Getting Schooled in Hong Kong
Like the fashion world, the jewelry industry has its annual schedule of shows in locations around the world. Among the shows I attend is the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Show, which happens three times a year, including earlier this month. The show is a great opportunity to find new pieces and to also learn how the Asian market compares to the American and European markets for jewelry and gemstones.
The show itself is now routine for me, as I have attended (and exhibited) many times. But the best thing I did on this particular trip was to stop by L'Ecole, the jewelry school that Van Cleef & Arpels has established in Hong Kong (and around the world, for that matter, as they now have satellite locations in New York, Dubai and Tokyo, in addition to its Paris school, which is located inside an 18th-century mansion on the Place Vendôme).
Whenever Van Cleef organizes something, it is impeccable. There is never anything out of place or in bad taste. And this branch of L'Ecole, in Hong Kong, was no different. I didn’t have time to go to a class, but while I was there all of the classes were full (I have a friend who was on a wait list for quite some time).
Instead of a class, I attended a cocktail party for L’Ecole. It was in this very funky building in the Central neighborhood of the city, which actually turned out to be the old police headquarters for Hong Kong. It was also quite difficult to get to because of the narrow streets. The experience of getting there—on a series of very steep and narrow streets—made the arrival quite rewarding. They chose it because it was the old police quarters of Hong Kong.
It was a bare space before Van Cleef set up their program there, but they were able to create everything—they created the classrooms completely from scratch. At the party I was able to walk by some of the classes that were in session, and I was particularly fascinated by the instructor who specialized in a Japanese technique of hand painting, which was being used on butterflies. They explained to us how they use the lacquer, how it has to dry (it cannot be too humid, otherwise it sticks—which happens to be quite a difficult feat in Hong Kong, given its very sticky climate). And then layer upon layer upon layer of paint is used.
In a corridor behind the entrance, there were perhaps eight photographs, taken by young local artists, and each one had to incorporate a piece of jewelry from Van Cleef in their work. And votes were cast on who took the best photograph. It reminded me of a project that my sister, who lives in Milan and works for Hermès, initiated for the brand a few years ago. I have one of those photos hanging in my office now.