Daring to be different

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 August, 2010, 12:00am

Bold sculptural form is the signature style of Cecile Tu Ching-na's design. The founder and proprietor of cecile tu contemporary jewellery quit her teaching job at a secondary school to receive training in jewellery design and production in London in 1990. She completed a jewellery design degree at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 1993, and obtained a master's degree in goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewellery at the Royal College of Art in 1996.

How did you start your business?

I returned to Hong Kong in 1997 to explore the local market for contemporary jewellery. To save money for my studio, I taught art courses six days a week. In 2000, I rented a residential unit next to where my family lived and set up a studio there. I was also encouraged by the fact that more than two-thirds of my early items were sold at a gallery in SoHo. I recognised my ability to create added value through design.

What were the turning points in your career?

I relocated my business to a first-floor shop space on Elgin Street in 2003, so that my customers could view the collections whenever they wanted. I later moved to a ground-floor shop on Aberdeen Street which attracted walk-in customers. My client-base expanded quickly, encompassing tourists, expatriate architects, designers and office workers. I have just bought a retail space in Sheung Wan. It will provide a more stable environment for my design work.

How do you balance design, production and management?

I have an assistant who helps me look after retail sales. I want to be able to put as much time as possible into design work. I also subcontract production to workshops to minimise business risks.

What do you want to achieve through your designs?

I hope they provoke others to contemplate things such as life and characteristics of different cultures.

What are your plans?

I would like to gain more international exposure and exchange ideas with other designers by participating in exhibitions elsewhere, such as London and Shanghai.

What's your advice for young people who want to enter the creative industry?

They need to clearly identify the long-term market potential of their products. It takes confidence, perseverance, and a vision for innovative product designs.


Won the Selfridges' Prize to work with Dunhill (1996)

Awarded the 40 Under 40 honour by Perspective Magazine (2007)

Commissioned by the University of Hong Kong to design and produce the gemstone-encrusted gold trowel for a foundation stone-laying ceremony (2010)