Accessories“dot the eyes” in fashion styling. Come again? Ye olde idiom huà lóng diǎn jīng (画龙点睛) means to “dot the eyes of the painted dragon”, the Chinese “icing on the cake”, so to speak. Get your frosting on; it’s China Jewelry time.
A garment has taken a vow to remain faithful to its practical role in protecting human bodies from the wild and harsh conditions randomly cast at them by the environment.
Accessories, in their very nature, mostly pursue a rather aesthetic and expressive purpose rather than a protective one.
Our favorite Fashion Dragon China be boasting a lengthy story in the field of jewelry and accessories. A story brimming with bobby pins, earrings, and bracelets.
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About Dynasties And Social Fees
Take the famous Xi’anTerracotta Warriors, the mega imperial guard troops of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210BC), for example. Even these guys are boasting various accessories.
Their showing a little accessorizing love doesn’t mean that the soldiers actually loved to spruce up their battle gear but signifies how every tchotchke back in the day was far from a mere shiny or flamboyant piece of luxury and more of a symbol representing social and| or private status.
A precious metal social fee, so to speak.
In China, punctured stones and bones, apparently the first accessories, were excavated at the Zhōu Kǒu Diàn (周口店) or in plain Latin the “Homo Erectus Pekinensis Site” near Beijing. The Shang Dynasty (second millennium B.C.) and its subsequent Zhou successor, aka China’s Bronze Age, featured remarkable metal crafts and casting skills.
A little jewelry fun fact of the day: The traditional hairpin (zān (簪), jī (笄)) saw the light of fashion during the latter dynasty. As its primary purpose was to firmly fix hair and (official) hat together, the zān could be used to refer to the social identity. For women at court, there was also the chāi (钗), one hairpin formed of two separate fragments.
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The art of decorating did not end with a pin or a quick fix back in the day either. In ancient China, jade symbolized good fortune and the defeat of disaster. Accessories of the period were quite the statement symbol and often resonated with a shamanistic theme.
Building up a collection of Chinese jade was particularly prominent across the middle and southern areas of what we now call the Middle Kingdom, whereas the nomads tracking and trekking the grasslands up north preferred pure gold.
The Manchu Qing (1644-1912), then, proved to be China’s last dynastical fashion shout. This dynasty had a way of dressing and wardrobe styling all of its own. The Táng zhuāng(唐装), a type of Chinese jacket as well as an overall wardrobe reference encompassing the qípáo (旗袍) dress, sprouts from this time and the notorious practice of foot binding soared in popularity turning tiny shoes based on barbaric soles into one giant social status orientation. Furthermore, people of the Qing Dynasty showcased a penchant for louder, grand, and more glamorous decorations thus encouraging a trend of very noticeable enamel.
Until the dawn of Republican China in 1912, trinkets, pearls, and ornate silver accessories were living the high life.
About Jewelry And Shopping Sprees
The big turnabout took place in the late 1980s. Recognizing the massive potential of the field that is jewelry, the newly installed Chinese government began to allocate copious amounts of resources to the accessory industry, christening it “official handicraft art”. By the 1990s, with a few imported accessory labels brought in to boot, the Chinese began buying into the concept of “The Jewelry Brand”, with Chinese tastes some 20 years onwards shifting gears at the speed of light.
China in the Roaring Twenties 2.0 now has the fastest and the most furiously growing demand for small and shiny gems. According to the Diamond Insight Report 2017 by DeBeers Group, the Chinese diamond jewelry sector managed to triple in size within one decade, facilitated by the rising growth of third-tier cities and the millennial generation who like to treat themselves to diamonds more often than the nation’s middle-aged ladies.
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Accessories made in China to this day maintain their spirit of chinoiserie, using the staple China Red (中国红) or retaining in their designs traces of Chinese tradition such as roof tile patterns or the symbols of the evergreen tree, the peony, and so traditionally forth.
Chinese jewelry brand Chow Sang Sang (周生生) in 2013, for example, released gold bars with the engraved drawings of the carp (鲤鱼送福), the nine dragons(九龙腾飞), as well as several paper-cutting art (马年中国剪纸) motives.
The Icing on the Cake: Five Chinese Brands
Temper presents you with five Chinese accessory brands dug up by yours truly from our almighty treasure chest.
Angs defines itself as a “lyrical poem”. Founded by two jewelry designers, Wang Qian 王谦 and Zhang Shaofei 张少飞, who used to design for the big houses like Swarovski, Angs started out in 2005 as a mere Weibo account — @angs设计小学, now renamed 谙诗. The two graduates from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts are also the collaborating designers at the Cultural and Creative Center at China Art Museum.
“There is nothing more exciting than simplicity,” says this brand. Yin specializes in handmade 18K gold jewelry of minimal design. Two Ogilvy colleagues, Dora and Ayur, founded the brand since they couldn’t find one what they were actually looking for.
Each one of the brand’s collections and lines takes on the tag of “Yi”, “Yin” or “Ying”, all related to the brand’s name — including the YINgagement ring (yīn (姻) means “marriage”). These consumers-turned-designers publish regular stories about their wearers on the brand’s official WeChat account: @YIN设计金饰.
Yàn Yù devotes itself to development of the imperial hand-crafted art and Chinese intangible cultural heritage “Filigree Mosaic (Huā Sī Xiāng Qiàn,花丝镶嵌),” which carries some 2000 years of history. The brand cherishes the value of the Big Eight Artcrafts (Yān Jīng Bā Jué, 燕京八绝) from the long-gone days of the Yanjing – former name for Beijing — Period when the city was deemed a fashion capital. It also employs the traditional Chinese concept of the twenty-four solar term (èr Shí Sì Jié Qì,二十四节气) to create its collections. Long story short: They aim to make the Filigree Mosaic great again.
Screw is a highly cost-effective brand displaying humble yet intricate accessories, loved and worn by many a Chinese celebrity. Designer Pollia (杜若) herself already is a famous figure for her appearance, being called the “beautiful designer” and generating an abundant fan following on Weibo.
Convenient as proven by the fact that she does her own brand-modeling. She was one of the designers starring on “Creative Sky”( Chuàng Yì Xīng Kōng, 创意星空),” a former CCTV6 fashion designer contest show. Every one of her concoctions is infused with a witty anecdote.
YVMIN Studio (尤目)
YVMIN Studio stems from the teaming up of two CAFA — Central Academy of Fine Arts — graduates, fashion designer Lǐ Mín (李忞) and jewelry designer Zhāng Xiǎo Yǔ(张晓宇). Carrying affordable price tags, the brand seeks out all beauty possibly related to the human body and calls itself a “total body decoration lab.”
Though the kitsch accessories take their motives from everyday life — like food, insects and school life – the designers say that the fantasy of surreal space and the curiosity for the future (world) provides them with an endless source of inspiration.
One must always bear in mind that whilst the right piece can dot the outfit I’s, overkill will hurt the eyes.
As a finishing touch, Temper encourages all to put on that thinking top hat and leaves you with the following to ponder:
“Trendy is the last stage before tacky,” Der Karl.
Quite the social fee to pay.
FEATURED IMAGE: COURTESY OF YVMIN Studio (尤目), THE ELECTRONIC GIRL COLLECTION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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