Today in Shanghai, Jing Daily had the privilege of attending a media event hosted by Hermès’ new “created in China” luxury brand Shang Xia, the first-ever Chinese high-end lifestyle brand built from the ground up by a major European luxury house. Hosted at One Xintiandi, a multi-floored hot-spot in the Old Shanghai style, Shang Xia was finally unveiled at a media event attended by Jing Daily as well as local and international publications like Noblesse, the Hong Kong Journal, Modern Weekly, Time Out and FHM. Also in attendance were the district vice mayor and representatives of Nike and HSBC, among others.
At the unveiling, speeches were delivered by four individuals who have been key to the creation and development of the Shang Xia brand: Jiang Qiong Er (Shang Xia’s artistic director), Hermès CEO Patrick Thomas, Japanese architect Kento Kuma (who designed Shang Xia’s first boutique), and fashion photographer Paolo Roversi.
Beginning the event, Jiang Qiong Er said that she has dreamt of building a brand like Shang Xia for 10 years, with the company itself being three years in the making. More than being just another brand, Jiang said she sees Shang Xia as a life philosophy. The name “Shang Xia” (”Up Down” in Mandarin) was chosen to express two opposing forces or sides — yin and yang, extraordinary and ordinary — that come together to strike a harmonious balance. Jiang went on to say that Shang Xia is an organic brand, which Hermès viewed as a seed, rather than just an acquisition, that it needed to nurture and help grow. So what made Hermès look to China in the first place? As Jiang pointed out, not only is China a great candidate for business and expansion, but Hermès found the country’s long history of craftsmanship irresistable.
After Jiang’s speech, Patrick Thomas, the CEO of Hermès, gave further details about Shang Xia’s philosophy and design. Shang Xia, Thomas said, is not a second line of Hermès, nor is it a copy designed for China. In terms of craftsmanship and creativity, Shang Xia is on par with Hermès, yet everything else is different. For the past three years, 20-30 people have been working on Shang Xia, with production completely localized rather than done in Europe. This, Thomas pointed out, is a way of supporting the local culture as well as traditional Chinese arts like weaving and porcelain making.
Thomas went on to add that we will not be seeing Shang Xia products sold at Hermès boutiques, or vice versa. Shang Xia is a wholly separate first line, which the company hopes to see expanding beyond the borders of China over time. Interestingly, Thomas said that the second Shang Xia boutique could open in France. Prior to the launch, the rumor was that the second store would be located in Beijing.
Kento Kuma, the Japanese architect who designed Shang Xia’s debut boutique, spoke next, remarking on the impression that Chinese craftsmanship has made on his work. Kuma said that his choice to sign on for the Shang Xia project was greatly influenced by his appreciation of Jiang Qiong Er’s vision of old-meets-new, and of modernized tradition. Kuma said that he, like Shang Xia, hopes to promote Asian values in his work.
Wrapping up the speeches, photographer Paolo Roversi said that Shang Xia represents more than just craftsmanship but also “soul and love.” Decked out in a Shang Xia outfit, Roversi said he is confident that the company will break through barriers and become a truly international brand.
Next came the unveiling of some of Shang Xia’s products, which have been kept under tight wraps over the past year. First came a small zitan wood stool by Master Gu, the smallest piece from the Da Tian Di (大天地, “Big Sky Ground”) furniture series. This particular piece has perfectly squared edges with a rounded recess (which we find to be the trademark of Shang Xia) in the center. After being finished with sandpaper with a grit finer than toothpaste, the surface of this piece is as smooth as silk.
The next Shang Xia item displayed was a traditional Chinese robe. Made of cashmere felt, the robe is created from a single piece of fabric with no cutting, and is completely hand-crafted — almost, as Jiang Qiong Er pointed out, like sculpting a piece of clothing. Warm and comfortable with a silky smooth touch, this piece was created by two sisters from Mongolia.
A unique ceramic and bamboo tea pot was then shown. Fired in 1380 degree Celsius heat to produce a pure, translucent white finish, the tea pot is then wrapped in .05mm thick bamboo weaving. Taking 10 days per pot to weave, the bamboo covering — woven by bamboo master Zhang — is, incredibly, free of joints, with the beginning and end of the bamboo strands completely imperceptible.
Finally, Jiang Qiong Er displayed fine eggshell porcelain b0wls made by Master Lu from Jiangxi province, which measure only 2mm at their thickest point and, after careful sanding and shaving, only 0.5 mm at their thinnest. Perhaps more important to the design of these porcelain bowls, however, is the sound they make. So perfect in thickness and shape are they that each bowl has a distinct ring, which resonates evenly throughout the bowl.
Attendees were then treated to a breathtaking video of the Chinese composer Dou Wei giving a performance using different sized Shang Xia porcelain bowls as instruments.
Following the media event at One Xintiandi, attendees got a first look at the debut Shang Xia boutique at Hong Kong New World Plaza (香港新世界广场). Kento Kuma’s design evokes the feel of an ice cave, with Shang Xia’s full range of furniture, home decorations, clothing and porcelain displayed on bamboo shelves and wall racks. Pricing for most items is reasonable by luxury standards, considering the craftsmanship of the products and top quality of the materials used in their design, with sweaters retailing for 2125 yuan (US$316), jackets around 7400 yuan ($1,105) and shoes around 2200 yuan ($327).
The Jing Daily team would like to thank Angela Hua and Jiang Qiong Er of Shang Xia and Patrick Thomas of Hermès for staging this exciting and important event. We feel that we’ll soon be seeing more major global brands follow suit in coming years and take advantage of the vast wealth of talent, long history of craftsmanship, and unique indigenous techniques in China that people throughout the world are just starting to discover.