Zacui is an online design store and brand initiated in 2008 by young designer, Wei Yun. Operating on Taobao (China’s version of eBay), Zacui has gradually built a dedicated customer base through steady sales and word of mouth promotion. We spoke with Wei Yun about running an online design store in China, as well as its benefits and disadvantages.
Where are you originally from, and what did you study?
I am originally from Lanzhou, and I studied graphic design at the university there. Upon graduating, however, I decided to move to Beijing as I felt that the Lanzhou lifestyle was too slow. I took a short programme at BIFT for about half a year, where I learnt more about fashion design. I practice graphic design less and less now, but I have taken up photography more recently.
How was Zacui conceived?
I’ve always been creative from a very young age so a project like this was inevitable. Also, I found that I liked the making process associated with fashion design more than graphic design and started experimenting with creating small items such as jewellery, bags and gloves. In 2007, I took part in a designers’ market – Feng Guo – and, a year later, I founded my online store on Taobao.
How many people are there in your team?
At the moment, we have a small team of about 7-8 people who also handle production.
How do you market yourself?
I don’t put too much effort into marketing; I mainly concentrate my efforts on building up the store. I find that my clientele usually forms itself and that many first time buyers become long-term customers. My work is quite special and customers spread the word as a result, so a lot of promotion happens via word of mouth.
Who are your customers?
My customers are usually local Chinese with a smattering of international buyers.
What do you feel are the advantages of using an online service like Taobao?
The main thing for me is the degree of flexibility that comes alongside managing an online store. With a physical retail space, one has to ensure that there is someone to man the store at all times and engage with consumers. With an online store, I am free to concentrate on designing.
What are you inspired by?
Much of my inspiration comes from observing my surroundings; listening to music, watching movies, reading or even taking a long walk. However, there are some more direct links between my work and culture, for example, a couple of my jewellery pieces are inspired by ancient Chinese poems. I’ve also drawn inspiration from the Chinese lunar calendar and autumn’s approaching, as well as ethnic minority embroidery. One of my best selling pieces at the moment is a set of black, silk gloves featuring a dragon print (2012 is the Year of the Dragon).
A few years ago, I also looked at details behind Chinese craftsmanship. I created a series of bags in response: the handles of these bags resemble various traditional Chinese shapes. Other bags have also been inspired by lattice window patterns and traditional furniture. My aim was to reinterpret common shapes used in architecture, furniture and fashion.
My latest collection is inspired by the 5 elements (fire, water, earth, metal, wood). I have just released the first piece of this collection: a black necklace that represents metal. It’s actually made of wood, but looks like stone.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to collaborate with other designers and open a new studio space.
Many thanks to Lynn Zhang for interpreting.