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East Meets West - Fei Liu
Fei Liu’s dramatic yet elegant designs are a seamless fusion of his Eastern heritage and Western design practice. With a focus on intricate details and a celebration of femininity, Fei Liu creates wearable pieces that are strong, beautiful and full of character. By combining his life and experiences in the West with his Chinese heritage, Fei designs pieces that are not only visually creative, but that challenge preconceptions of luxury fine jewellery. Priyanka Desai catches up with this charismatic British designer to know more of his success story in United Kingdom and beyond.
By: Diamond World News Service
Oct 22 2013 3:01PM
Reference: 8416  

Fei Liu’s passion for creativity and art was apparent from an early age – a passion that began a life’s journey, which would shape and influence his unique design style and a similarly distinguished career.

Always showing an interest in art, Fei enjoyed drawing and painting throughout his childhood. This interest fast became love when, at the age of 11, he was introduced to Western art styles such as oil and acrylic painting. With a whole new creative language to learn and to inspire him, Fei soon realised that he wanted to pursue his fascination with the arts as a career.

While visiting Hong Kong at the age of 19, Fei’s eyes were opened to the wealth of directions exposed to him in the world of art and design. In particular, he became transfixed by gemstones – by their value and the idea that no two stones were ever the same. Upon his return from Hong Kong, Fei’s mind was made up and his first steps in the jewellery industry decided.

Combining his love for gemstones and art, Fei chose to study a degree at Birmingham’s prestigious School of Jewellery. After completing his BA in Jewellery and Silver smithing, he was equipped not only with the tools he needed to design jewellery but with the ability to question, challenge and to reinvent.

Since the company’s launch in 2006, Fei Liu Fine Jewellery has grown from strength to strength in both the United Kingdom (UK) and international markets. Fei has collected a variety of awards. In April 2009, east met west when Fei launched his flagship store in Beijing. Since then, he has opened a second concession in Beijing, and a further two stores in Chendu and Hangzhou. Fei Liu has become the first jewellery designer in the UK to have a standalone store in China.

To walk the tight rope between creativity and business is no easy feat but Fei does it with finesse like no other. They say that optimism and will power play a pivotal role in achieving great success and Fei’s achievements are a proof of it as he is one of the most positive and determined fashion designers we have ever met. He has a pleasing personality and his demeanour exudes warmth. He has a deep persona and has a prominent philosophical side. One look at his designs and you know that his designs are an extension of his own personality. His designs are full of elaborate details, dramatic and remarkable. Fei Liu’s vivid imagination sparkles through all his creative designs. When asked him to share his inspiration with us, he says, “What inspires me the most, I think, is everyday life. The beauty hidden in the detail of individual everyday objects and everyday sights – things which may be overlooked but which a designer such as myself might notice and pay attention to.”

While sharing more his company, he articulates, “I founded Fei Liu Fine Jewellery in 2006, shortly after I won my first award – a Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship and Design Award. To be given the award at such an early stage in my career was a wonderful compliment as they are very prestigious in the UK and are almost like the Oscars of the British jewellery industry. I have also been awarded the Kayman Award, the Lonmin Design Innovation Award, and I have been shortlisted for the last three years for ‘UK Jewellery Designer of the Year’. Each nomination is very humbling. My work has been awarded for both visual design and technical strength, which is very important to me, as a good design is nothing unless it is also a good product.”

He further added, “My two biggest achievements to date would have to be forming my wonderful team, and also opening our flagship store in Beijing in 2009. I was the first UK-based designer to have a standalone store in China and the rate of expansion we have seen in that market has been incredible. In 2011 I was named as ‘Jewellery Designer of the Year’ by Harper’s Bazaar China, which was the most wonderful thing to happen – to be recognised so highly for my work in my home country after only two years.”

But, things were not always so bright for Fei and he has faced rejections like all of us have. When asked to share an interesting anecdote from his earlier career days from which he has learnt important business traits, Fei is in deep thought. He then takes us down the memory lane and shares; “I think it would have to be when I worked as a designer for Tie Rack, before I formed the company. The first presentation of new collections, which I presented to the buyer, was not successful – actually, it was not successful at all. The buyer was furious and totally against the product that I had developed. I had used every element of what I thought contemporary jewellery was ‘supposed’ to be and applied it to my design process. That was the first lesson that I learnt about design – that a good product does not necessarily mean a good design. A good product often has to mean a design, which the market will see as something new, which customers will buy into and which will sell in high volume. I realised that if I think something is good, that view does not necessarily match the views of Tie Rack’s market – so I visited three Tie Rack stores over a weekend, to try and understand exactly what was already popular, what the brand of this retailer wanted to offer and what their specific market needed. Two months later, I brought a new collection to show the buyer of Tie Rack. I presented the now famous ‘paper clip’ cufflinks, ‘ruler’ cufflinks and tie bars. Not only was the buyer very happy with the new design, it also marked the first successful order of a product that I had designed. The products were on sale for six or seven years, and famous UK department store Debenhams ordered 20,000 pairs of ‘paper clip’ cufflinks. It showed me that market research is the strongest foundation of a successful design and commercial product.”

When quizzed if that is one of the difficult aspects of designing, he concurs saying, “The most difficult aspect of jewellery creation process for me I think is combining an original design inspiration with what the market requires. Sometimes a great design is simply not able to transfer into the commercial market successfully – other times some of the most successful products in the market may not be the most exciting designs. That combination and fine balance between design and commerciality is for me the most important challenge.”

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