Style | Diary of a Somebody

Yann Debelle de Montby

The luxury consultant on being the right man in the right place – Shanghai

Yann Debelle de Montby

Image: Derrick Santini

April 28 2011
Yann Debelle de Montby

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I have been asked, almost since I settled in Shanghai in 2006, to share my feelings about what is happening in China, at least in the so-called “luxury market”. I am always very happy to share my thoughts, although I am very careful about what I say and the way I say it. I even go as far as to say that whatever we think we know about this very complex and fascinating country is something we should reconsider almost on a daily basis!

China is changing really fast and I truly believe that it is going in the right direction. That’s not easy to see or understand, and one should be very humble about it and ready to adapt to the rules of this market. I am very lucky, as I seem to be the right man at the right place at the right time. This is something you can hardly plan for, but when it’s happening, it is really magical. I can never say enough times how extraordinary it is to be trusted, especially by people from such a different culture. But trust is something rare and precious and which should imply reciprocity. Trust is something that you have to deserve and this implies a big commitment, especially in China.

I have just been appointed art director of an iconic Chinese brand, originally launched in Shanghai in the 1930s: Shanghai Vive. This brand, originally a cosmetics brand, belongs to one of the largest cosmetics groups in China, a sort of L’Oréal. The brand is growing quickly (two stores today, close to 50 by next year!) and I will try to help make it one of the first Chinese luxury brands.

The packaging for the cosmetics is very 1930s-inspired and I am working with a very talented designer from Paris (but a quarter Chinese), Peggy Huynh Kinh, who has been working for many of the best international brands.

I was asked this morning to do an interview about my creative vision for this new brand and the editor wanted to shoot me for the cover, so it will be my first cover of a magazine in China. The magazine is called The Bund and is very popular among young and wealthy Chinese. It was a very pleasant shoot and a very interesting interview as both the talented Chinese photographer and the Chinese editor were very sharp.

Photography in China is playing more and more a very important role. China has very talented photographers and has beautiful magazines such as Life magazine, edited by Modern Media and owned by the charismatic Thomas Shao, a very good friend. They launched a very special edition of the magazine, which actually looks more like a book; it was titled Faces of Life and featured some very beautiful photographs from 1930s until now. Their approach to everything is truly new and futuristic. The preface of this limited-edition book/magazine says: “In the 20th century, we focused on models’ faces; in the 21st century, attention is paid to the smiles of the poor, the actions of the elite.”

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