Jewel architect, Bao Bao Wan is one of China’s most notable and yet most rebellious success stories yet.
Wan is the Grandaughter of Wan Li-a member of China’s first generation Communist revolutionaries-and known to most Chinese as a Red Princess (the title assigned to women raised within the confines of Zhongnanhai-the red compound where Chinese officials and their families reside). This fact alone could be probable cause for hesitation. Why should we trust and respect the work of a Communist descendant?
All of us are standing at the ropes of the global economy, waiting anxiously to see who crosses the finish line first, the biggest contestant being China. And I think we collectively suffer from a similar anxiety. If China wins, what does that mean for the world? Will they be a positive or negative influence on our lives? China, still very foreign to most of us, has managed to push its way into our lives on very short notice.
This is the largest obstacle China has to overcome. How are they going to familiarize the world with their culture in a non-threatening way and without compromising their own heritage and culture? How do they address the past without rushing into the fury of modernity and leaving tradition behind in its wake?
Bao Bao Wan, aware of her reputation as not a descendant of a Party leader, but also as a party girl in the media, has taken above concerns into consideration; developing a brand that people love first and consider Chinese, second. Raised in traditional setting and under a very watchful eye, Having disagreed with traditional Chinese thought by the early age of 15, she was having none of it. Her tolerance for China’s antiquated view of women-marry at an early age, pop out a baby boy and peak at the age of 26-was out the window. With that, she urged to be sent abroad for the remainder of her high school years, landing herself in Dobbs Ferry, New York. From there, she pursued her undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College, majoring in Photography and French. Immediately after graduation she traveled to Paris, where in 2003 became the only Chinese-born girl to be invited to the famous Crillon Ball, where she made many of her longest-lasting and strongest connections. She went on to receive an advanced degree from the Gemology Institute of America in Hong Kong.
Jewelry (for its timelessness appeal) and fashion became her rebellious outlet; taking a stand against old-world rigidity.
In 2007, she launched her Bao Bao Wan jewelry line, paying tribute to her Chinese heritage while also appealing to an international aesthetic. Many of her inspirations come from what she absorbed as a child such as her mother’s ink based paintings, the natural world as defined by traditional Chinese philosophers and anything else that crosses her path.
Opals, pearls, emeralds and diamonds dominate her collections, perfectly seated in their thrones of 18K gold.
Whether it is the butterfly lifting off from a piece ofhard bamboo in her L’Amour Paradoxal collection riffing with gold and diamonds, an owl in black and white diamonds to symbolize wealth and happiness, the impressionable leaves of fall in Beijing, or a broach in the shape of a traditional Chinese fan, Wan finds ways to transform her surroundings into transcendent pieces of art.
Embracing her presence on earth and concourse of duality, she sees herself as a “Translator of Beauty,” rather than a strictly defined Chinese or even something else entirely. Rather, she creates and her work becomes what it wants to be. Her only job is to communicate what she sees into something to share with others. Simple as that.
Her showroom is currently within Zhongnanhai, where she was raised.
Today her brand has a following from A-list clients such as Fan Bingbing, Li Bingbing, and Zhou Xun, and Vogue China’s editor Angelica Cheung. And last year she joined together with Zaha Hadid, Stephen Webster, and Patrick Mauboussin on the Enlightened TM project for Swarovski.
And for you makeup lovers out there who’d love to see these gorgeous colors on your smooching lips! Wan recently launched her makeup collection with MAC cosmetics so check it out!