Interviews And Q&As From The First Half Of The Year
Wang Qingsong, Contemporary Chinese Photographer (January 28)
Last week, the artist Wang Qingsong, one of China’s top contemporary photographers, had a very busy week in New York. Launching his first New York solo exhibition, “When World Collide” at the International Center of Photography and taking part in an Art Salon at the China Institute, Wang received a warm welcome during a very China-centric week in which Chinese artists Hai Bo and Cui Xiuwen were respectively feted at Pace/MacGill and Eli Klein Fine Arts. Prior to the opening of “When Worlds Collide,” the Jing Daily team sat down with Wang to discuss his recent work, his new exhibition, and his future plans. Conducted in Mandarin, our interview shed light into the societal changes shaping Wang’s work, his thoughts on younger artists, and his observations on the Chinese art market as it climbs back towards a “second boom.”
Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Luxury Watchmaker Hublot (Part One / Part Two) (April 20-21)
One of the highlights of the Prestige Brands Forum, held this past weekend at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, was a Q&A panel with the animated and enthusiastic Jean-Claude Biver, CEO and Chairman of the Swiss watch label, Hublot. A relative latecomer to mainland China, Hublot entered the market approximately 18 months ago, launching strong localized initiatives that included the appointment of Jet Li as the brand’s first Asian ambassador and a charity watch collaboration with author Han Han.
Jing Daily sat down with Biver on the sidelines of the forum for a discussion that touched on his plans for tackling the lucrative China market and his thoughts on the current state of luxury there. Transcription and original audio recordings by Jing Daily team.
“I’ve been interested in eyewear since I was little. I was always wearing glasses, since I was short-sighted. My dad wears glasses, all of my family are four-eyes…so I’ve always been interested in eyewear. What made me start doing what I do is because being [Asian], I can’t find glasses, especially good-styled glasses that actually fit our facial features. We normally have high cheekbones and low nose-bridges and the distance between the temple is slightly different than Caucasians. So it’s been my own frustration of not being able to find anything that fits me and also, design-wise, never being able to find anything I really like.
“I used to complain to people, why can’t I find things, then I thought I’d do it myself. So when it started, I actually looked for somebody who could make me bespoke glasses, and it took me a little while to find a manufacturer and do the design. It came out really well so I thought, “I can share this with other people.” That’s how the business came about, really.”
Perched atop the Hotel Indigo on the Bund, CHAR is the newest in the ever-growing Shanghai restaurant scene. Focusing on premium-quality beef and seafood, CHAR is currently the only restaurant in China that imports Blackmore’s Wagyu beef from Australia, complementing its menu with fresh local produce. CHAR’s sophisticated interior, designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates, features a fine dining area, open grill kitchen, wine and cocktail lounge, two terraces, and three private dining rooms.
Executive Chef Julie Donohoe expertly applies her Australian training to CHAR’s menu, particularly in dishes like its signature “Char Indulgence,” which highlights the quality of Blackmore’s Wagyu, raised for 600 days using traditional Japanese methods. Among Shanghai’s steadily increasing number of steakhouses, CHAR is also unique in presenting touches such as a selection of handcrafted steak knives, as well as paintbrushes for applying sauces and selection of exotic salts.
Fueled by a wave of nostalgia sweeping China’s “post-80s generation“, home-grown Chinese brands established between 1949 and the country’s economic “opening” of the 1980s are starting to make a comeback. Looking to catch the opportunity, in recent years some enterprising individuals and companies have sought to “revive” moribund Chinese labels, aiming them squarely at the same young urban taste-makers coveted by Western and Japanese brands.
Interestingly, some of the more motivated individuals breathing new life into Chinese brands are not Chinese at all. From footwear maker Feiyue, run by a French team since 2006, to the sneaker and bag label ospop. and watchmaker Iguzzini, a handful of expat entrepreneurs are introducing retro Chinese brands to a new generation of consumers in China as well as abroad.
John D. Kuhns, Author of “China Fortunes” (January 19)
John D. Kuhns, the first American to acquire commercial hyrdro-electric generating equipment from China, and one of the first western businessmen to do business there after the economic reforms of the late 1970s, draws on his experience in the novel China Fortunes: A Tale of Business in the New World (Wiley, hardback, 2011). The fictional tale follows Jack Davis, a character modeled very much after Kuhns himself, as he begins to conduct business and chase potential wealth in 1980s China, delving into many of the issues that awaited foreigners in the early days of China’s “reform and opening-up” period.
Eschewing the traditional format of the often self-aggrandizing, increasingly tiresome “pioneering businessman” or “how to make it in China” genres, China Fortunes vividly illustrates the opportunities and obstacles experienced by foreign businesspeople in the early days of China’s sometimes uncomfortable embrace of capitalism.
Founded by designer Alison Mary Ching Yeung in 2006, Mary Ching is one of the first high-end footwear and accessories brands to emerge from mainland China. Driven by Alison’s own eclectic aesthetic, Mary Ching seamlessly fuses Asian elements with vintage fashion without ever succumbing to “East Meets West” conventions. A regular sight at her flagship boutique on Ferguson Lane, which opened in 2009, Alison will appear next in London at the Walpole British Luxury Summit on May 17, where she will speak about the luxury market in the Greater China region.
Recently, Jing Daily spoke to Alison about Mary Ching and her thoughts on the potential for homegrown Chinese luxury brands.
Moving to Shanghai from Paris in 2006, designers Thomas Dariel and Benoit Arfeuillere have quickly made names for themselves in the city’s thriving design community. Over the past five years, the duo’s design firm, Lime388–which they’re currently rebranding as Dariel & Arfeuillere–has been involved in some of the most striking and instantly recognizable interiors in Shanghai, from their work for famed Australian-Greek chef and restaurateur David Laris (Yucca, Funky Chicken, 12 Chairs) to the downtown golf lounge Ultra 18 and Fame nightclub.
Rex Jiang of Jing Daily recently met up with Thomas Dariel to discuss his firm’s current projects, the changing tastes of Shanghai’s design-savvy urbanites, and his plans for the future.
With high-end cocktail bars becoming the new (and increasingly ubiquitous) trend in Shanghai, many in the fast-paced city are finding that bigger, flashier, and louder is not always better. For those more interested in real drinks made by real bartenders, rather than an ear-splitting velvet-roped scene, Shanghai veteran Bob Boyce (blue frog, KABB) has opened his newest venture, Brownstone. A stylish but unpretentious cocktail bar in Yongjia Road’s Surpass Court, Brownstone is all about drinks and music — tastefully presented for Shanghai’s non-nightclub set.
Jing Daily recently sat down with Bob Boyce to discuss Brownstone, his thoughts on Shanghai’s current nightlife scene, and how his new bar is adapting cocktails for the local palate.
The Chinese Dream is enlightening for anyone interested not only in the economic importance of the Chinese middle class today, but also of this group’s cultural and political implications for the China of tomorrow. Unlike other books that focuses on the extremes evident in Chinese society, The Chinese Dream is filled with nuance, filling in the gray areas of the country’s emerging consumer class through interviews of everyone from high-powered executives to migrant workers, offering a thoughtful analysis on where these individuals are taking China, and the opportunities that are being created in the process.
Jing Daily recently discussed The Chinese Dream with author Helen Wang, in a short Q&A about the importance of the emerging Chinese middle class, the strains that they could put on the global economy, and the challenges and opportunities that this millions-strong group presents to companies (and countries) around the world.