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Shanghai is extraordinary. Everything about this wonderful and vibrant city reminds me of why I love the East so much.
I was there to launch Annoushka in China. It was a really proud moment because my career as a jewellery designer began in Hong Kong in the late 80’s. Now, the Chinese jewellery market is changing rapidly, with customers becoming more interested in contemporary design and smaller, eponymous brands. It’s a timely opportunity to introduce Annoushka to them, and I’m thrilled to have found a fantastic partner in JEWELRIA who are working with us as part of their vision in bringing international designers to China.
My trip was a gorgeous, multi-sensory experience. Shanghai is a feast for the senses. It is almost totally electric – the streets are quiet and beautifully clean which creates the perfect context for all the theatre they contain. As a magnificent backdrop, the huge coal-hopper unloading bridge is a reminder of Shanghai’s beginnings. The bridge remains complemented by the raw concrete industrial spaces which sit alongside it. Freight-laden ships still pass along the shoreline of the Huangpu River. Shanghai citizens are sophisticated, fashionable and beautifully dressed, and their city is layered with so many things to do. With Ava Foo the Chinese fashion blogger as my tour guide I was able to get a fabulous insider’s view.
The retailing creativity is an eye-opener. The Réel Mall department store had a whole floor dedicated to learning new skills such as painting, embroidery or making a terrarium. It was a brilliant way of getting customers to spend more time there rather than purchasing on-line. Within it, I found what I think is one of my favourite book stores ever. Vast, and beautifully designed, it was a glorious invitation to browse for hours. By contrast, the French Quarter area was full of small, chic boutiques and artisanal bars and invited lengthy, traditional pottering. Even global brands seem to be making themselves new. Starbucks’ new concept store, Revolution is a hymn to coffee. A vast arrays of beans are distilled with mathematical precision. And, old Shanghai still holds its ground. The insect market was a joy for my beetle-obsessed heart. Rows of furious crickets in tiny cages are evaluated for their potential fighting ability. Luminous goldfish are sold as lucky charms. Wulu fruit is strung from market stalls as the symbol of good fortune and an expression of positive energy.
The art galleries in Shanghai are bold and thought provoking. The Propaganda Arts Centre is in the basement of a 1960s apartment block and is crammed with original posters created during the cold war when the regime felt most threatened.
The contrast between the carefree images shown on the posters and the corresponding brutality of the government is stark. The Long Museum was built by a Chinese billionaire as a private museum and opened in 2014. It has the industrial feel of the turbine hall of the Tate Modern. The scale of the works really suited the vast cavernous space. It was also fantastic to see the various photo shoots that were going on outside the museum. It’s a favourite space for the Shanghai fashionistas to display their cultural experimentation.
Shanghai is also a city of delicious food. From traditional Shanghai cuisine to fusion food, it’s a wonderful place to eat. Particular highlights were tea in the Ting Yun Tai Tea Space, lunch in the garden at Villa Le Bec, and dinner at Jason Atherton’s restaurant The Commune Social.