With China's luxury goods market now well-established as a leading global player, the country continues to see the growing presence of top international brands promoting their names while simultaneously investing in local trends. Beyond simply looking to appeal to Chinese shoppers by flogging the same items found in Paris or New York, however, some brands are putting more of an emphasis on looking to the past to uncover and repurpose traditional aspects of Chinese culture and strike a deeper chord with China’s rapidly evolving high-end consumers.
One such brand that combines ancient and modern Chinese culture is Hermès-linked, Shanghai-based
, which formed in 2008 and opened its first location at Shanghai's Hong Kong Plaza in 2010. This week, Shang Xia CEO and creative director
Amid an idyllic setting, punctuated by swaying willow trees and a lake abloom with water lilies, Jiang, Hermès CEO
, former French Prime Minister
and acclaimed fashion photographer
gathered in a bamboo hut filled with the aroma of green tea. The atmosphere and design of the event fully encapsulated the unique aspects of Chinese culture that infuse the Shang Xia brand as well as its creations.
When asked about the inspiration behind the new collection, Jiang Qiong'er answered, “We are trying to pass down the philosophies and values of the old culture to the modern society. We hope our collection can be passed down through generations in a similar way in which traditional Chinese values such as family, drinking tea and sharing are transferred from old to young.”
Speaking on the similarities that link Shang Xia and Hermès, Patrick Thomas said, “We are going back to the past to look for the future, and both Hermès and Shang Xia share the philosophy of the importance of the value of the product.” Any concerns about the wider appeal of the new collection to customers in China as well as the West were confidently brushed aside by Thomas: “Our three legacies of craftsmanship, creativity and style are simply being transferred into a different environment, and I’m very proud to see it doing well so far.”
Paolo Roversi -- whose contribution to "In/Out" includes a book of stylized photographs of the new collection -- backed Thomas up, saying, “It is nice to know that such a distant culture has similar links and ideas.” When quizzed on how working with China-based Shang Xia differs from other clients, Roversi noted that “beauty is beauty, no matter whether you are from the East or the West.” Gesturing towards the scenery created for the event, Roversi added, “this is just like a dream, like something suspended between the past, the present and the future” -- as if to sum up the ethos of Shang Xia's newest collection.
By sharing similar values regarding the art and the design of their products, it seems that both Hermès and Shang Xia are reasonably confident that Shang Xia can succeed in China and beyond. “Right now, China’s economy is having a huge influence on the world,” said Jiang Qiong'er. "People nowadays in China are trying to get back to the roots of the culture, and in the next thirty years China will use its culture to influence the world." Looking more specifically at the country's high-end market, and where Shang Xia sees itself in regards to the luxury industry, Jiang reiterated that "the journey is a long one, but we hope with our collection we have something which can be passed down through generations,” further expressing her brand’s emphasis on the connection between old and new.
On viewing the new In/Out collection, visitors were escorted into a maze-like bamboo structure where products were exhibited amid a true Chinese atmosphere. On show were carefully crafted porcelain tea sets as well as necklaces and bracelets crafted out of silver and crystal. Traditional Chinese playing cards were also laid out next to mah-jong sets as guests were given the chance to sample tea and enjoy the scent of special incense whilst being informed of the traditional processes of making the incense sticks and preparing the tea.
Shang Xia is holding this special pop-up exhibition of traditional Chinese craftsmanship through October 28 in the courtyard of the National Agriculture Exhibition Center, with demonstrations including bamboo weaving and cashmere milling. Shang Xia will hold a similar demonstration at its Shanghai location on October 20, focusing on the painstaking process of creating the brand's signature cashmere felt. (details below)
If the goal is to create a link to the past with a more traditional Chinese theme in its newest collection, Shang Xia has succeeded. With the confident backing, experience and involvement of Hermès coupled with Roversi’s acclaimed photography, the reflective feel of the In/Out collection looks poised set to capture the attention of the quality and heritage-minded buyer wherever he or she may reside.
Building 1, China World Mall, next to Hermès
China World Trade Center
1 Jianguomen Waidajie, Beijing
October 10-28, 2012
National Agriculture Exhibition Center
16 E. 3rd Ring Road North
Chaoyang District, Beijing
Reservation Tel: 158-0147-7040
October 20, 2012, from 10am-6pm
South Wing, Shanghai Hong Kong Plaza
283 Huai Hai Middle Road, Shanghai