Bao Bao Wan (left) and some of her fine jewellery pieces
Chinese fashion designers are definitely having their moment in the West, with homegrown names such as Uma Wang, couturier Guo Pei and Beijing based Alex Wang making headlines. While ready-to-wear designers definitely dominate the market, contemporary jewellers are starting to steal the spotlight including local celebrity, Bao Bao Wan.
You may recognize Bao Bao from the social pages of magazines such as Vogue – she hails from one of China’s most powerful political families and is a local style icon – but her chic and contemporary line of Chinese inspired jewels has recently caught the attention of fashion editors and local celebrities like Carina Lau, Zhou Xun and Fan Bing Bing. Her international background – she was born in Beijing and studied in the US and Paris – is reflected in her designs which combine Eastern inspirations with modern wearability and forms.
Bao Bao is in Hong Kong to launch her casual and fine jewellery lines at Lane Crawford and we caught up with her to chat about her inspirations and more.
A selection of Bao Bao Wan jewellery including her casual collection, And The Little Ones
How does your background influence your designs?
My mother is quite strict with me, especially when it comes to understanding Chinese culture and literature. She was a specialist in Chinese ancient literature and poetry and gave me lessons every time I returned to China from my studies. It brought me closer to my roots. After Liberal Arts school, I was able to combine new and old and East and West.
What is your greatest inspiration?
My sentiments, feelings and emotions.
How does your personal style translate into your collections?
The essence of my style these days is comfort – both physically and how comfortable you feel. I believe it is important to be at ease in whatever you’re wearing. At the same time, I design pieces that don’t take away from your lifestyle. Rather than wearing jewellery that makes you worry and feel uncomfortable, I aim to design pieces that suit one’s daily life and activities.
What kind of women do you envision wearing your jewellery?
Any woman who is confident and comfortable with themselves.
Describe your creative process…
I first work with an inspiration – be it a painting, article or a particular sentiment of a city or a place – which I shape into a concept. This turns into a sketch, which I communicate with my manufacturer. The last step is deciding on colours, stones and materials. There is a Chinese saying about being in touch with your five senses, and I see myself as a translator who transforms these senses into pictorial concepts.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I work with a range of stones but I almost exclusively work with 18K Gold. I think its irresponsible to mould jewellery in only three colours (white, yellow and rose) so I use a special technique where different colours of gold are oxidized, creating a range of shades and depth.
Tell us about your new casual collection And the Little Ones…
I took inspiration from my memories and travels. I aim to capture moments of happiness because everyday jewellery should be an intimate expression of yourself. The winking owl is inspired by a drawing from my mother and an owl I saw in Burma; the elephant is a memory of riding elephants in Cambodia; the goddess is from a Florentine sculptures I saw in Italy; the paintbrush is a memory of grinding ink for my grandfather’s calligraphy practice and so on.
What about the fine jewellery?
My favourite piece is inspired by the ancient Treasure Vase, one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. The Urn of Wisdom, as some call it, represents the storage and satisfaction of material desires. I try to convey this spiritual abundance with droplets of dew brought to life by a diamond briolette pouring out of its container, trickling down from the sides and dangling underneath a pearl. The movement of each stone represents an outpouring of charitable hopes and wishes.
How would you like to develop your brand?
I don’t really have a plan. I believe in destiny. I think my collection will carry me somewhere. I’m always open to new forms of expressing my inspirations and emotions. If there is an opportunity, I’d be happy to consider it.