In the UK, jewellery designer Fei Liu is perhaps best known for his delicate cascade and peony silver collections, his aurora bridal range and his whispering fine jewellery range. But in china, Liu is known as the designer of choice for the most discerning fine jewellery collectors, gemstone lovers and diamond aficionados. Sarah Louise Jordan meets Liu to find out more.
During his 10 years as a jewellery designer Fei Liu has achieved success in multiple territories, but much of that success can be split down the middle; specifically commercial success in the UK and booming bespoke commissions in China.
With a regular presence at trade events and buyers’ meetings, Liu has created a recognisable brand DNA with his feminine Peony, Rose and Cascade designs and splashes of fine jewellery and gemstones. But changing times and a significant anniversary have encouraged Liu to show off the other side of his design personality: bespoke high jewellery creations.
This area of his business has predominantly grown in China, although bespoke customers are now making trips to his Birmingham-based offices to request special designs. During a special exhibition held in London on June 11, Liu presented some of his most spectacular bespoke pieces for the first time, capping the day with a VIP party to celebrate his decade of achievements.
One of the highlights of the showcase included a new white and yellow diamond suite, designed for one of Liu’s most loyal customers. The collar necklace, featuring asymmetric diamond flowers, was designed to fit the customer’s proportions perfectly, as was the bracelet. The matching earrings were also designed to be transformable, offering his client a stud or dangly option to suit the occasion.
Speaking at the showcase event, Liu explained: “This is the first time I’m showing this level of work in public. I want the industry to view it because I be- lieve design is not a result, it’s a process, and the best way to show a designer’s process is through bespoke work. I’ve been doing this since 2009 and I have around 60 to 70 bespoke customers, some of whom have become extremely close friends. Some of them come to me very year for two or three pieces, so they start to say they don’t want anyone else. I know them well, I know how to portray their personalities and I know what materials they like. I have become their personal designer.”
Although to some extent Liu arranged the event to showcase his fine jewellery and bespoke credentials to the UK market, he also did it to promote what he believes is the key to a successful designer. He explains: “As designers we shouldn’t just be shouting loud about who we are, we have to use our talents in conjunction with our consumers’ personalities. We need to portray them rather than just portray ourselves.”
Liu explains that he’s always trying to get rid of the niggling ‘what ifs’ and ‘but what about’ in the world of jewellery design; ensuring each piece is 100% to the customer’s taste and satisfaction. “What I really want to do is use my design creativity to enhance the services we are offering, while at the same time 100% satisfy the customer.”
The brand’s website has been relaunched in recent months, including more prominent fine and bespoke jewellery categories and more punchy imagery. Next, Liu will bring many of his collection to a higher level, while continuing to build on the success of his more commercial and accessible silver jewellery collections. He explains: “We have 78 stockists across the country and we will be in John Lewis in September. We are also planning a big campaign for Christmas. Commercial success is not singularly reliant on me, it is reliant on my team, my PR, my marketing and strategy and to me that is more of a challenge. Nowadays the consumer is more and more clever and they don’t just wear things that you want them to wear. They want to know why and the story behind it. They want to experience the jewellery and be involved in the process, otherwise what is the point for them to spend?”
Other commercial success is just around the corner according to Liu, although he’s sworn to secrecy about many of the details at this point in the year. Expect to see some exciting new collections at International Jewellery London, including something unique, innovative and unusual for the UK market.
This feature originally appeared in the July issue of Professional Jeweller, read it online here.