Shang Xia (Mandarin for “up down”) opened its first retail store in Shanghai in 2010. Now it’s ready to expand, targeting big spenders who can afford luxury products whose quality are on par (and price point) with Chinese artifacts. “This is a cultural project with a business aspect. What we are doing is quite unique. This is the real luxury,” said Jiang Qiong Er, Shang Xia CEO.
The brand just opened a 1,480 square-foot store in Beijing’s China World Mall — its second location in China. The store’s decor was inspired by the Great Wall of China and features natural wood and bricks of pu’er tea.
Jiang calls the location a test-lab for the brand’s offerings, which include $45,000 gold-woven porcelain teapots and red sandalwood tables. In addition to housewares, the store boasts Chinese-infused clothing, like cashmere dresses inspired by the traditional Chinese qipao and yak-hair felt coats.
“Shang Xia is a platform where we show the Chinese art of living with beautiful, quality, luxury objects,” said Jiang. ” Shang Xia is based on Chinese craftsmanship, Chinese history, Chinese tradition, the Chinese art of living. Our mission is not only a brand, it is not only to make some style. It’s also to bring the craft, the tradition, into today and tomorrow.”
Jiang also notes that Shang Xia is bringing “emotion” into objects, and filling the nostalgic gap left by the Cultural Revolution when many traditional artifacts were lost. Shang Xia’s craftsmen execute each piece, and everything is sourced from China. The prices are geared toward the most conscientious luxury consumer: yak-hair felt coats and the brand’s popular Shan Shui tea set are priced at 12,000 to 15,000 yuan, or $1,900 to $2,400.
To celebrate its cultural heritage, Shang Xia will host a Contemporary Craftsmanship exhibit at the National Agricultural Exhibition Center this month in conjunction with the Beijing boutique opening. By private invitation only, the exhibit aims to bring craftsmen and consumers together, and to educate potential Shang Xia customers about the value (and why it can charge the high price) of owning a one-of-a-kind, traditional piece that may take weeks or months to make.
“I think China will conquer the world again, in the next 30 to 50 years, with our cultural renaissance,” Jiang said. “Today, many of the kids of the craftsmen do not want to continue. It is easier for them to work in a coffee restaurant. If they feel their know-how can have a larger use in our daily life, maybe more of them will be willing to continue with this way of life.” As a result of China’s vast economic growth, Jiang believes the country can now focus on developing its own culture.
Even though it will be a long time before Shang Xia can turn a profit, Hermès is willing to wait. The brand reports being unaffected by the Chinese economic downturn, and insists they are being smart about expansion plans. “I don’t want to overexpose the brand. We need bigger stores to display a wider range of our products,” said Hermès CEO Patrick Thomas.
Shang Xia also has plans for outside of China. A Paris store on Rue du Sevre in the Saint Germain district is slated for next spring.