Shang Xia's Jiang Qiong Er: Behind China's Home-Grown Luxury Market

    Jiang Qiong Er, artistic director and CEO of Shang Xia, the "designed in China" sub-brand of French luxury titan Hermès, is widely considered one of the most promising individuals working today to build Chinese-style luxury.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    How Far Can Jiang And Shang Xia Go To Build Luxury With Chinese Characteristics?#

    Jiang Qiong Er, ShangXia's CEO and artistic director (Image: Luxury Society)

    Jiang Qiong Er, artistic director and CEO of Shang Xia, the "designed in China" sub-brand of French luxury titan Hermès, is widely considered one of the most promising individuals working to build Chinese-style luxury today. Fluent in French, conversant in English, and a native Mandarin speaker, Jiang has, since the official launch of Shang Xia last fall, leveraged her experience in the luxury and design worlds to integrate traditional Chinese and contemporary Western culture and create a cosmopolitan and sophisticated new brand that is distinctly Chinese in spirit and craftsmanship.

    Located at Shanghai's Hong Kong Plaza, Shang Xia's Kengo Kuma-designed boutique has caught the attention of the media world and called attention to the brand's mission to become China's first true Chinese high-end brand. Currently, though, the brand is fighting a common obstacle faced by most upstart Chinese brands: apathy among Chinese consumers. As the Wall Street Journal noted at the launch of Shang Xia last fall, resistance among domestic shoppers will remain a difficult hurdle to cross for domestic brands with international backers for years to come:

    Hermès’ support is a mixed blessing for Shang Xia, complicating its identity as a mainland Chinese brand. It is a familiar conundrum for those seeking the prize of being China’s first homegrown luxury brand, such as Taiwan’s Shiatzy Chen, or the Richemont-owned Hong Kong brand Shanghai Tang: foreign involvement grants global cache, but dilutes the claims of “Chineseness” that can be aggressively questioned in the mainland. On the popular internet portal Sina, commentators dismissed Shang Xia by comparing it to the “Chinese” food sold at Kentucky Fried Chicken’s outlets in China. Commentators also pilloried the name Shang Xia as awkward and stilted.

    In terms of style, for Shang Xia Jiang has sought to pair traditional Chinese materials with the temperament of Western luxury brands. Although other designers, such as "red princess" Wan Baobao, are also attempting to build Chinese-style luxury brands, few have the design skills, team or backing to capture the complexity of Chinese design culture.

    Shang Xia's inaugural boutique in Shanghai

    Many of us are curious to see how far can Jiang can take Shang Xia. Will it will catch on with China's affluent consumers? Or could it eventually see more success in overseas markets that are developing an interest in neo-Chinoiserie? From the Chinese-language portal Sina Style (translation by Jing Daily team):

    For Jiang Qiong Er, much still needs to be done. The key for success in creating a Chinese-style luxury brand is to make good use of her advantages and personal resources. There are lots of beautiful Chinese elements that can be used in designs, but it is very important for any designer to think creatively about how to integrate those elements into current lifestyle trends. This creative way of thinking relies on grasping and integrating contemporary ideas, aesthetics, and collective emotions. It is not a easy task.

    To be a leader in the field of Chinese luxury, one needs to have a comprehensive skill-set combining good vision, insight, networking, absorptive capacity, creativity and operational abilities.

    While we haven't seen sales reports from Shang Xia's inaugural boutique, we've kept a close eye on the brand's art- and culture-focused efforts, such as its recent "Pass It On" exhibition, which are going a long way in building the brand's image as culturally attuned. Like other aspiring Chinese high-end brands like Shanghai VIVE, Shang Xia lets its comparatively understated image do most of the talking. However, for any upscale brand, the most important thing is to transfer branding efforts to sales figures, and it is this that will likely be one of Shang Xia's greatest challenges in the months and years ahead.

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