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Bags, specs, necklaces: Local stylists sets new trends in modern accessories

HANDBAGS, shoes, bracelets, necklaces, rings ... no woman can live without accessories. They can totally change an outfit when used in different, creative ways.

While more international accessory brands are eager to snare a piece of the lucrative Chinese market (Christian Louboutin is said to be launching a Shanghai store soon), local designers are catching up to offer more affordable and unique products.

Bags range developed for modern women on the go

Being a modern, independent career lady, you must have had difficulty choosing which bags to pack for a business trip. You need a spacious carry-all that can hold your essentials during the flight. Also, you need a classic tote that makes you look professional in the office. Lastly, you probably also need a clutch to carry at night.

But now you don't have to bring three bags, only one. Check out "Heirloom," a Shanghai-based handbag brand by two Taiwanese young ladies, Lynn Lu and Tiffany Wu.

The pair met in Los Angeles during their freshman year in college. After graduation, Lynn worked at a record company as a graphic designer while Tiffany pursued her interest in luxury PR.

In summer 2006, the two met again in Taipei. During an afternoon tea with girlfriends, they talked about their needs for more functional travel accessories and handbags that would cater to their constant traveling lifestyle. They realized it could be a great business opportunity.

"Modern women today live an eclectic and fulfilling lifestyle," Tiffany said. "We hope to create bags for them which can keep up with their busy schedule and meet all their needs. So they only have to bring one bag, instead of three!"

Both quit their well-paid jobs and came to the Chinese mainland to look for ideal factories. Lynn is now based at the factory in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, and most of the time Tiffany works in Shanghai to promote and develop the brand.

They chose the name "Heirloom" because they hope their bags, made from quality leather in classic silhouettes, can be passed down through the generations.

Q: Why did you choose to focus on handbags, not clothing or other accessories? And what is so special about your designs?

A: Handbags are a woman's most trusted partner. However, it can be difficult to find a bag that is chic, long lasting and at the same time highly functional - a bag that can meet all your needs whether you are traveling, working or having a fun time at night. Our bags have all the essential details, such as key hooks, multiple pockets and multi-functional straps. All these details make Heirloom bags different.

Q: Why did you choose Shanghai as the starting point for Heirloom?

A: Coming from Asian roots, we were inspired by how quickly Shanghai had developed and we believe that it will be the next stage for international fashion. The talent pool and inspirations coming from Chinese designers are so exciting! It is very hard for us to just stand on the sidelines and not want to play a part in the "creative movement" taking place.

Q: What kind of women customers do you target for Heirloom?

A: Women aged between 25 and 40, sophisticated, fashion conscious and confident.

Q: Every bag has a name at Heirloom. How do you choose the names?

A: Many times the bags are named after a funny experience or after an important person - we value the friendships we have built and the experiences we have shared. An "heirloom" is something that is precious and greatly treasured.

One of our signature bags, "the Biggie," is named after our friend Tina's nickname. She has a passion for food.

Our signature totes are named "the Big Twin Tote" and "the Lil Twin Tote." The bags are named after Lynn and her twin sister Jane.

Q: What is the inspiration for spring/summer 2011?

A: The inspiration is lux, but tough. It's a juxtaposition of soft luscious materials and punk rock hardware and chains, distressed leathers with girly weaving trims and studs with feminine knots. There is a lot of contrasting and mix-and-match.

Q: Please recommend a style or two to our readers from your new collection.

A: Our favorites this season are the "Sabrina" bag and "Izzy" clutch. The Sabrina is inspired by 1950s Hells Angels, a perfect mix of motorcycle chic and elegance. The bag is a great day bag that can hold all your needs, but can be used as a cross-body for a more casual look.

The Izzy, on the other hand, is a clutch ideal for day and night. The cascading chain straps can be removed for a more formal look. It is made with hand-cut leather in light colors, making it a perfect bag for summer.

'Monkey Queen' hangs her passion on trendy necklaces

Every woman has a certain accessory item that she cannot live without. For Shi Chenyi (who calls herself "Monkey Queen"), it's the necklace. The Shanghai native, however, found it difficult to get ideal necklaces in the market back in 2008 and it inspired her to become a necklace designer.

