列 -（左）半山玄关桌 （右）地平线餐桌，Modern Chinese series – (left)Banshan Wall Table (right) Skyline Dining Table
▼现代轻奢系列，Modern luxury series
▼现代轻奢系列 -（左）无际转角沙发 （右）花瓣休闲椅，Modern luxury series – (left) INFINITE Corner Sofa (right) Petal Lounge Chair
MZGF Style and the guidance of Aesthetics
“Our greatest pursuit in aesthetics is to create an aesthetic style that belongs to our own style: a modern, Chinese, international aesthetic style. We hope that it can be called MZGF style later …. Our goal is to guide the aesthetics.”
MZGF furniture has a lot of high-end users, and the high-end customers are more concerned about the spatial needs. From the interior of building to the furniture and the entire soft design, these should be matched. In this regard, our brand wants to do an innovation with a professional word called aesthetics paradigm, referring to the aesthetic distribution. Our greatest pursuit in aesthetics is to create a kind of our own aesthetic style. It is neither Japanese nor French, Nordic, Chinese, new Chinese, but a fusion of modern elements—China localization and traditional elements, which represents international universality of the aesthetic style. We hope that it can be called MZGF style later.
▼木智工坊软装设计作品 – 深圳汉京九榕台（室内设计：李玮珉建筑师事务所），soft outfit design – Peak Boulevard, Shenzhen (interior design: LWMA)
Aesthetics is our ultimate pursuit, and our goal is to guide the domestic home aesthetics. China’s residential aesthetics is too backward, which is duplicity, such as the top houses in China. Its facade has been very modern, but the internal decoration is blind obedience, stagnant, outdated. We hope that it can be matched from the furniture products to the interior space decoration, and then from the entire spiritual content, and the pursuit of different cultures to the spirit of the state in our own brand.We can only use the image to show this kind of aesthetics if we must use written expression, that is to say, China’s international aesthetics.
▼木智工坊软装设计作品 – 深圳汉京九榕台（室内设计：李玮珉建筑师事务所），家具与空间结合，体现中国的国际化美学，soft outfit design – Peak Boulevard, Shenzhen (interior design: LWMA), combination of furniture and space, creating an international aesthetic style in China
“Energy consumption of flat packaging transport is very low, and it is a way to enhance the social benefits.”
“Refuse illegal timber, and choose sustainable wood.”
Our starting point of flat packaging is to take into account that efficiency of China’s commercial furniture industry is very low. In the past, China’s furniture is through the stores to face different consumers, and now with the development of Internet e-commerce, we can purchase furniture on line, which brings some transport problems, including energy problems and efficiency issues of the transport. Energy consumption of flat packaging transport is very low, however, it can improve the efficiency of the industry, and it is also a way to enhance the social benefits by designing. In fact, our consideration is not limited to costs. For example, the former farmers need planting their own vegetables, but after the improvement of living standards, they do not need to plant their own vegetables. However, as residential standard continues to improve, they have to experience the activities of planting vegetables. Flat packaging, including the installation of the entire process of furniture, do not have to do by their own hands, and not only save the cost but also improve efficiency. But with the improvement of people’s living standards, the installation of furniture itself will become an experience. What we are doing is to make the flat packaging become more high-end and ritual. Our customers can receive a beautiful brochure, which has a drawing of each installation step; we also design a metal box which the hardware is very delicate. The instructions have been refined on every installation step so that the installation process is not boring but more like a pleasure. Sometimes the sense of pleasure in life comes from good design, and the customer can experience and sense the ingenuity of furniture design through this process. If the master workers install it, they can be very elegant to complete the installation, like a performance because each step has been designed. All in all, our flat packaging is designed to make the installation process become an pleasant experience, not a burden.
▼平板包装让安装成为更轻松的体验，flat packaging makes installation a pleasant experience
▼精美的说明书，beautiful brochure showing installation steps
However, the standard of ritualization in installation process is very strict. It is more effective for the series of solid wood and classic wood, because the assembly process of the wood is very visual. Each component is made of the same materials, like their own house. It has similarities to the Chinese wooden buildings, while the latter contains more mysteries. In contrast, the modern luxury series more emphasizes on a sense of comfort. We did not set it up for the ritual installation process.
