Interview: Alison Mary Ching Yeung

As one of the most sought-after luxury labels both here in China and abroad, high-end footwear and accessories brand Mary Ching is leading the pack and inspiring a new generation of luxury brands in China.

Founder extraordinaire Alison Yeung, has created a visionary brand which fuses heritage, international perspective, eclectic design prowess and plenty of sex appeal.

Having recently moved into her new studio in the lush and hip surrounds of Luwan, we spoke to Alison about the rise of luxury brands in China and world domination.

Can you tell us about the journey that led you to becoming a shoe designer? What made you come to Shanghai?
I always said that it was either craziness or being a genius (moving to Shanghai).
It was not always shoes. I knew I wanted to own my own business and for it to be creative. It made sense to do accessories in China.

Do you see your brand as Chinese?
I think I’m going back to my heritage, being half English, half Chinese. I have really created this brand as a luxury Chinese brand. I have been very fortunate that the press here has accepted me as a Chinese designer.

Who are your customers?
Our market is in Asia, although the customer is international. They mostly Chinese, American-born Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese and foreign-educated Chinese. They have an aesthetic understanding, aspirations and an international perspective. They are usually someone who has wealth or come into wealth, someone who has the brands and status but wants something different, something to differentiate themselves.

The demand for luxury and bespoke products in China has increased dramatically over recent years, driven by big international brands. How do you see that affecting the domestic luxury brand landscape? Do you see this as a challenge for local designers to step up their game?
Absolutely. What I think is exciting about today is that although the economy is so poor in Europe and America, it’s an open market here. It’s thriving.

I do think it’s the hot topic right now, I think the future is in China. Stepping up to the game, maybe, but I think it’s a time for China to shine. Everything is possible.

What are some of the challenges and changes you have seen over the years since starting your business back in 2006?
There are challenges everyday. From the factory, to design, to human resources. Life in Shanghai is vibrant and colourful and no doubt it has it’s challenges. But I always say, “Don’t give me a problem, give me the solution.”, and that is a motto I live by.

You mentioned previously a “East versus West” in terms of inspiration. Do you see it as a versus, a conflicting view or a tension?
There’s definitely a tension. I hated being Chinese when I was growing up because I wanted to fit in, and now I base my business on being Chinese. And for me, the tension was between being independent and vulnerable, sexy but fragile, it’s all the contradictions of a woman. I think it’s a reflection of this East vs. West.

“I see my product range as having the orgasm with the shoes and zen with the slippers. It’s an extreme and that’s what we are.”

What’s next for Mary Ching?
Creating of the CHINGdom. And world domination.

Shanghai Questions:
Your favourite neighbourhood in Shanghai and why?

I love Luwan district, I love the neighbourhood I’m in.

Favourite Shanghai restaurant/cafe/bar/store?
I love dim sum, that’s why my dog’s called Dim Sum. Din tai Fung, Crystal Jade, they’re some of my favourites.

Local creatives people should know about?
I recently launched the Shanghai Fashion Map which lists 42 local designers. It’s available for download here.

Describe your perfect day in Shanghai.
Sleep!

MARY CHING BOUTIQUE
Ferguson Lane
376 WuKang Road, Boutique 106
200031 Shanghai
www.marychingshanghai.com