The CEO and founder of furniture brand Stellar Works talks about his journey towards establishing a design approach based on traditional craftsmanship, Asian aesthetics and innovative industrial technology.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

When Yuichiro Hori set out to launch his furniture brand in 2008, he had little idea that it would evolve into an operation that brought together talents from across Asia and Europe.

“It all started when I realised the difficulty in finding reliable furniture manufacturers to whom I could outsource my designs. I was supposed to produce my works in Japan, but the factories there were limited in terms of production capability and a lack of skilled craftsmen. I encountered the same issue in Europe as well, and it was then that I knew I really needed to put together my own production facility, in addition to creating the designs,” he says.

The search took him to China, Shanghai in particular, where Yuichiro found that there was a pool of young and skilled craftsmen. “Some of the talented wood workers were as young as 25, with over a decade of experience in the industry,” he shares.

However, he also noted that despite their amazing techniques, many of the furniture pieces produced by the workers in China were lacking in terms of quality and finish.

“The issue wasn’t with the craftsmanship; it was with the fact that too many companies in China were focused on mass production and that meant compromising quality control. Those companies were also not big on details or concepts; they just wanted to churn out furniture in the cheapest and quickest way possible,” he says.

Yuichiro decided that there was potential in harnessing the talent in Shanghai, while at the same time utilising stateof-the-art technology from Japan, and the technical and marketing know-how from Europe, to create a brand with a global approach.

He says: “The strength of many Asian manufacturers lies in their ability to produce in large numbers, but they lack soft skills like branding and communications. When it comes to marketing. European brands tend to fare better in those areas. I wanted to bring them all together to create an international brand that’s produced in Shanghai but with the same level of stringent quality control as a Japanese product, and on the same playing field as established European furniture brands.”

The brand was launched at Milan Design Week in 2012 to popular reception, and was instantly catapulted to pop status because of its cult appeal. Another factor contributing to the success is Stellar Works’ positioning as a form of affordable luxury. By offering well-made furniture with impressive detail at affordable prices, the brand became a hit among food-and-beverage, as well as hospitality, developers.

Shortly after the launch, Yuichiro decided to engage design duo Neri & Hu as creative directors for Stellar Works.

“They were one of the designers for Stellar Works in the beginning, and I was very impressed with their approach to furniture design. They are very different from other designers, because of their American and Asian backgrounds. It also helped that they are based in Shanghai, where the factory is located, so we can meet often for discussions. It was during a private trip to a hot spring in Japan, that we really began talking about how they could offer a whole new creative direction for the brand. We were talking about sharing a dream together, and creating a brand that is truly from Asia,” he says.

Six years into production and Stellar Works continues to draw fans from around the world, with an equal percentage of them from the Americas, Europe and Asia. Of those regions, Yuichiro mentions that countries like Spain, Germany and the US comprise his largest markets. Happy to see his brand become a global phenomenon, he insists that more can and will be done in the near future.

“We are in experimental stages with a commercial client to embed new technology into our furniture, which can help to collect data on which seats  in a restaurant are the most popular during various timings, and information on the types of customers that choose a particular seat in the house. But aside from that, we will continue to remain focused on the craft of furniture making,” he says.

View the latest collection from Stellar Works at P5 Studio.
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The tripod cafe table is ideal for both homes and commercial spaces.

The Wohlert bar chair is part of Stellar Works’ latest collection.
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1  On China

I’m proud to state that Stellar Works is produced in Shanghai, because the city has its own diversity that is different from that of other cities in China. Shanghai offers a unique platform to establish our hybrid factory concept, which brings together technical know-how and marketing knowledge from other parts of the world to our production facility.

2  On the definition of luxury

Modern luxury is about paying attention to the material one uses, and the craftsmanship involved. Paying for luxury means paying for exclusivity, uniqueness and time, because it takes time to tailor something exclusive.

3  On modern Asian homes
The younger generation of homeowners is looking for mobility, so furniture designs need to be versatile and lightweight. With space becoming a premium, it’s also important to ensure that a piece of furniture can offer multiple solutions, such as a sofa that comes with a side table, which can be used in the living room or lounge.
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