A Birmingham-trained jewellery designer is helping Midland talent break into the lucrative Far East market with a showcase in Beijing.
Chinese-born Fei Liu, who came to train at the city’s School of Jewellery more than 15 years ago, has now become an ambassador for the British jewellery industry after forming a trade link between the UK and China.
Last year Mr Liu opened a private event at Beijing’s luxury Shin Kong Place department store, designed to offer Chinese consumers an alternative to an over-saturated branded jewellery market while opening new doors for British designers.
Next month he hopes to repeat the success of last year’s showcase when he takes a new group of designers, including four from the Midlands, to the Chinese city.
Speaking from Hong Kong, Mr Liu said: “As a Chinese-British designer, what I try to do is work to align the Chinese and British mentalities – building a bridge between them.
“Everybody knows Britain is the best country for creative innovation.
“Our business is growing in China. We have a number of bespoke clients there that need to focus our attention.
“That is why I have to work in China more.”
Mr Liu came to study in the School of Jewellery after hearing about it through the UK’s Department of Education.
He established Fei Liu Fine Jewellery in the Jewellery Quarter in 2004 and now employs seven staff.
He has two flagship stores in Beijing and his products are stocked in high-end jewellers across the UK, Ireland and Japan.
Mr Liu’s first showcase in Beijing was supported by British Jewellery and Giftware International and the Birmingham Assay Office, both based in the Jewellery Quarter.
“It took me two years to understand the city and maybe five years to appreciate it,” the award-winning designer said.
“My tutor at the School of Jewellery, Maria Hanson, my lecturer and mentor, educated me and gave me the experiences to be creative and how to be original.
“I’m always happy to tell people what Birmingham is like and what the people are like.”
Mr Liu has been named in Professional Jeweller magazine’s Hot 100 for the second time in three years and is described as an “industry trailblazer” – one of eight teams or individuals selected for “forging their own way in the industry”.
In July he was shortlisted for Designer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards and he has also been appointed to represent Platinum Guild International, a marketing organisation which promotes the use of the precious metal.
It has been quite a rise for Mr Liu, which he puts down to a number of small triumphs along the way rather than one big break.
“The first was winning the Goldsmiths Award in 2000,” he said.
“My second break was being brave enough to invest in my first shop in China to use what I learned in the UK.
“The way which China saw me changed, they saw me as foreign.
“The Chinese economy has grown so fast, which means the competition is clearer, you can win the market.
“China is no longer a domestic market. There’s a lot of competition from France, America, Brazil and others. I don’t feel strange being in China, I feel very competitive.
“The British are good at selling our history. I want them to experience what I have experienced and learn what I have learned in the UK.
“In three years in China our sales have been at least four times that of when we started.”
And having lived in the Jewellery Quarter for 15 years, he has no intention of swapping it for the bright lights of London or New York.
“People ask me ‘would you consider London or New York?’,” he said.
“I go to New York a few times a year for clients, but I don’t want to live there.
“London is too busy. In Birmingham I can live in the city but in 20 minutes I can be in the countryside where most of my inspiration comes from.
“Living in Birmingham is more homely and comfortable.”