I be­lieve it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore peo­ple start to change the opin­ion about Chi­nese jew­elry.”

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Life - Virtue Plumage, Airs of Virtue, Plumage, Airs of For­ever Four Sea­sons,

Chi­nese jew­elry brand, Char­lene Clas­sic, en­joyed the lime­light dur­ing last month’s Milan De­sign Week in Italy, where it ex­hib­ited a spe­cial col­lec­tion at the Cas­tel Sforzesco and won a “Spe­cial Ex­cel­lence Award.”

Chair­man of the jury, Da­vide Ram­pello, com­pli­mented the brand on its ex­pres­sion of Chi­nese cul­ture and aes­thet­ics, as well as its ad­vances in the mod­ern­iza­tion of artis­tic tra­di­tions.

“We are de­lighted to find out that China’s younger gen­er­a­tion has such a pro­found un­der­stand­ing of cul­ture and art, hence we have more rea­sons to have high hopes for China’s fu­ture,” he says.

Com­pris­ing four pieces of jew­elry with two dif­fer­ent themes,

and the spe­cial col­lec­tion was orig­i­nally cre­ated to be ex­hib­ited at the Palace Mu­seum, the big­gest mu­seum of an­cient cul­ture and art in Bei­jing, at the end of last year. The col­lec­tion was in­spired by ex­hibit of an­cient fans, also housed at the mu­seum.

for in­stance, is a nod to the etymology of the fold­ing fan, and the ear­rings have adopted the shape of one, while the pat­tern and col­ors take their cues from the tra­di­tions of Chi­nese land­scape painting and plum blos­som, which is the Chi­nese na­tional flower.

per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, takes its cues from the pea­cock feather fan and its 2,000 years of his­tory.

How­ever, rather than sim­ply repli­cat­ing the shape of a feather fan, de­sign­ers stud­ied a large num­ber of an­cient Chi­nese paint­ings in or­der to re­veal the light­ness and charm of the feather, from the beauty and lines of each barb, vane and rachis, to the over­all struc­ture.

Sit­ting in the liv­ing room of her stu­dio in Bei­jing, Char­lene Li Xiaol­ing, the founder of Char­lene Clas­sic, points at the metic­u­lous Chi­nese painting and the Western oil painting hang­ing on op­po­site walls.

She talks about her un­der­stand­ing of the two dif­fer­ent styles, “Oil painting is formed by thick strokes and swatches with strong visual im­pact, while Chi­nese painting re­quires a more de­tailed grasp of lines.” An ethos that has helped shape her jew­elry brand and its rel­a­tive suc­cess.

Es­tab­lished in 2013, Li con­fesses that Char­lene Clas­sic did not re­ally have a clear di­rec­tion un­til around 2016, and when it did fi­nally hap­pen, it was not con­sciously, but she was sim­ply fol­low­ing her in­stinct and aes­thetic ap­pre­ci­a­tion. the founder of Char­lene Clas­sic

One day, a for­eign friend paid her a visit and she showed him some of the de­sign works and he in­stantly rec­og­nized them, with their unique shape and style, as “some­thing Chi­nese.”

Li says, “At that mo­ment, I re­al­ized that an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for de­sign or aes­thet­ics is not de­vel­oped within a day or two, but it is built up by every as­pect of our per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing one’s ed­u­ca­tion and cul­tural back­ground. And it lives in one’s bones and blood.”

With this new di­rec­tion to fol­low, the de­sign team stud­ied artis­tic con­cep­tion of paint­ings from Song Dy­nasty (960-1279), and the re­sul­tant col­lec­tion, which ex­pressed the con­nec­tion be­tween hu­mans and na­ture, was ex­hib­ited in the Grand Hall dur­ing the 2016 Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional Jew­elry Show.

“I want to pop­u­lar­ize Chi­nese tra­di­tional cul­ture, not by re­con­di­tion­ing old ob­jects, but to cre­ate some­thing new and add a con­tem­po­rary aes­thetic,” Li ex­plains.

Be­fore she es­tab­lished Char­lene Clas­sic, Li was work­ing for a French bank af­ter grad­u­at­ing as a fi­nance stu­dent from Pek­ing Univer­sity.

While the job paid her a high salary, she was not sat­is­fied with the monotony of life and the idea of creating fine jew­elry started to ges­tate, hark­ing back to her child­hood play­ing among the stones in Fu­jian prov­ince.

“When I was a kid, if I was scolded or up­set, I used to hide my­self in the gaps of huge stones nearby where I grew up,” Li ex­plains. “Now, as an adult, it's the smaller stones (gems) that give me com­fort — they are my way to re­lax when I feel stressed.

“No mat­ter what their size, stones calm me down and make me feel se­cure,” she con­tin­ued, “I con­sider it my con­nec­tion to na­ture.”

Li feels strong sense of achieve­ment and sat­is­fac­tion run­ning her jew­elry busi­ness. “The gem is the mas­ter­piece of na­ture, but the process of turn­ing a gem into a piece of jew­elry makes peo­ple marvel at the in­ge­nu­ity, imag­i­na­tion and skills of a per­son.”

Li la­ments that she be­lieves there is still some prej­u­dice against Chi­nese jew­elry brand, on both a na­tional and in­ter­na­tional level, but it has not dented her faith or be­lief that she is pur­su­ing the right course.

She ob­serves that, per­haps due to the lack of Chi­nese fine jew­elry brands in the past, lo­cal cus­tomers still as­so­ciate Chi­nese jew­elry with the jade rings that are pop­u­lar among the older gen­er­a­tion and, as a re­sult, fa­mous in­ter­na­tional jew­elry brands have a stronger pull with younger buy­ers. At the same time, it’s very hard for Chi­nese jew­elry brands to knock on the door of the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket be­cause of a rep­u­ta­tion for cheap prod­ucts and medi­ocre de­sign.

“The ben­e­fit of that is that peo­ple are gen­uinely sur­prised when they see our prod­ucts,” Li notes, proudly. “I be­lieve it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore peo­ple start to change the opin­ion about Chi­nese jew­elry.”

Char­lene Li Xiaol­ing

Char­lene Li Xiaol­ing (se­cond from right) gets the Spe­cial Ex­cel­lence Award from Milan Cul­ture Min­is­ter Clau­dio Salsi (first from left) and Chair­man of the Jury of Milan De­sign Week Da­vide Ram­pello.

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