Having quit a stable job, Vivian Shen was making a huge leap when she decided to establish her own accessories brand eight years ago. She tells Yu Ran why she put it all on the line.
Seeing elegant ladies wearing her handmade jewelry is a dream come true for Vivian Shen.
Eight years ago, at the age of 26, Shen quit a well-paid job as a buyer to follow her dream to develop her own brand. It's been a long road to prove that she made the right decision.
"I was tired of flying around as a workaholic buyer, losing my passion for design," Shen says. "I chose to quit my seemingly promising career and instead started chasing my dream to be an accessories designer," she says.
Born and raised in Shanghai, Shen married a Spanish man and has spent over five years living in Europe. Her label, which bares her name, mixes Chinese aesthetics with a European touch, revealing a unique vision and eye for fashion.
Vivian Shen, the label, is targeted at female customers between the ages of 25 and 45. The designs are simple, and are inspired by nature. The label's main design principle is to maintain loyalty to the natural objects that inspire it.
"I am fond of combining traditional Chinese elements such as natural pearls with Western gemstones like agate and zircon to create unique statement accessories for my clients," Shen says.
Shen struggled when she first started the label, and she was making less money than she was spending. But her firm belief in herself as a jewelry designer eventually paid dividends, as more customers came to know and love her work.
"The only thing that has encouraged me to keep going for so many years is my passion for design," Shen says.
Most jewelry designers are keen to help customers match their jewelry with gowns for formal occasions, but Shen wants her bold accessories to be incorporated into daily wardrobes.
Customers are welcome to visit her in the shop to chat about what they want to wear and what they should match it with. Shen is delighted to work as a private accessory consultant for everyone.
In order to make each piece precious and special for her customers, all of Shen's designs are drafted and handmade by herself, and are inspired by her own life experiences.
Every month, Shen updates her accessory closet with two to three new items for customers to wear and match with clothes.
Many of Shen's customers transformed from being clients to friends. And they all have their own ideas about how to wear Shen's accessories.
"More people want to own customized jewelry with detailed design elements to be different while they also tend to be more confident to mix-and-match ordinary outfits with my large jewelry," Shen says.
Much of Shen's jewelry is influenced by architectural styles such as Art Deco and Baroque.
Priced between 1,000 yuan ($163) and 3,000 yuan, Shen's work is specifically designed for practicability, and she is keen for her accessories to be affordable and wearable.
"I don't want to sell my accessories at a price that is out of reach for middle-class women. They also deserve to be elegantly dressed with personalized jewelry, just like those wealthy ladies," Shen says.
At the moment, Shen has two brick-and-mortar stores in China and five buyer's shops overseas favored by Chinese customers.
By the end of this year, Shen plans to open a working studio in Shanghai with a showroom and a shop for customers to see how the jewelry is made.
Her long-term goal is to have 10 shops, plus distributors selling her designs all over the world, within two to three years.
"My goal is to have my designs worn by as many ladies as I possible - in China and the wider world. I hope my name will become associated with unique design accessories," Shen says.
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