"I was looking for a strawberry pendant at the time," recalled the visual arts graduate. "However, all I could find were those tiny, cute, girly ones. But I wanted it to be big and exaggerated."

And "big and exaggerated" is also how the 25-year-old now describes her design style.

"I rarely wear prints, preferring neutral tones all the time," she explained. "That's why I need colorful, exaggerated pieces to help 'lighten up' the look."

Q: Why do you use acrylic as the main material for your designs?

A: I started with wood but later found it's too complicated to deal with. It often took me a long time to dye the wood and cut it into the shape I wanted. A friend recommended acrylic to me and I found it much easier to deal with. It also frees my mind - all I have to do is to draw the images.

Q: Where do you find your inspiration?

A: Anywhere. I always have a theme for each collection. For example, my latest collection is all about "childhood fun." So I've featured images on the necklaces from my childhood memories, such as origami cranes, paper airplanes and Super Mario Brothers.

Q: You've collaborated with many fashion brands to create necklaces for their events or special occasions. What are some of your latest partnered projects?

A: I've created a necklace featuring an astronaut for Novo, a multi-brand street wear store. When I was little, I always wanted to be an astronaut. You can find my necklaces at the cashiers in all three Novo stores in town. Also, I've worked with mass fashion brand Meters/bonwe to create a series of limited edition T-shirts, featuring images of monkeys playing our childhood games, such as hopscotch and kicking the shuttlecock.

Q: Why do you call yourself "Monkey Queen?"

A: Because I've always loved monkeys. They are naughty, and they can't sit still - just like me.

Q: What is your favorite piece among your new spring/summer collection?

A: "Floral charm." It features big acrylic flowers in red, navy blue and white. Floral prints are trendy this season.

Q: Who are your target customers?

A: Young people like me, who like fun and exaggerated pieces. I've done a survey and found that most of my customers are aged between 18 and 22. Most of my necklaces cost 48 (US$7.33) to 68 yuan. The most expensive one is 129 yuan. They are all very reasonably priced. Foreigners like my designs, too. I have friends from overseas who buy my designs as gifts for their friends abroad.

A nose for the perfect eyeglasses for Asians

It's a familiar experience for Asians in an eyewear store: you like a pair of glasses or sunglasses, you try it on, only to find that the nose pad doesn't fit, or the lenses are too big.

The problem is the glasses were originally designed for European and American users, points out Hong Kong native, Raymond Mok, who has been working in the eyewear industry for 17 years.

Mok has successfully introduced to the Chinese market eyewear products from brands such as Cartier, Mont Blanc and Alain Mikli.

"Today, the majority of eyewear products cater to the needs of European and American users, leaving Asians a challenge when choosing comfortable glasses," he says. "Many people don't know that a wrong pair of glasses can add unnecessary pressure to the head and neck."

That's why he decided to found TonySame, an eyewear brand designed by Asians for Asians.

Q: How do TonySame products specially fit Asian people?

A: We have worked closely with the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in the past four years to research Chinese consumers' facial structures and Chinese aesthetics. With the help of CAFA, we have collected enough statistics to create TonySame's unprecedented Asian collection.

Our designs are based on "human technology" to deliver the ultimate comfort. We have launched three pioneering articulations, mimicking the flexibility of human ligaments, spine and finger joints to allow the glasses to embrace the user's head flawlessly.

Q: How is a pair of TonySame glasses made?

A: Our designers apply the know-how used in forging Japanese samurai swords to create the F-beta titanium frames, so they're not only exceptionally light, but also minimize rebound pressure up to 70 percent to ensure utmost comfort.

Also, our frames are equipped with special nose pads which react to body temperature and will automatically adjust to fit the curve of the user's nose.

Q: What is your development plan for TonySame?

A: We will focus on the Asian market. We have set up more than 20 points of sale in the Chinese market and also aim to expand our sales network to countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

We will set up a scholarship in CAFA to send students to Japan, Korea and European countries, with the aim of nurturing more home-grown design talents in China.


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