Sarah Zhuang may have been born into a family of jewellers, but she has carved out her own name through her eponymous jewellery label. The Gafencu team sits with Hong Kong’s own home-grown jeweller to talk about her inspirations and aspirations.
With your family having been in the jewellery business for generations, were you always destined to follow suit?
Well, I studied journalism at university and hoped to get into news broadcasting. It was my sister, Fiona, who initially joined the family business, but she soon realised that it was too overwhelming to manage on her own. That was when I jumped in to help her. She focused on the business side of things, while I managed the PR and creative sides. We soon realised that we worked very well together. To be honest, though, before I actually started designing jewellery, I had no idea that was what I wanted to do. Once I got into the groove, however, I realised I had found my true calling.
You studied at both the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and Accademia Riaci in Florence. What impact did they have on your own approach to jewellery design?
What I learnt at GIA was very different from what I learnt in Accademia Riaci. GIA is very good for beginners, as its style is easy to pick up and they teach you a lot of the basic techniques. By contrast, Accademia Riaci teaches you the more traditional forms of jewellery-making.
What made you decide to launch your eponymous brand and make it distinct from Tak Fook, your mother’s established business?
Tak Fook is a very traditional Hong Kong brand and, when I took over my mum’s business, it was felt that there was a mismatch between my creations and the positioning of her brand. My pieces tended to appeal to a younger demographic and were a lot more playful. When customers came to Tak Fook and saw my jewellery, it didn’t quite fit with their expectations of the label. So we thought it’d be better to create a separate entity, one that was younger in its approach and that embodied a new design philosophy. That’s how, in 2017, Sarah Zhuang Jewellery came into being.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am inspired by the multi-faceted nature of the modern woman. Something that especially influences me is the way that women adapt to the many distinctive roles they have to play in life. In essence, my brand celebrates womanhood in its entirety. Each one of my five collections depicts a particular aspect of the modern woman, which is why each one of them has a very different style.
Tell us about those different styles…
Well, I want every woman to be able to find a collection that she can truly relate to. In line with that, I have tried to portray a very different woman in each of my collections. Spread Your Wings, for instance, is a celebration of someone who’s ambitious and goal-driven, while Lady Rose is more suited to a woman who’s elegant and beautiful, rose-like in fact. Mix and Match is for those who are cool and down-to-earth, while Enchanted Pearl – which features only white pearls – symbolises someone who’s innocent and pure at heart. By contrast, Dancing Butterfly is dedicated to all the cheerful and happy souls.
Which collection do you see as reflecting your own personality?
The Mix and Match collection. For daily wear, I favour simple jewellery from that collection, as they tend to be petite and go with almost any outfit.
What new things can we expect from the brand this year?
We’ve been working on two new collections, both of which will launch this year. We will also be unveiling a range of men’s jewellery especially tailored to the Japanese market. We’re also continuing to work with Memorigin [a Hong Kong watch brand] on a new range of designer watches.
With Sarah Zhuang Jewellery already well-established in Japan, China and the UK, are there any other territories you are looking to conquer?
We are definitely planning to target a number of US cities, as well as Paris and a few other key European markets. For me, every jewellery brand has to make its mark in the US. As it’s such a huge and competitive market, though, we wanted to build our brand strength before taking up that particular challenge.
Lastly, tell us something that people don’t really know about you…
Not too many people know this, but I write science fiction novels. I recently finished my second book, tentatively titled Parallel Dreams. I published my first science fiction novel, The End of Reincarnation, after I graduated. Since then, I haven’t really had time to focus on my writing as I have been so busy with my jewellery brand. In the end, it took me three years to finish this one, but now – at last – it’s finally done.
Interview by: Suchetana Mukhopadhyay
Photos: Neville Lee
Art direction: San Wong
Video: Kingsley Lau
Makeup: Margaret Wong
Jewellery: Sarah Zhuang Jewellery
Venue: Tai Fook Showroom