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Jiang Qiong Er Has Built A Network Of Craftsmen Across China

This is part of the Artistic Director of Chinese luxury brand Shang Xia’s bigger plan to revive artisanal practices from the country

You might have passed its pop-up located within Takashimaya Singapore and if you had gone in to browse, know that every single product offered by Shang Xia is a storied one.

The Chinese luxury brand is 90 percent backed by French maison Hermès, with the remainder owned by Jiang Qiong Er, its Artistic Director, CEO and co-owner.

Jiang is responsible for conceptualising the brand when it was founded in 2009, setting its direction and that of all its collections – including furniture and homeware – in the past 11 years.

One of her key priorities is to contemporise Chinese craftsmanship to create products for Shang Xia.

To do this, she had to build a network of craftsmen across China to collaborate with the brand.

“I have a team of three permanently looking for them,” shares Jiang, in an interview with d+a at a black-and-white house along Tanglin Road, decorated with Shang Xia furniture.

The trio are supported by a committee of experts from Chinese universities and museums who share their network.

At the same time, the craftsmen themselves connect Shang Xia to others once they see the brand is sincere in its efforts.

For instance, Jiang reveals how they went to Mongolia to visit the workshop of cashmere specialists.

When she arrived, however, she discovered the wool felt material.

She decided to replace the wool with cashmere and after a few years spent developing the technique, has made Mongolian cashmere felt a part of the permanent collection of Shang Xia.

“There are two things in the world where there is no culture gap: beauty and love. Whether you are French, Singaporean or Chinese, we all understand beauty, which is about aesthetics, and love, which is about emotion. I think whatever we do – be it architecture, interior design or furniture – these are two key elements.”

“In life, we make plans and set targets but sometimes, there are also happy accidents,” she says, of this turn of events.

Another surprising fact: the cashmere felt, whether styled as a garment, blanket or shawl, is produced as an entire piece.

“There is no needle, no sewing and no cutting. The Mongolian craftsmen shape it by hand. We call the material a sculpture because they use different movements and gestures to create it.”

Jiang brims over with anecdotes like this one throughout the session, which are at once compelling and evocative.

She emphasises, repeatedly, that she aspires “to bring the renaissance of Chinese craftsmanship back to the contemporary lifestyle”.

Coupled with her unbridled enthusiasm and an archive of 5,000 years to dip into, you know, with utmost certainty, that she will succeed.

Shang Xia will open a store in Singapore in April. Read more about how Jiang dreams of sparking a renaissance for Chinese craftsmanship in d+a's Issue 114 (February/March 2020), available for sale on Magzter and in major bookstores in Singapore and Malaysia.

Low Shi Ping
31 December 2019