Chinese designer Ray Yan has long been fascinated by the balance of contrasts. Her Hard Candy brand of jewellery, launched in 2008, marries primarily gothic themes and lighthearted charm. She lets JNA in on her unique approach to design.
You majored in Decorative Art at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology and Fine Arts. How did your studies help you as a jewellery designer?
Ray Yan: In an academic setting, you get to learn your chosen trade systematically while being exposed to many other disciplines. The most important lesson though is the philosophy of design, which will guide you throughout your career. My classmates were all very talented. We competed with and learned from each other – that’s how you get better.
Why did you establish Hard Candy?
Yan: To me, the ideal woman always has two sides: She is tough and she is sweet. This fascinating contradiction is captured in the words “hard candy,” which struck me as a good name for my brand since it reflects my worldview. I founded Hard Candy because I wanted to share with the world what I see, feel and like through jewellery.
How has the Hard Candy brand been received by the market?
Yan: The main feedback is that our jewellery pieces have very strong personalities. Some of them are even perceived as intimidating and “hard to pull off.” But that is precisely why people like our creations, which are true to themselves and unlike any other.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Yan: My creations are shaped by my feelings, my hobbies and my everyday life. Sometimes, the inspiration is drawn from books that have moved me deeply. I also derive ideas from my travels, from movies I enjoy or from other aspects of daily life. So there really is no lack of inspiration for creativity.
What challenges do you encounter when designing jewellery? Do you usually stick to your original vision or change it along the way?
Yan: Jewellery design comes with a number of challenges. At times, I may not be familiar enough with the technique or material involved. When that happens, the nature of the technique or material trumps the design. Other times, I prioritise the design and go to great lengths to explore all possibilities.
You have garnered quite a celebrity following. What goes into creating “celeb pieces”?
Yan: Celebrities gravitate towards our works for a variety of reasons. In most cases, they choose our brand because they just love our creations. I do not think we have ever created a “celeb piece,” in the sense that it was deliberately designed with celebrities in mind. There’s no telling whether a jewellery piece will catch the fancy of famous people. A designer’s job is simply to achieve his or her own vision.
Since Hard Candy is an independent brand, how do you reach your customers?
Yan: We sell our jewellery online and through multi-brand boutiques. Being an independent brand, Hard Candy has not grown really fast, but we have been making a profit from the very beginning.