Premium Jewellery Designer & Blogger
At 32, Chen Chen was an auditor at a leading finance firm, but her true calling was far more creative. Following her heart, she retrained at the ArtCenter College Of Design, California, ultimately launching her premium jewellery brand DOVETAIL, which creates exquisitely crafted pieces based on a traditional Chinese carpentry construction technique. While her brand has become a celebrity favourite, Chen Chen recently took another leap into the unknown, experimenting as a fashion blogger.
‘I believe the comfort zone is meant to be broken,’ she said.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
My jewellery designs are inspired by the mortise and tenon construction of ancient Chinese carpentry, which can be considered a legacy of Eastern aesthetics. I really wanted to incorporate this element into my designs, but it requires an extremely high level of precision in industrial production, which is not available in traditional processing factories. I couldn't find a ready-made solution on the market, so I visited dozens of factories and, together with my factory manager and production line masters, spent more than a year grinding out the process. To overcome challenges, I constantly improve my knowledge and ability. I give my all to everything I do.
How did you get started in jewellery design?
Like many people, I chose to do an undergraduate degree in finance because I followed my parents' wishes. I felt it would be a good way to get a job, fit in and have a straightforward life.
Two years in, I began to think it wasn't for me and that I was more interested in product design and branding. At the suggestion of an architectural designer friend, I applied for the industrial design course at the Central University of the United States. The most significant capital of being young is having room for trial and error. If you find you're not suitable for something, that's okay.
The result of my course change was very positive; my confidence improved, and my direction became more and more specific. Two years of arduous training gave me the means to cope with any difficulties, and the entrepreneurial endeavours that followed were no hardship compared to my course.
At a glance, the jobs I've done seem unconnected, but they have a similar logic behind them, building something from scratch, turning insights and inspiration into products and services.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
There is an absolute joy that comes to the heart when you do what you love. It makes you forget about time and labour and enjoy a spontaneous satisfaction that has nothing to do with the outside world. For me, designing and entrepreneurship are both such things. Luckily for me, they happen to guarantee me an income. After all, it's hard to keep going just for the passion of something.
How would you describe your personal style?
In my mind, a good design must not only look good but also fulfil the needs of the user. I'm a big advocate of the '10-year wardrobe' concept and favour classic, timeless styles. Sometimes, we buy cheap things to save money and leave them in the corner doing nothing, then buy new ones later, unknowingly spending more money. I like to buy less and buy better.
Do you have a favourite Johnstons of Elgin piece from the shoot?
I chose light-coloured pieces for this shoot because, in winter, light shades of cashmere feel like a little warm sun. I was very impressed by the ombré scarf, which is made from many shades of cashmere yarn. The transition of colours was very natural, like the earth meeting the starry sky. The scarf was comfortable, soft and lightweight.
Johnstons of Elgin products will not go out of fashion even if they are put in the wardrobe for ten years, and their inner beauty, durability, and sense of strength all resonate with me.