▼精巧的五金件，让安装变成一种艺术，delicate instruments makes the installation kind of art
China has always been the world’s largest sale of illegal timber, which is the result of business and consumer. Consumers like it, and businessman also use this as a selling point. Since we want to do a new brand for young people, we must first make the values internationalization, and refuse to illegal timber to have the choice of sustainable wood. After the study of wood production in the world, we will choose a place where there is a very high level of production management and no illegal timber or a relatively high degree of commercialization, and the latter is no problem in technology. We will neither choose rare wood nor choose that of those countries where the illegal timber is produced.
▼主要木材供应国管理水平，木智工坊的木材来自美国和德国，management level of the main wood supplier countries, wood of mzgf comes from the US and Germany
Operation under the new era
“Fast feedback, efficient marketing service system. We do not do ordinary products.”
We are the original online brand. The Internet is characterized by very fast feedback. As long as research and development products are on the line, you can immediately get customer’s feedback. If the customer does not like our products, we will be off the shelf, and improved or redesigned it.
Traditional furniture industry is not only inefficient but also high costs, including marketing costs, while the online business generally have effective costs and low marketing costs. In a number of marketing theory of online business it is more recognized for us that the product content, that is to say, you can through product contents and stories attract customers and tell them where the product comes from, why this is, and all users can perceive things. There is a popular principle, that is to say, we try our best to do it not to do ordinary products, because the ordinary product is not viable, which will soon be replaced and lost its value quickly. Good products can tell it. Really good marketing is that you do not have to peddle all the way to sell out, and it can be done in the starting stage of product design. From the business environment, consumers can choose a lot of things, as long as you do your best to design, you can avoid the result to make a lot of efforts to peddle.
▼简洁现代的展厅，以产品为重，simple and modern showroom of mzgf, underlining the quality of the products
In addition, we enjoy the dividend of technology development, and develop a highly efficient marketing system, whose the main purpose is to serve a greater number of users with less costs and better quality. For example, we only opened a flagship exhibition in Hangzhou. How do other people experience? We use virtual technology to create it into a digital exhibition hall by the use of technical means to allow people in different places to experience, improve the efficiency of marketing.
In addition, we integrate the industry’s high-quality design resources so that we create an open platform of highly efficient integration. We want to popularize “circle of friends”, both our own designers and external co-designers. The both become more rich and diverse by designing within the same aesthetic category. In the way of promotion, we take an intermediate route.
▼生活体验式展厅，showroom of life style
Global competition opportunities outweigh the challenges
“Strive to achieve the unity of products, furniture, interior space and architecture in a unified market environment.”
China has a very big advantage over other countries, that is to say, China’s market is a unified big market. All consumers are in a market inside. This is a very good environment for China’s furniture brand and even the world’s original design brands. Any design wants to conquer the consumer’s heart, ultimately not by price, but by culture. Chinese culture is a unified culture, and its connotation is very rich, which can provide a lot of material for the design, and consumers may have further contact. It is another great advantage for the Chinese brands.
On the status quo of the environment, the building, interior space and furniture are actually relatively fragmented. As an architect, there is a certain advantage by doing furniture, that is to say, I can unify furniture, interior space, and buildings together, and so we are now developing from the furniture to the interior. This development requires a process, first of all we design in the template, that is to say, completely regardless of the direction of the architect, the interior designer has a guide so that indoor space effect is very uniform and refined after the completion, and then we design this part from the furniture layout to the whole soft install. Our future service may extend to the interior part, culminating in the unification of products, furniture, interior design and architecture.
▼木智工坊室内设计作品 – 杭州和家园紫园，interior design – Ziyuan, Hangzhou
▼木智工坊室内设计作品 – 杭州西溪天堂悦居，interior design – Xi Xi Taintang Yueju, Hangzhou
We have a difficulty in developing this process, that is to say, it is mainly in the management level because we have no experience. But the problem is solved after we have a certain foundation because we can have some control over the plight. As a brand, the foundation can be solved by money, but the product does not work out that way. Product line is our foundation, and in the development process we will rethink the product style and spend energy studying aesthetics. We are in the design of products, which will not only start from the product itself, but also be based on the concept of aesthetics so that the discordant link is slowly polished to make it a whole.
▼木智工坊创始人赵雷，Zhao Lei, founder of MZGF