I'm trying my hardest to resist all temptation to put on my very bad Dutch accent and go all Goldmember on you (a shmoke und a pancake anyone?) considering the subject of the post. Or e-signing a poor rendition of Spandau Ballet's awesome classic. It's maddening how many many cheesy pitfalls there are to digress into. Instead, I'll try and stick to the subject at hand. Gold. Or more specifically LoveGold, a new editorial initiative set up by the World Gold Council (do their meetings consist of Goldmember impressions I wonder…?) this year to entice and showcase gold as a material of choice in jewellery. It might feel like a material that is as solid and classic as gold doesn't need an image boost but with its ever increasing price value, there is a danger of it falling out of reach or out of favour with a younger generation of consumer and designer. So LoveGold operates in several folds – loaning brands cash to enable them to buy gold to use, offering gold to designers such as Pamela Love (their collaboration will be unveiled in due course) as well as collating Instagram-esque content on their website and social media platforms to encourage people to #LoveGold. As Vanessa Friedman commented on the FT, it's interesting that this hive of promotional activity is coming from the very source of the raw material itself. LoveGold and the World Gold Council could well go the way that companies like Swarovski have done, putting their name out and about as a benefactor and material sponsor. The jewellery world with its ever increasing strands of costume, fine and cross-hybrid brands could definitely do interesting things with this potentail gold rush, and thus push gold jewellery to new dimensions.
If I'm honest, I did the opposite of LoveGold when I was younger. I equated gold with my Chinese relatives rasping on and on about how I needed to make loads of money or find a husband with loads of money, the jingle jangle of gold jewellery that was supposed to form one's dowry prison sentence and all things culturally traditional that I used to be childishly embarrassed of. Now that I'm over my stroppy tradition-loating teenage years, I've come to find new allure in both the colour and the material. When I spoke briefly to Angelica Cheung, editor-in-chief of Vogue China, she said it was a material that she had to grow into, being drawn to it increasingly as she got older and I think I'm probably heading in the same direction.
To confront the material head on, I went to Beijing to attend Vogue China's 100th issue anniversary bash, supported by LoveGold. Aiding this gooooooold trip was some Model's Own nail polish to fill in the gaps of my grown-out gel nail Prada mani, a pair of the wildly popular now-sold-out liquid metal Nike Air Max 1's (the best thing about them is the periodic table symbol on the tongue) and a loaned 18ct gold tassel necklace and matching fringe ring by Solange Azagury Partridge. Then I got a memo about the dress code which was to be "elegant dress with yellow gold jewellery". Ooops. Couldn't chance the trainers with angry Chinese bouncers so on went a pair of more "sensible" Miu Miu's instead. At least the jewellery ticked the right box.
Turns out I wasn't the only one who needed a helping hand with the gold dress code as at the party, there was a "dressing" suite upstairs for all the Chinese starlets and models to borrow pieces of jewellery by the likes of Bvlgari and Chanel should they wish to bling it up. I loved these pieces by young Chinese designer Simon Gao in collaboration with Hong Kong's premier jewellery brand Chow Tai Fook. Who knew I'd be saying I liked anything by Chow Tai Fook?!? Great-auntie-Chan and grandma Lau would be proud indeed.
I may have taken the dress code a little too literally with my Tome trench aka my Ferrero Rocher wrapper coat. But if I'm to bring no finesse or knowledge when it comes to jewellery to the table, then at the very least I can do is go to town with the dress code.
The night was spent doing gold spotting at the party on models, actresses and other luminaries as well as celebrating the main event, which is of course the 100th issue of Vogue China. Angelica Cheung gave a rousing speech and introduction to their latest cover girl, the actress Shu Qi and Mario Testino, who shot an impressive 150 pages for this special issue. It was quite amazing to see the diverse facets of Chinese beauty in the women that made up the final photocall from Xiao Wen's unique pixie qualities to the more "classic" looking Shu Pei to the quiet sensuality of Shu Qi.
Model Si Miao Bin, who is LoveGold's #ChinaCool girl
Upstairs away from the hub hub, I grabbed Cheung for ten minutes to capture her touches of gold (Bvlgari and Van Cleef & Arpels) worn with a custom made Jason Wu beaded gown. Regarding the 100th issue, Cheung was keen to present a vision of Chinese women and the world they live in today as something modern and "international" as she puts it, as opposed to far flung exotica.
"We've witnessed tremendous changes in China in the last 100 issues. When I was thinking of this 100th issue of the next 100 issues. This needed to be a statement of how I see the magazine and how I see the Vogue China woman. We've been successful from day one and I felt that after all these years, in order to keep myself passionate and interested in the job, I needed to push myself to a new level.
For this issue, I wanted a whole Chinese cast – somehow they all look modern and international. There have been cliched views of Chinese women and what they look like. What we're trying to do is that the world has become a smaller place and that the Chinese women have moved on. Mario was willing to learn and understand what's going today in China. There's no divide anymore the outside world and China. I wanted to show the natural organic mix between our Chinese culture and the world."
This approach will steer Vogue China towards helping young Chinese fashion, as alongside Vogue China, it's an area which has grown from nothing to somethng credible today, and it's a topic gets me excited with every trip I take to China. "It's amazing how advanced it is now. When I first started I was struggling to find designers whose work wouldn't look too embarrassing next to the big brands. Today, there are so many designers. Now, you have to edit and you feel really bad about leaving someone out. We have to raise the bar now. What Vogue does is to encourage excellence. If it's not good enough, we have to say that. Rather than just being a judge, we have to educate and help these designers."
The issue itself is so grandiose, it has its own bookcase to house this amount of heft. Testino shot in a myriad of locations from Empress Cixi's summer palace to a punk rock club in Beijing, depicting an all Chinese cast of models, actresses and young creatives. What began as a 70 page project grew as Testino became so enthused by his subjects. The result is an issue that is made extra memorable, not because of the 100th issue factoid or its Chinese tokenism but because the images are beautiful regardless of the location, subject or theme. For sheer visual pleasure, my favourite story has to be the marriage of traditional Beijing opera singers and their self-applied make-up together with an extreme beauty shoot. It's the kind of pairing that makes watching Chinese fashion talent in the future an exciting prospect.