Billowing made-to-order cashmere coats; intricate gold hand-stitching on floaty scarves; a bamboo-weave teapot that takes a week to make – this is the sort of extravagance you can expect from Shang Xia, Mainland China' s first homegrown luxury brand, which has borrowed from centuries of Chinese design tradition, and a bob or two from parent company Hermes.
The brand's first 'maison' has opened in a prime spot on Huaihai Lu, in a three storey red-brick building that dates back over a hundred years old. Thespace feels intimate, with soft spotlighting, rounded ceilings and arched doorways leading into pocketed side-rooms. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has created a futuristic yet restrained shop. Simple wooden rails and tables display the collections. White fabric petals line the ceilings and walls, all very cloud-like. The Hermes stamp can be felt in the sheer quality of the products, if not in the aesthetic, which is Ming dynasty-inspired and will appeal to its moneyed, middle-age Asian target market (though Western expansion is planned). Shang Xia has four collections – a mix of clothing, furniture, household items and jewellery, all of which use traditional Chinese materials wrought by specialists.
For the cashmere felt coat (made to order, price on request) Shang Xia uses a technique that was once used to make yurts, enlisting the expertise of Mongolian craftswomen. The floor-length pearl-white coat is a simple cocoon shape, with the front lapels falling to the floor in waves– all achieved without seams. It displays a timeless elegance that runs throughout the collection, seen in the simple cashmere/silk tunic (4,000RMB) with matching trousers (4,000RMB) done in a Chinese style in ivory or black, with subtle stripes of golden thread running from top to bottom.
A small-furniture collection is made from purple-hued zitan (red sandalwood), a material used back in the Eastern Han dynasty (23-200AD). The collection includes chairs (250,000RMB) and a coffee table (150,000RMB) crafted in traditional Chinese manner, joined without nails or glue. The eggshell porcelain bowl set (17,000RMB/five– it's really, really thin) comes in five colours, such as a cornflower blue and buttery yellow, and are stunning pieces, as is the 18-piece tea set (14,500RMB) that combines white porcelain with weaved bamboo fibres that are 0.2mm thick. It's this attention to detail that Shang Xia appears confident people will pay for.
By Nicola Davison