How did your company perform in 2018 and what are your expectations for 2019?
Year 2018 was a fruitful one for my brand. We participated in the Masterpiece London Art Fair and held a series of worldwide tour afterwards, from Paris to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Shanghai. I am particularly honoured that my 2018 Black Label Masterpiece XVIII “Peony Brooch”, a custom-made piece for a dear collector and friend that took me ten years to complete, was selected by the Masterpiece Awards Committee from nearly ten thousand exhibits, and was awarded an “Outstanding Object Award”. It was highly praised as an “outstanding example of contemporary craftsmanship and great design.”
Earlier this year we held our very first exhibition at TEFAF Maastricht. The feedback was extremely positive and the CEO of the Fair, Mr. Patrick van Maris van Dijk, claimed my brand as being excellent in quality, sophistication and thoughts. Later this year we will be back to Masterpiece London, followed by another series of global tours. Year 2019 leads to the 15th anniversary of my brand. I think it is time to show the world my resolution to build CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel in the world’s top international Art Jewel brand representing the forefront of Asian luxury culture.
Which are the biggest disruptors you anticipate?
There has always been struggles between art and business in my brand. At the very beginning when I established my brand, what I only wanted to do was jewellery art. However, since my Black Label Masterpieces are all handcrafted, they entail much time of work, and the production is within a too limited number to be able to support my brand in a self-sustainable way. Therefore, I created the White Label Collection as the bread and butter of my brand. Every day I ask whether what I am doing is art, business, or myself. It is a mental struggle that helps me understand myself better.
How would you define the DNA of your brand?
My style is very organic, very architectural, and very sculptural.
My work is organic because when I conceive my creations I always want to capture the most vibrant moments or creatures, thereby depicting their vitality. For example, on the 2019 Black Label Masterpiece III & V “Royal Feather Brooches”, there are over 750 sapphires in nine colour gradients and five cuts arranged together with D- and E- colour diamonds to mimic the naturalistic colour spectrum of feathers’. Each of the 2,131 gemstones is precisely measured and accurately placed alongside one another to portray the delicacy of an airy feather, its curving arc and whimsical movement. The titanium base further undergoes anodization for an elegant yet whimsical violet-sky blue hue that offers the brooches an extra vibrant touch.
The architectural aspect of my work can be attributed to my family heritage. Growing up with an architect and a sculptor, I gradually developed a three-dimensional way to view the world. I believe jewels, like architecture, must unite light, space and engineering to bring each piece energy that is one-of-a-kind. The 2019 Black Label Masterpiece VII “Emerald Architectural Necklace” pays homage to my grandfather. It features a pair of emerald-cut Colombian emeralds of 100 and 99 carats respectively. The highlight of these pieces is the 10,000 pieces of vivid green emerald beads that constitute the main body of the necklace, linked to the main gemstones with specially cut baguette-cut emeralds. On this single piece you can easily admire the colour and hue of emeralds in varied forms.
My work is also sculptural with reference to the crafting approach. My design process, laborious yet extremely rewarding, typically starts with my inspiration, and then I hand-carve and sculpt the wax model right away. The benefit of wax sculpting is I can carve the curves, the undulations, layers and the silhouette that I want my pieces to take. On the wax, I can structure the piece in detail from every angle, giving it the rich depth that a simple design sketch could never contain.
Your brand is known for its quirky designs. Where do you get your inspiration?
I believe that inspiration is an accumulation of one’s life experience, sensibility and passion. As an artist and a global traveller, I believe that art is something powerful that can break down the barriers of religion, race, nationality, age, culture, etc. The energies I invest in my artworks can be said to originate from my accumulation of travel and cultural experiences.
Thus instead of finding inspiration purposely, I let inspiration come to me at whatever tiny moment in my life. The ocean’s mesmerising blue and green colours that greeted my eyes in a snorkelling expedition in Phuket (this experience inspired my Aquatic collection!); the splendid cliffs at sunset I witnessed in an olive yard in Majorca; the magnificently pure white snow in Gstaad… Serendipities come at every corner of my life. They fulfil my mind and motivate my design in unexpected moments.
Can we speak of certain trends in fine jewellery?
Fashion trends are always fun and exciting as we can expect something new that add spice to our life. Jewellery, although able to reflect different fashion styles of each period (from Art Nouveau in 1910s to Hollywood Glamour in 1930s to what is now contemporary jewellery), seem to me less prone to trend, however. One reason may be that jewellery pieces, which consist of precious gems and metal, are generally made to last for much longer, for parents to pass down to their children as heritage.
I believe that jewellery should be able to be more than a fashion item. Since it is composed of some of the world’s toughest everlasting materials, it is comparable to sculptures or artworks, objects often referred to as timeless. With their value reconstructed, jewellery pieces can actually stand alone and be designed as sculptures or artworks. Such is the message my brand CINDY CHAO The Art Jewel aims to convey: every jewellery piece should be a piece of miniature sculptural art.
An increasing number of ‘hard luxury’ brands are shifting their strategies towards brick & mortar. What is your approach? Where can your products be found?
I create every piece of my jewellery as a miniature work of art that has potential investment value. For this reason, I use only the finest (and rarely seen) gemstones, from diamonds, fancy- coloured diamonds to coloured precious stones.
CINDY CHAO Art Jewels can be viewed in two private showrooms in the world – Hong Kong and Taipei. My pieces are also presented regularly at international auctions, such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Recently we have started to participate in the world’s leading art fairs, including Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris (2016), Masterpiece London (2018), and TEFAF Maastricht (2019). Connoisseurs can also see my 2009 Black Label Masterpiece I “Royal Butterfly” in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. The induction of the piece in 2010 marked the museum-quality of my creations
Is there a profile of your returning customer?
The clientele of CINDY CHAO is quite heterogeneous. They may be outgoing or lead a low key social life. They may be modern and informative on trends. They are very often respected and successful businesswomen or wives of prominent businessmen.
More from LEADERS
Staying relevant is critical to attract new customers, new markets (Michael Bonsor, Rosewood London)
How has the Rosewood London performed? What are your expectations for the rest of the year? 2019 has been an exceptional …
Creating desirability is essential for luxury – an exclusive interview with Rocco Bova of Chable’ Resorts
What is your take on the global economic context of the luxury hotels sector? Which are the key disruptors and …
Hilton reinforces its luxury positioning with LXR Hotels – Feisal Jaffer, Global Head (Exclusive Interview)
What motivated the launch of a new luxury brand (LXR) by Hilton? How different is LXR in comparison with the …