Designer Tong Ren finds inspiration from nature and his travels.
Before beginning his studies in Aalto University, Tong Ren worked with industrial design. He became familiar with the craft early in life: his sister is a designer and his father a traditional Chinese painter. "I used to play around in his studio", Tong describes, "I loved seeing him painting." While the artistic side is strongly influenced by his father, Tong also became fascinated with his sister's books on design. "I loved the designers' sketches. I got to know a lot about design from her."
Now Tong studies in the Master's programme in Fashion, Clothing and Textile Design. His studies also brought him and Lapuan Kankurit together in the spring of 2018, when he visited the weaving mill as part of his studies. Students weave their designs at the mill, and the company meets young designers. "We fell in love with Tong's style right away. After spending more time with him, we got to know him better and definitely wanted to showcase his talent in Finland even more", says Marketing Manager Jaana Hjelt. Tong's MATKA blanket was woven at the mill and later showcased in the Protoshop exhibition at design fair Habitare. "The workshops are amazing. They allow me to realise my designs into real prototypes", Tong says.
Tong finds inspiration in nature, and he often walks in Lammassaari in Helsinki. Even looking at the same tree can spark a different idea each time. "It's always important for me to think about how tiny I am compared with nature", he ponders. His pattern METSÄ echoes this interest in nature. "It is peaceful, but full of textures", Tong describes. The Lapuan Kankurit collection will include METSÄ as woollen blankets and pillows, as well as linen bath and sauna products.
Travel also inspires the young designer. "The diversity of cultures in the world is amazing", he says. On his latest trip to China, Tong visited traditional gardens and tea shops. Inspiration is everywhere, especially in craftsmanship. "I love visiting traditional markets that sell local crafts. I always get so much inspiration from the craftsmanship: the ceramics, the woven bamboo baskets, the traditional national costumes, and so on."
Tong appreciates the simple life in Finland and often begins his day by eating Finnish berries and dark bread. When he's not at work, he's often found swimming either in pools or lakes. "I love the Finnish summer cottage. Swimming in the lake after sauna is the best", he praises. He also finds that Finns are passionate about protecting nature. That's why he's thrilled to work with Lapuan Kankurit. "I love the way they respect nature and craftsmanship", he says. He often works with natural materials in his designs. "Sustainability is an important issue", Tong says. "It's important to know about the materials I'm using."