After just three shows in Singapore, annual design fair Maison&Objet Asia will take a hiatus for the next two years – because of poor response from European brands that the organisers had hoped would exhibit here, amid a sluggish global economy.
The show's organiser, Salons Francais Et Internationaux (SAFI), made a decision 10 days ago not to go on with next year's fair, which was to be held at Marina Bay Sands over four days in March. Its team had already been promoting it extensively. The 2018 show will also be "suspended".
SAFI managing director Philippe Brocart said in an interview with The Straits Times yesterday: "We decided to concentrate our efforts and resources on our Paris shows and our digital platforms. It was a difficult decision for us because we have invested a lot."
Maison&Objet Asia is the regional offshoot of the design trade show that began 21 years ago in Paris. The original is known as one of the best interior design trade fairs in the world and is held every January and September in the French capital.
The event came to Singapore with much fanfare in 2014 and introduced new brands and products to the design scene here.
Mr Brocart had an inkling of the uncertainties ahead, based on exhibitor responses after the September edition in Paris. "We got feedback that many brands could not commit to the Singapore show next year and would rather concentrate on the European market."
A poor economic outlook contributed to SAFI's decision. Its other show, Maison&Objet Americas, which is held in Miami in May, will also be on hold for the next two years.
Going by the numbers, Maison& Objet Asia has not fared well. The first show in Singapore in 2014 drew 13,700 visitors, while the edition in March this year attracted 7,200 visitors.The event also did not make money, although Mr Brocart said he considered the money spent "an investment". This year's show cost $2.5 million.
The fair's hiatus spells bad news for home-grown architecture firm Woha, co-founded by Mr Wong Mun Summ, 54, and Mr Richard Hassell, 49. The firm was named Designer of the Year for next year's Asian edition just a month ago. This is the first time a Singapore architect or designer has been awarded the accolade in the history of the French design show. (Take a look at the Designer of the Year 2016 here)
They were scheduled to put on installations and exhibitions at the event venue. They were also planning to launch Wohabeing – a line of furniture, accessories, bathroom fixtures, lighting and artwork – at Maison&Objet Asia.
Mr Brocart said Woha has been invited to the Paris edition in January to give a keynote speech. Plans are also in the works for the firm to be involved with next September's show in Paris.
Mr Hassell said the announcement came as a surprise and he was saddened. But he is looking forward to the firm making a French connection.
"There is strong interest in the Asian viewpoint in Paris and Europe in general, so we are looking forward to making some new connections at the show, in the retail and industry market.
"In some ways, it is better for us as we are more well known in Asia. Having the promotional events relocated to Europe will (let us) reach a different and larger audience."
Article by Natasha Ann Zachariah, originally appeared in The Straits Times.