Paris, October 2014 – After I visited Hermès on Rue de Sèvres, I stopped by Shang Xia (meaning “Up and Down”). Shang Xia is all about art de vivre, creating a lifestyle based on Chinese design and craftsmanship.
The Paris shop is Shang Xia’s first boutique outside China. Each boutique is a unique space, with individual interior design. Its Paris boutique is designed as a “cloud-like space made of thin ceramic panels.” To be precise, six thousand thin ceramic tiles were installed to cover the walls. The design team intended to achieve an effect that resembles pointillism paintings by imposing just-the-right lighting on the glossy white surface of the ceramic tiles. The floors are equally intricate, made from bamboo.
The sales associate was very enthusiastic to explain the concept behind Shang Xia to me.
Cashmere Felt – The technique is based on the hand-felting for Mongolian yurts, not using scissors or cutting instruments. Each garment is “sculpted into a seamless shape to create a 3-dimensional garment in felt of Mongolian cashmere.” The craftsmen goes through the processes of gathering, selecting cashmere, combing, rolling the felt and sculpting – all by hand. The results are sculpture-like jackets that are smooth and structured.
Eggshell Porcelain – The eggshell porcelain technique can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). “Remarkable in its extraordinary thinness, eggshell takes over 40 processes to make…and all by hand.” Shang Xia’s porcelain collection named “Tianlai” (echo) is the essence of simple elegance – in white.
The “Bowl of Echo” particularly intrigued me. Sitting on the shelf, the white bowls looked ordinary. When the biggest bowl was put under the spotlight, the bowl became translucent, and the brown pattern painted on the bowl’s interior appeared. The sales associate asked me to close my eyes, and I heard a “gong” sound. She had held the bowl next to my ear, and lightly tapped the bowl with her fingertip. She explained that the background music at the boutique was in fact, the sounds from the Tianlai bowls!
Zitan Wood – The Shang Xia Da Tian Di collection was designed based on traditional Ming furniture construction principles. Zitan has been used throughout China’s long history, stretching back to the Eastern dynasty (23-200 A.D.). The resulting furniture is the embodiment of sophistication and also contemporary.
Perhaps the most interesting object was this “Box of Treasured Memories.” It includes a book -compilation of letters (from the Cultural Revolution) collected from hundreds of families in China and a few mementos that are considered typical nostalgic symbols. All the little mementos are replicas, except for a train ticket – which is original. The sales associate said that this limited edition box was conceptualized by Shang Xia founder, Jiang Qiong Er.
Being Chinese myself, I was happy to discover that the Chinese heritage is not forgotten in this modern age and traditional designs and artistic skills are being revived and appreciated. To me, Shang Xia is the ambassador of the Chinese art de vivre.
Shang Xia is a company under the Hermès empire.
All photos were taken by Mrs. King.