April 27, 2017

Design can be a powerful force in our lives and also have significant social impact. Just ask Elaine Yan Ling Ng of THE FABRIC LAB.
Her new collection UN/FOLD is all that.


"Every design project we undertake will result in products, environments, interfaces, or services that will ultimately have an effect on people’s lives" Elaine says.

The UN/FOLD project develops new material and products by capturing the essences of the traditional Chinese heritage, in a new way. The purpose of the project is to create new opportunities to re-introduce refined, handmade production to Guizhou, in South China she says.

By finding new meanings, values, spaces and respect for traditional craft within the urban society, we can use design as a vehicle, to bridge traditional fabrication with urban application in order to save Cultural Heritage.


Social Responsibiliy Through Design

The UN/FOLD project provides a new vision for the next generation of villagers; helping them to gain pride in their own heritage, also having the potential to increase the village population.

By saving one village, we save one craft skill and it’s heritage.

The lifestyle products resulting from the project fuse handmade craft with digital technology. THE FABRIC LAB develops their unique production line, method and system that is centred around the makers, helping the villagers work at ease. And they create lifestyle products with a human touch.

Patterns and colours of the collection





Stool. Batik painted on locally sourced high quality wood, borrowing traditional textiles techniques to create prints on hard surfaces. Wood is a living material; this allows the patterns to age into its own character as times goes by.

Handmade Batik Silk Scarf, co-designed with the craftsmen:  Prints are inspired by traditional Guizhou heritage motifs and modified with a modern twist. They’re dyed three times in the home grown organic indigo dye vats so that the colour slowly develops with different oxidation processes. The product is finished with a hand rolled stitched edge in the village.





The Bespoke Living Collection combines the intricate textiles created in the village with renowned luxury furniture manufacturers, Stellar Works. As a contemporary design brand with a strong commitment to creating novel collections inspired by global craftsmanship, they have used their expertise to beautifully manufacture the interior furniture collection.





Style by Asia speaks to the designer of UN/FOLD, Elaine Yan Ling Ng about her inspiration and work with the villagers for this new project:



1. What is the inspiration behind this new series/collection?

My company, The Fabrick Lab, is on a mission to keep heritage craft alive. Our research initiative, UN/Fold, applies exquisite traditional hand-crafted textiles to contemporary textiles and interior products. I began the UN/Fold research initiative over three years ago. The rural village of Guizhou, in southern China, has a strong heritage of handmade craft and textiles. However, with only 10 percent of skills being passed onto the next generation, the pride of their traditional culture is becoming lost. The Fabrick Lab have worked closely with the local villagers, who are 4th generation weavers and batik artists, to create a tailor-made fabrication system. UN/Fold has enabled the creation of a production hub that works with the villagers existing resources and lifestyle. Support from the Design Trust, in 2015, enabled UN/Fold to build in-house facilities in the hub that have ensured safer and more efficient production. This support has also enabled the employment rate to increase by 100 percent in one year. It has also been important to use techniques and resources locally. The indigo flora plant used as the dye in the batik process is grown locally in the village and harvested by the artisans, so it was natural to use it for this collection.


2. What made you try batik on wood, as it is traditionally used on fabric?

Batik is a traditional technique that can be created, and is used in different parts of the world. I really wanted to provide an edge to the villagers we work with, and develop new technique that you can't find elsewhere. This increases their competitiveness and sets their work apart, so clients will come to us.  That is why I decided to experiment with batik on wood.


3. When taking traditional fabrics and techniques and reinventing them so to speak, do you meet obstacles from people wanting it to stay the same, or are people excited about the new applications?

Yes all the time. In the beginning, the villagers usually refuse to change, they are curious of new prints and new designs, but they hold back their expression, as they want to hold on to their own pride. In the end of the day we are modifying heritage and tradition which has generations of history. So for our training program, we have spent the first 9 months to build trust and learn about their techniques meaning and values, so that when we design or reinvent patterns we can be mindful of how things are being used and represented.


As the villagers are community based, once we started training with one family, more became slightly more open to us and came to join us. Now we design and co-create together, and they get very excited for new clients work or new materials to work with.  


4. Why did you choose this colour scheme for this new collection?

Indigo is a traditional colour, and the village that I work in grow their own indigo plants and make their own dye. Green is also another colour they use a lot in their traditional clothing and embroidery work. In the bespoke living collection I have added solid brass and walnut to add as a highlight to make the indigo pop more, and make it suitable for the high end luxury market. 


5. Where can we buy your new collection?

Please contact me directly thefabricklab@gmail.com. I am happy to offer all readers of Style by Asia 10% off, just mention the promotion code UN/FOLDLCW.


6. What is your next project?

I am having workshop at the Acehotel to celebrate London Craft Week next week, and I am also exhibiting this collection at SEEDS, London Gallery between 6th -12th May so pop by if you are in London! We have just launched a new range of textiles for fashion and hope that a lot of fashion designers can make good use of it and allow more people to know about our village and the work the villagers do.


All readers of Style by Asia will be offered 10% off all prices, please email thefabricklab@gmail.com with your request and the promote code: UN/FOLDLCW.




THE FABRICK LAB is an ideological lab. Learning is an attitude; as dreamers they realise their concepts through materialisation. Investigating the latest innovations, trends and cultural developments helps them stay on top, particularly developments that influence textiles. They are experts and catalysts who are keen to expand the boundaries of textiles. At THE FABRICK LAB, they believe textiles is a timeless material that could act as a soft shelter or a second skin. Smart application of textiles can improve our way of living. We aim to stretch textiles from fabric to a building brick!

THE FABRICK LAB is a bespoke textile consultancy, located in Hong Kong, creating and developing experimental textile surfaces and materials for bespoke luxury environments.

As such THE FABRICK LAB has worked in partnership with Scientists, Technologists, Botanists and Engineers, enabling the studio to provide fresh and innovative insights through the fabrication of thought-provoking outputs.

Working across all areas within the creative and business industry, THE FABRICK LAB has a keen interest and knowledge within the fields of science, technology, social sustainability and craftsmanship.

Elaine Yan Ling Ng, also known as the ‘techno fairy’ by Elle Decor, is the founder of THE FABRICK LAB bringing together textiles, electronics, biomimicry, interiors and installations. Elaine is a British Chinese materialologist and a graduate of Central Saint Martins in London where she earned her MA Design in Textile Futures with distinction. She is a TED fellow and is globally recognized, having worked with international design companies such as Nissan Design Europe and Nokia Design Beijing with multi design awards. Her magical approach towards materials is recognised by some of the best in the field and has proved inspirational to many. ‘The Chinese designer creates materials that move and grow like trees – but faster.’ - Wired UK.

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