JIANG QIONGER

OCCUPATION: Artistic director and CEO of Shang Xia

INSPIRATION:
I get inspired everywhere all the time. Exhibitions, music and poems can touch me. I sometimes get inspired by my dreams so I always have a notebook on my nightstand.

TIPS FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS:
You have to be a good person before learning how to create a good design. It’s important to be always grateful and humble. I became who I am today because of the team and the people who have helped me along the way. No matter how famous or rich you are, if you have no loved ones in your life, it’s meaningless. Life is not static. I’m always trying to find the balancing point. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Jiang Qionger has a "passion for beauty without borders" and she is driven to integrate the very best in design from France and China.

"Shang Xia is a hybrid of Chinese and French cultures," says Jiang, artistic director and CEO of the Hermès-backed Chinese brand.

In fact, one could say the same of the design wunderkind. Born into a family of artists, Jiang studied design in France and dedicated years to promoting cross-cultural ties within the design world.

In March this year, Jiang was awarded the prestigious Chevalier de L'Ordre National du Mérite by the French government to honour her contribution, placing her in the ranks among pianist Lang Lang and actresses Zhou Xun and Zhang Ziyi. Jiang is one of the very few Chinese businesswomen to receive the award.

"The honour is an acknowledgement and obviously means more responsibility," Jiang says. "Passion for beauty is without borders. Our mission is to bring the best of Chinese aesthetics and craftsmanship to the international stage."

Shang Xia - meaning "up and down" in Chinese - represents the continuous flow of energy from the past, present and future, the designer says.

"It was only in the past two, three decades that China became the world factory," Jiang adds. "But you can't reduce our whole history to merely that. We've been a pioneer in design before. But then again, there is no point just reminiscing and copying the old designs."

Launched in 2010 by French luxury maison Hermès, Shang Xia creates fashion and accessories, furniture and décor, and jewellery and gifts, which put a contemporary twist on traditional Chinese aesthetics and crafts.

"What touches our clients is not only the functionality and the high quality, but also the emotion behind each and every object," Jiang says.

The first Shang Xia bag called Lan Yue, for example, reinterpreted a classic bamboo basket using textured leather. The modernisation of traditional crafts is also demonstrated by the Da Tian Di chair - a traditional Ming dynasty-style chair reinterpreted in hi-tech carbon fibre, which won an award at EDIDA (Elle Deco International Design Awards) this year.

"We try to evoke the users' emotion through special materials, craftsmanship and designs," Jiang explains. "We use traditional Chinese motifs that resonate with our customers yet we also challenge those ideas which then stir up emotion."

A good design, Jiang says, should serve as a vessel for the designer's creativity and an inspiration for the user.

China's fast-growing taste for materialism has fuelled the development of brands such as Shang Xia.

"Chinese customers are becoming more and more sophisticated," Jiang says. "They are craving for their own cultural identity and to show the rest of the world their taste and lifestyle. They are more self-assured and confident today too so they don't need logo-centric products to flaunt their wealth."

Highlighting craftsmanship and quality, Shang Xia seems to be staying out of the recent luxury market turbulence. The brand has opened stores in Paris, Shanghai and, this year, a pop-up store in Beijing.

"We are not too influenced by the luxury market slowdown," Jiang says. "Our vision is not limited to just five years or even 10 years. We compete with only ourselves."

The challenge, the designer says, is to resist the tempting invitations to expand at an accelerated speed.

"We are determined and dedicated to building a brand," she adds. "We are not interested in making money in a short period of time."

Jiang's passion for perfection was nurtured from an early age. Her grandfather Jiang Xuanyi was a famous Chinese painter and her architect father Xing Tonghe's oeuvre includes the famous Shanghai Museum.

"I'm very lucky that what I received was not an art education but nurturing when I was little," Jiang says. "Skills can be taught but passion cannot. I was influenced by the artistic aura around me growing up and it has a lot to do with my work today."

Her experience of studying design in France also influences her work. "I was all set to go to college in the US until I went on a trip to Europe before school started," Jiang recalls. "After I came back from Paris, I [decided] that I had to go study in France instead. It's a magical trip - seeing the artistic masterpieces and great architecture in person. I knew that's where I belonged."

Jiang is dedicated to promoting cultural exchange between France and China. She says it's her mission then, now and for the future.

"To distribute and revitalise traditional Chinese craftsmanship is part of the mission," she says. "We want the surviving traditional handicrafts to be relevant again so people can not only buy them as travel souvenirs but really be able to use them and cherish them in everyday life and be inspired."

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