While the name might conjure up images of Roald Dahl’s loathsome Verucca Salt, Taiwanese designer Steffie Wu’s tiny boutique is instead an elegantly understated addition to the indie jewellery scene. First opened in 2009, the store-cum-studio recently relocated from Tianzifang to the quieter confines of Yanqing Lu; soaring rents and an increasingly tourist-trap vibe weren’t a good fit for Wu’s particular brand of affordable, East-meets-West cool.
Though little more than a cosy, glass-fronted box, the shop space is as attractive as the collection it houses, with the look and feel of a secret woodland clearing that owes much to Wu’s background in fine arts: jewellery nestles on tufts of artificial moss, tiny pot plants sprout from every available nook and cranny, and two candy-coloured stags’ heads, custom-designed by a Taipei-based artist friend, adorn pastel-blue walls.
Taipei-born Wu, who began designing in Los Angeles, struggled initially with the traditional Chinese approach to jewellery, which favours investment value (weighty, 24-carat gold pieces) over style. Recently, though, she’s noticed increasing numbers of Chinese customers, with people starting to see jewellery more as a fashion accessory.
That’s not to say that the Spoiled Brat range is a fleeting fashion fix; instead, it’s a classy combination of sterling silver, 14-carat gold and semi-precious hand-cut stones, including tourmaline, moonstone and black spinel (an onyx-like gemstone, also known as black sapphire) – all sourced during Wu’s travels to jewellery fairs in diverse locations such as India, Brazil and South-East Asia. Every piece is painstakingly handmade and one of a kind (though custom orders of duplicates can be arranged on request).
Particular standouts are the dainty earrings (300-2,000RMB), which range from simple drop pendants – perfect for a low-key daytime look – to some show-stopping chandelier numbers trembling with myriad, tiny green garnets. We also love the long, rosary-style bead necklaces (up to 2,600RMB), which can be worn as a single strand or in multiple contrasting colours to liven up a simple black jumper.
For a more affordable option, check out the bestselling ‘lucky colour’ bracelets (99RMB) featuring tiny silver charms strung on single threads. They come in five different colours which, according to traditional Chinese folklore, enhance luck in various aspects of life; red and pink bring love, green attracts wealth, purple signifies friendship, blue is for long life, and yellow supposedly enhances your spirituality.
If you prefer your rocks outsized, a thick ribbon necklace strung with chunky porcelain ‘beads’ (290RMB) is a nice contrast to all the delicate fragility on offer. Selena Schleh