Nothing speaks luxury more than a perfectly and beautifully crafted handwork, a unique piece that can only be found in one place. A submersion of two worlds, two cultures and heritages come together to make one. All that is Shang Xia (which means up and down in Mandarin).
The history of the brand is quite rich with a lot of cultural intertwinings and unique products. The brand came up in 2008 after an encounter between the CEO of Shang Xia, Jiang Qiong Er and the then-CEO of Hermes Patrick Thomas, which led to Hermes financially backing the brand. The idea behind the establishment was simply to tap into the uniqueness of China’s craftsmanship to design products that will exude pure art, beauty and sophistication. From there the brand began to grow and more stores were opened in Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Hong Kong and Paris. Now there are preparations for a new store to be opened in Singapore by 2020.
In her exclusive interview with CNA Luxury, she talks about the development of her career so far and also explains the uniqueness of her brand… Let’s meet Jiang Qiong Er, the CEO and Artistic Director of Shang Xia to have a deeper insight into her super rich brand.
What was your early artistic career experience before you were invited to do Hermes Window Displays?
It began with a design company that I started as a student at Tongji University with the partnership of one of my professors. With support from the founder of Xintiandi after I graduated I was able to start up my own brand of jewellery, fashion accessories and home items, and this led to opening my first store in Xintiandi. In Paris, I started a company with the famous French architect that designed the Shanghai Grand Theatre, Jean-Marie Charpentier. With our focus on branding and interior design, Hermes China was amongst our clients.
What was your biggest inspiration while growing up?
As a Shanghai born child, I lived with my parents and my brother and I grew up helping both of them at home. My father was the architect for the Shanghai Museum and he did the renovation of The Bund while my mother [worked on] Shanghai libraries. I started painting as a kid along with my brother and we moved from that to doing calligraphy, travelling and creating in nature along with a great deal of doing crafts.
Where did your love of arts come from?
(Smiling) Definitely from my family. Not only were my parents architects but my grandfather too was a famous artist since his 20s who specialised in the combination of the ancient arts with the contemporary modern arts to create unique beauty as Shang Xia does today.
What do you like most about Shanghai?
I have a number of places and things I like in Shanghai, such as Xintiandi which is an area of old houses that has been transformed into a neighbourhood where people meet, dine, have fun. It’s basically an area that combines perfectly and beautifully traditional Chinese Shikumen architecture with Western influences. I also like the Shanghai Museum with its beautiful collections of antiques and bronzes. I love Shanghai for its open-mindedness which has allowed it to combine the Eastern and Western cultures together in perfect unison. And also I love my home there which is beautiful and filled with greenery.
You often spent some time in Paris as well?
Yes, a trip to Europe sparked my love for Paris and changed my mind from having my Masters degree in America to France. I spent a year learning the French language and culture in a local university in Nice, with a major in French Literature from the 20th and 21st centuries. Quite a tough time I encountered in the learning process but I scaled through. Later on I passed the entrance examination for the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris and enrolled there. The experience is one that combined with the others that I have experienced have helped to shape my worldview and notion today and have impacted greatly in my work and person. My three years in Paris invited new blood into my body and it permitted me to create the beauty I have experienced and expressed through Shang Xia.
What was your greatest pride about Shang Xia during its first 10 years of existence?
The uniqueness of Shang Xia as a brand. The fact that the brand was created from scratch and had to go through a thorough process of defining and building its supply base of craftsmen. We spent 10 years accompanying the artisans we found and have to evaluate, improve, and move forward.
How far has Shang Xia developed in the past few years?
Development with Shang Xia has been splendid, we began with a range of four products of garments, accessories, furniture, and homeware. Today we have five where we have included leather goods. There is a new space called Space Products which is being launched in Beijing and it’s the full package. From the beginning our focus has been on creating brand value and not just focusing on revenue and that has helped to push us to where we are today. We plan on working on a different base model which is not full blown retail, but also more experience-oriented. And we hope to improve on what we already do for the future ensuring that the beauty of our work is seen and also focus on leading a real luxury experience.
How is Shang Xia doing amid a changing, challenging, fickle luxury market?
The good thing amidst all these changes is that some things are constant and that is what Shang Xia is all about – Time and Emotion. In Shang Xia, we use traditional handcrafts and contemporary design to create a timeless style. So we don’t run after the trends or get rushed by the changes rather we maintain the beauty while keeping the ingredients constant and steady to give to the world the best products.
What do you think Singaporeans will appreciate about Shang Xia?
The fact that Shang Xia is the brand representation of their society, a society that is a mix of [Eastern] and Western cultural influences. Their open-mindedness is just perfect. Over the years we have had many people from Singapore going to Beijing, Paris and other places to discover and appreciate Shang Xia, now we are bringing Shang Xia to them.