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HK incubation project nurtures creative talent

By Louisa Ku

LOUPE is a design incubation space that embodies China’s traditional jewellery craftsmanship. It is a place that helps to identify and foster new generations of jewellery design talent. Loupe was founded by Chow Tai Fook Jewellery (CTF) and is supported by Chow Tai Fook Art Foundation. Since its inception in April 2018, Loupe has proven to be an effective platform supporting jewellery-making and design. Loupe nurtures young talents with its in-house Design Residency Programme, and offers public workshops led by industry professionals. 

 During their period of mentorship under CTF, designers-in-residence work in a fully-equipped environment to develop new skills and capabilities in jewellery design. The residency programme provides a free workspace and opportunities for participants to sell their jewellery at the venue, while offering marketing and promotional support. According to Fanny Yu, CTF’s group project director, experts from CTF divisions including design, production, retail, marketing, product photography and brand building are invited to share their expertise with the designers. Additionally, globally recognised industry specialists are invited to engage with the designers, keeping them abreast of current market developments and trends.

 Moreover, in order to arouse public interest in jewellery, Loupe has organised workshops hosted by designers-in-residence. These events allow designers to put what they have learnt to good use, while engaging a wider audience and helping them understand more about jewellery design. “We have also invited experts from The Master Studio of Chow Tai Fook to talk about jewellery craftsmanship to the general public. Since inception, we have organised nearly 100 workshops and talks of different kinds,” said Fanny Yu.

“Our in-house exhibitions have promoted innovative pieces from designers-in-residence. We have also collaborated with international designer associations and design institutes to share their creative ideas with our audience,” Yu added.

 Loupe is always seeking talented new designers to recruit to the programme. Besides processing online applications received via its website, Loupe also meets with young designers who visit the venue at PMQ, Sheung Wan, to learn more about the programme. “We go to handicraft markets to promote Loupe to designers, and we encourage local and overseas schools to introduce interested students to our initiative,” said Yu.

 Loupe is very active in international jewellery fairs which link local designers with overseas buyers, promote Hong Kong designs and create business opportunities. According to Yu, Loupe took part in the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair last year. The specially designed booth featured avant-garde exhibits from Loupe that attracted the attention of buyers from international brands. These experts appreciated the creative offerings from Hong Kong and are interested in opportunities for cooperation.

 Besides the September fair, Loupe participated in the fashion jewellery show at AsiaWorld-Expo in March and, in a bid to outsource Hong Kong designs to the Greater Bay Area, took part in the Shunde International Jewellery fair in November.

 Taking a multi-faceted approach, Loupe helps designers unleash their creativity. Loupe works with professionals from a range of industries, like environmental protection and textiles, and enterprises to expose designers to diversified cultures, ideas, themes and materials in an effort to foster creativity.

The Designer Residency Programme is a comprehensive mentorship scheme for a duration of four months. Some participating designers have said the duration of the workshop is too short to complete all tasks including projects, workshops and exhibitions. They believe they need more time to sharpen their design and craftsmanship skills. Fanny Yu says there are plans to extend the length of the programme to six months, allowing designers to make the most of their time in residence.

 Yu has witnessed the evolution of the designers-in-residence programme since the commencement of Loupe. She has been particularly impressed by the creativity of the designers. “All of them have distinct fortes. While some are good at handicrafts or knitting, others are great using pearls or jade. Their exceptional creativity is well-recognised by our business partners. The umbrella brands under CTF help us select the right candidates for collaboration,” she said.

 Craftsmanship, according to Yu, is an area that designers both need and strive to improve. “Our masters come every Monday to instruct designers on how to enhance jewellery making skills and techniques. This is Loupe’s best-attended class. Such active participation testifies to the real need designers have to enhance craftsmanship,” she elaborated.

 Looking ahead, Fanny Yu said that Loupe will continue to organise a wide range of workshops and exhibitions, and participate in more shows in order to create more exchanges and development opportunities for our designers to achieve their dreams. (Photo courtesy: Loupe) 

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