The 750-square-foot store brings the brand’s exquisite craftsmanship to a non-Chinese audience. “I think it’s important that we share the China of today not just with the Chinese, but with the rest of the world, too. The people of Paris are very sensitive to quality, poetry, culture, beauty and love. We are looking for a place to share this culture with an audience that is receptive to all of this,” said Jiang Qiong Er, Shang Xia’s CEO and artistic director.
To celebrate the opening, a temporary exhibition gallery with demonstrations by the brand’s craftsmen is set up in a neighboring building. Shang Xia’s artisans make up its backbone: a permanent team, aided by a panel of 30 historians and museum curators, is retained to locate practitioners of rare Chinese crafts that were feared to be lost during China’s Cultural Revolution. The intricate production processes mean that 50 people in China are waiting for a $5,300 porcelain tea set that serves sixteen. It takes about two months to make one set.
Jiang said that finding artisans has not been as hard as making them evolve and, “embrace contemporary design to create modern functional objects.” She hopes to find new young candidates to train in ancient arts, although she fears that the youth culture prefers jobs were skills can be learned in a day – like at bars and restaurants – as opposed to in artisanal workshops, where it can take a year to learn to weave bamboo thread.
“The real challenge is to create a development system so that our craftsmen can grow at the same pace as us,” Jiang said. “I prefer to go slowly. We are trying to do everything as well as possible, and we are just starting out. We need time to learn and evolve. We are really not worried about becoming huge.”
The Paris store, like the products it sells, reflects a great deal of care and attention. Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the curved store is divided by delicate porcelain screens into three sections: accessories, where you can find a gold charm bracelet for 6,450 euro ($8,550); ready-to-wear, featuring a seamless black cashmere coat that goes for 4,600 euro ($6,100); and a home wares section, offering rare zitan wood furniture and eggshell china.
Shang Xia will move its original store, in Shanghai, to a bigger location in October 2014, after four years in the first location. It will also maintain its current Beijing location. The brand does not have additional plans to expand globally. Since it launched in 2008, Hermes has spent an average of 10 million euros ($13 million) per year on Shang Xia. Jiang said the brand currently makes less than 10 million euros annually and aims to break even within the next two or three years.
photo credit: shang xia