Labour of Love

Jane Chao-lee TURNED A LIFE­LONG PAS­SION FOR ART AND DE­SIGN INTO A CA­REER WITH GA­LERIE HUIT AND THE NEWLY OPENED MAI­SON HUIT BOU­TIQUE. SHE TELLS Jacqueline Kot THE SE­CRETS OF HER SUC­CESS

Hong Kong Tatler - - Close-up -

They say true love lasts a life­time. It’s ev­i­dent when talk­ing to Jane Chao-lee, one of the co-founders of life­style bou­tique Mai­son Huit, that art is her true love—one that dates back to her teenage years, when she was con­tem­plat­ing what to study at uni­ver­sity. “Fine art has al­ways been my big­gest pas­sion but my par­ents sug­gested ar­chi­tec­ture,” says Chao-lee. “For my gen­er­a­tion, for a lot of tra­di­tional Chi­nese fam­i­lies, there was a pref­er­ence for more prac­ti­cal sub­jects. I re­ally en­joyed it and it broad­ened my hori­zons, but I knew from the very be­gin­ning that I would never be a prac­tis­ing ar­chi­tect.”

Her aca­demic choices didn’t lessen ChaoLee’s pen­chant for col­lect­ing art, which started with posters from art mu­se­ums when she was in high school. “Once I had a big­ger al­lowance, I started buy­ing orig­i­nal prints such as small etch­ings or lith­o­graphs. I moved on to more af­ford­able orig­i­nal works and my col­lec­tion grew from there. I al­ways buy what I love and the work needs to speak to me. When you look at a piece of art­work, it has the abil­ity to make you happy or sad; it can re­flect what you are think­ing. I never buy for in­vest­ment.”

In time, Chao-lee turned her pas­sion into a busi­ness with the open­ing of her art gallery, Ga­lerie Huit, in 2010. “It sounds like a cliché but I still think that a pic­ture can com­mu­ni­cate a lot of mes­sages and we can learn a lot from art. I wanted to share this with other art lovers.”

Ga­lerie Huit was orig­i­nally lo­cated on St Fran­cis Street in Wan Chai. It moved to a new home in She­ung Wan to make way for the equally up­scale Mai­son Huit, which Jane founded with four friends, Bon­nie Kwong-li, Vanessa Chen-kwan, Vi­ola Chen- Cheong and Evan Lau- Sarkis. Mai­son Huit had its grand open­ing in Novem­ber last year, fea­tur­ing a col­lec­tion of life­style prod­ucts from around the world, from one-of-a-kind jew­ellery pieces to luxury porce­lain ob­jects. ChaoLee’s ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning Ga­lerie Huit also equipped her with the con­fi­dence and skill to dis­cover and show­case qual­ity works, be they from a lit­tle-known brand or a tal­ented artist.

“We don’t want Mai­son Huit to be just a shop for high-end mer­chan­dise; we want to use it to show­case in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers who don’t have ex­po­sure in Hong Kong,” says Chao-lee. “We want to pro­mote the prod­ucts through ex­hi­bi­tions and events, where the designer will be there to talk about their work so peo­ple get to know the piece be­fore they buy it. I wouldn’t have known this ap­proach if I didn’t have Ga­lerie Huit.”

Mai­son Huit car­ries avant-garde porce­lain works from Ger­man brand Nym­phen­burg, whose her­itage dates back to 1747, while the more ca­sual pieces in­clude quirky cuff­links from Turk­ish designer Begüm Khan and el­e­gant clutch bags from Shang­hai-based designer Anna Blum—who Chao-lee dis­cov­ered dur­ing one of her many trips to the city to visit her fam­ily. Also on dis­play in the bou­tique are neck­laces by designer Laura Lee that com­bine vin­tage and mod­ern aes­thetics for an eclec­tic look.

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