The cultural differences issue is an often-discussed topic in the fashion industry. Many luxury brands have been criticized either by “understanding other cultures in a shallow way” or by “cultural appropriation”. In 2015 Isabel Marant faced backlash for of plagiarising the traditional costume of a Mexican community, a year later Gucci was criticized for presenting white models in Sikh-style turbans, and in 2018, D&G had to cancel its big show in Shanghai because of “being racist to Chinese” in its advertisement. More interesting, the limited editions launched by western luxury brands for each Chinese New Year, have received many Chinese’s complains about how limited knowledge these brands have about celebration’s symbols and traditions.
Does it mean fashion industry is facing cultural differences related difficulties?
Light Stone Jewellery, a Shanghai-based jewellery website focusing on Chinese cultural jewelry, has its own understanding of this topic, and believes what they provide will go beyond such cultural differences. The interview with Light Stone is recorded as below.
Q: You claimed that the jewelry you selected can go beyond the culture differences. Does that mean you think “culture differences” is a non-issue in fashion industry?
A: Culture differences do exist, but it is not an issue. Light Stone is trying to introduce more different aspects of Chinese culture to people, and also showing the common understanding of beauty in different cultures. It is essential to find a balance between them. What we believe is that peoples’ perspective of beauty is very close even with varying backgrounds of culture. When you look at the jewelry design history world widely, many elements were favored by different cultures. Naturalism is one of them. Flowers, birds, trees, animals are commonly used almost everywhere in jewelry. Why? Because we are all born on this planet and are all in love with our mother nature. There is no need to guess whether a European will agree on the prettiness of flowers as we Chinese will do.
However, for the same flower, the cultural meanings in different countries might be different. For example, plum blossom is a commonly used image in Chinese art. The flower is one of the “Four Gentlemen” (plum blossom, orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum), and symbolizes perseverance, braveness, nobility, purity in Chinese tradition. Such culture specialty is something we also want to share with people. This is why we put “Culture Tips” in the introduction of our jewelry.
Our standards on selecting what can be listed on our website are: a. It is true beauty that could be commonly understood by most people; b. There are unique Chinee culture features behind them.
It is rational to see that we are different, but also important to understand we are not that different.
Q: What is it that gives you the confidence of achieving such balance?
A: We are not so arrogant to say that we have already found the balance point. It is maybe a lifetime target for us to achieve. However, with the team’s international background and the local touch, we should be able to get closer. We have GIA, FGA members, while we are also working closely with crafters who live in the faraway mountains of southwest China. We are learning from our customers in France, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Romania, etc., but also enrich ourselves with Chinese traditional cultural knowledge.
But again, and honestly, it is not us, who will find the balance point. The point is there already. The real beauty itself is the best balance point, and people’s love for it is a universal value.
Q: How do you see the impacts of international trend of oversea e-commerce business opportunities on culture related business like yours?
A: It is for sure a never seen historical moment in human history, not only good for business but also cultural exchange.
It is not only today we have “international”. Human history is full of exchange and communication, though transportation and technology obstacles limited the size international in ancient times.
Light Stone has many enameling jewelry collections on our website. Many of them are made by the most widely known Chinese enameling skill Cloisonné or Jintai Blue, which is commonly believed originally from Arabic countries or West Asia, and arrived in China around 1000 years ago. Lived in China, the colors, patterns, manufacturing skills of such enameling skill were developed into “Chinese style”, and thus born the Cloisonné. When we look at closer history, the painted enamel which was popular for the royal family in the Qing Dynasty (1636—1912) of China, was being introduced by missionaries in 16ths from France.
No matter where these techniques were originally from, they were now used in Chinese jewelry in Chinese style and appreciated by people from all over the world.
The luck we have today is that the fast development of international trade and internet have allowed everyone to have a closer look and better understandings on diversified beautiful arts, no matter they were rooted from same places or not. People have more windows to see different “flowers” in other parts of the planet. We Light Stone would like to be one of such windows.
Light Stone ended the interview by saying:
“Maybe one day, culture differences will disappear thanks to this international trend. It will be when we truly understand each other.”
Light Stone Jewellery is an online fashion brand of Chinese jewelry. Based in Shanghai, Light Stone focuses on jewellery made from traditional techniques such as silver filigrees and silver enamel, and also jewellery collections that are made by traditional Chinese materials such as jade, red agate, turquoise stone, etc.
Contact person: Ms. Stone