En­tre­pre­neur scales new heights with Dane sil­ver­smith

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ge­org Jensen, first be­com­ing an in­vestor and chief cre­ative of­fi­cer be­fore tak­ing the reins as CEO.

“When In­vest­corp called I didn’t re­al­ize the busi­ness was for sale,” Chu said in an in­ter­view with The Aus­tralian. “They just said take a look at it, and I was in Shang­hai at the time so I went to visit their op­er­a­tion in Thai­land (where the com­pany pro­duces some prod­ucts) and then Copenhagen. Within a week I had vis­ited all their sites and within a month we had de­cided this was a com­pany we wanted to in­vest in.”

Chu used to live three blocks from Ge­org Jensen’s Madi­son Av­enue store in New York.

“I’m in­ter­ested in the brand’s founder, Ge­org Jensen, who him­self was an artist,” Chu told China Daily. “He passed away a long time ago, but he left be­hind a legacy that con­tin­ues on through the brand’s DNA, and I find that very unique.”

How­ever, Copenhagen was a new cul­ture, just as he was prob­a­bly a new cul­ture for the team. He said he was used to a rapid pace of life, but it was to­tally dif­fer­ent in the Dan­ish cap­i­tal.

When Chu first met his team in Copenhagen, they were also anx­ious he would want to change their Dan­ish de­sign and roots. “They doubted a Chi­nese could know any­thing about Den­mark and the DNA of a Dan­ish brand,” he re­called.

In­stead, he traced the brand’s history, which is his ap­proach to most prob­lems, and iden­ti­fied its de­sign lan­guage since 1904, when it was es­tab­lished. He said, “The DNA of Ge­org Jensen is not a cer­tain style. It is about push­ing for new ideas.”

The Dan­ish team was “ac­cus­tomed to a laid­back lifestyle”, he said. They had got­ten off work at 3 pm or 4 pm, in­dif­fer­ent to things such as global ex­pan­sion.

Chu was the ex­act op­po­site. He de­vel­oped a strat­egy, re­struc­tured the team, charted the de­sign di­rec­tion, and en­hanced the prod­ucts on of­fer, all the while shut­tling be­tween Copenhagen, New York and Bei­jing.

“Ge­org Jensen is a great brand, but the brand needs to be re­ju­ve­nated,” Milton Pe­draza, founder and CEO of the Lux­ury In­sti­tute, told Lux­ury Daily. “David Chu is a great cre­ative di­rec­tor. While main­tain­ing its DNA, David Chu will add his own take on the brand.”

Ge­org Jensen is usu­ally po­si­tioned as a Dan­ish lux­ury lifestyle brand. How­ever, Chu said he thought that Ge­org Jensen was an artist, so the brand is re­ally about art and de­sign.

“I want Ge­org Jensen to be known as the best de­sign com­pany, not pi­geon­holed as a com­pany that does great Dan­ish de­signs,” he said. “A great de­sign com­pany is global.”

To achieve this, he has spon­sored din­ners at Art Basel, got in­volved in De­sign Mi­ami, and col­lab­o­rated with many dif­fer­ent artists. Last year, the com­pany worked with con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese artists, spon­sor­ing solo ex­hi­bi­tions for Xue Song, whose work presents a con­tem­po­rary ex­pres­sion of tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ings, and Yan Peim­ing, one of the most sought-af­ter con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese artists.

The brand is now col­lab­o­rat­ing for the first time with Kengo Kuma, a renowned Ja­panese ar­chi­tect, who will pro­duce an en­tire home­ware col­lec­tion.

Weng Ling, di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing Cen­ter for the Arts, said she is work­ing with Chu to eval­u­ate the po­ten­tial in team­ing more Chi­nese artists with Ge­org Jensen.

China is the key mar­ket for Chu, who said he spends more than half of his time and money in the coun­try. The com­pany’s first store on the Chi­nese main­land since its fran­chise oper­a­tions were can­celed opened in De­cem­ber in Bei­jing, and there are plans to open a Ge­org Jensen house be­side the Jade River in down­town Bei­jing in July.

“We own prob­a­bly 80 stores glob­ally. My goal is to dou­ble this within five years. China will play a piv­otal role,” Chu said. New prod­ucts will be rolled out more ag­gres­sively, he added, with two new col­lec­tions in spring and fall, along with mini col­lec­tions and re­newals of clas­sic styles.

Chu said many of his friends in the US do not un­der­stand why, with his back­ground in fash­ion and lifestyle, moved to Europe and shifted his fo­cus to jew­elry.

“De­sign is a state of mind,” he said. “It’s re­ally about cre­at­ing new ideas, in­no­va­tive ideas. De­sign is de­sign — I’m not go­ing to limit my­self to just de­sign­ing clothes and shoes.

“Ev­ery cul­ture gen­er­ates ideas. It’s like mak­ing dishes. If you only have salt, the dish will be very flat. If you have dif­fer­ent kinds of sea­son­ings, the food will turn to be thick in fla­vor and good in tex­ture. I’m open and crave for dif­fer­ent kinds of cul­tures.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

US-raised en­tre­pre­neur

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