Travel Meets Art: The Stories of St. Regis Global Connoisseur and Jewelry Designer Wan Bao Bao

In this interview, she shares more about her exclusive pendant design for St. Regis and the inspiration behind it.

Photo: St Regis Hotels & Resorts

The meteoric rise of jewelry designer Wan Bao Bao can be attributed to her inimitable style and her penchant for modernizing even the most traditional emblems of Chinese culture into highly wearable pieces.

We get a glimpse of how her personal travels have inspired her design process and cemented her newly minted position as St. Regis’ Global Connoisseur.

Growing up …

My upbringing gave me plenty of inspiration, from ancient Chinese architecture to my childhood environment. As such, my jewelry designs are full of Chinese symbolism as well as emblems of butterflies and bamboo gardens. As an only child, I spent more time with nature and architecture than with friends.

Photo: St Regis Hotels & Resorts

I like to work with …

18-karat gold, like in the teapot pendant which I designed for St. Regis. Other foundation materials include diamonds and gemstones. Everywhere I go, especially Thailand and Sri Lanka, I source beautiful and colorful gemstones such as the sapphire.

I modernize tradition in my designs by …

Finding the right balance. Certain symbols may be traditionally Chinese but their shapes can be contemporized and modernized.

My inspiration is sparked by …

My education in America and France, along with what I’ve studied in literature. I read about existentialism and I believe that design inspiration can be transferred by memory and smell. For instance, a whiff of a certain perfume on the streets could bring back a strong memory of your mother’s embrace during your childhood days. My upbringing, education, as well as shock at the differences between the West and East; all these memories come together in my design and in terms of my material choice.

Photo: St Regis Hotels & Resorts

Being a St. Regis Global Connoisseur means …

Being capable of paying attention to the finer details. To me, St. Regis is comfort and a second home. Without comfort, any kind of glamor or beauty ceases to matter. My relationship with the brand began in my childhood where I remembered running up and down the staircase of St. Regis New York, and since then, the property has always been a combination of comfort, history, and culture to me. Like the hotel’s butler service and refined design, my jewelry is full of details that pertain to how well each piece sits on your skin and complements your personal style.

As a designer …

You have to consider a sense of beauty, your customer, how they feel. That’s exactly like hotel service.

My design process …

Starts with me envisioning a shape, then doing a sketch which cannot be overly dimensional, if not the design becomes too bulky. To me, comfort is very important. I consider things like quality and practicality, such as making sure the jewelry doesn’t scratch the wearer.

Photo: St Regis Hotels & Resorts

My exclusive “teapot pendant” design for St. Regis is …

An embodiment of the hotel’s afternoon tea culture, from the iconic Bloody Mary cocktail to the exquisite tea set, and not forgetting the glamorous lifestyle. The glamor is evident in the polished gold, the ruby on top, and the diamonds that pay homage to St. Regis matriarch Caroline Astor’s love for the precious stone.

My travels inspire me …

Especially in terms of architecture, as it relates to the way the locals were raised and their culture. While staying in St. Regis Florence, I was captivated by the reflection of a Duomo (cathedral) in the river. As such, I got a pencil and notepad from the hotel valet so that I would do a quick sketch. In Bagan, I found inspiration in the hot air balloons as they float over the majestic pagodas of the ancient city; this led to me designing pieces with beautiful pagodas in them.

Photo: St Regis Hotels & Resorts

I’ve designed other things apart from jewelry …

Such as cosmetics and smart cars–I was the first in China to design smart cars and everything sold out in several hours! I also designed a lipstick for Mac Cosmetics, which was a very interesting project. Hotels-wise, this collaboration with St. Regis is my very first.

The lastest thing that inspired me was …

A Chinese traditional bridge I saw while walking in Beijing’s Summer Palace three months ago. But first, I’m working on creating a jewelry piece inspired by the Temple of Heaven.

Wan Bao Bao’s teapot pendant for St. Regis is priced at US$900.

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