Inspired Interiors: Mary Ching's new digs

Luxury shoe brand Mary Ching is known for a lot of things - understatement not being one of them. Now, and fittingly, the label's new Shanghai HQ, housed in Bridge 8 Creative Zone mirrors the unabashed opulence, playful eccentricity and downright fabulousness of the shoes themselves. Intrigued, CreativeHunt took a closer look at the dazzlingly dizzying rainbow of colours, textures and styles that make up this inspiring interior.
Founded by Alison Mary Ching Yeung back in 2008, the half English half Chinese entrepreneur took a typically hands-on approach in creating the new space. "We only moved in four months ago", she explains. "The building was built in the 1960s and before we moved in, it had been empty for ten years. It was a shell - no electricity, no water, no doors, not even a staircase, but in the space of 35 days [local contractors] had put in marble floors, walls, electricity, plumbing and heating".

Spread across two floors, the space is divided into a downstairs atelier where Alison and her team of designers and interns create their famous and fabulous shoes, and an upstairs events space used regularly for entertaining investors, clients and friends, as well as making for a pretty unique showroom.

"Our last space was like a shoebox - we were all crammed into this tiny room like sardines. Then we were given the wonderful opportunity to move here and we just couldn't refuse - it really gave us the chance to be creative and showcase the Mary Ching brand in a different way."

Different it most certainly is, with that upper level dominated by what the team call The Great Wall of Mary Ching: a vast graffitied surface of pandas, dragons, hearts, and taking centre stage, a portrait of Alison's beloved pug Dim Sum.

"I commissioned four graffiti artists for the space - the first was Tommy Tam, he's been commissioned to do all the NY Style pizza joints, so look out for his graffiti there. He did the panda. Then there was Brand Fury, Smear, Tsol and Mike - it was really fun working with them and brainstorming ideas. Mary Ching is quite colourful as a brand, and I think they translated that into their designs. I'm really pleased with it!"

Regular dinner parties, of course, call for a sizable table - in this case supported by colourful be-stockinged legs and feet and peppered with unusual accoutrements: we love the plastic animal chopstick holders and delightfully mismatched crockery. Vying for attention are large framed artworks, also by those aforementioned graffitiers, shouting out 'God Save Mary Ching', emblazoned - controversially, it turns out - onto UK and China flags.

"It's actually, technically illegal to paint on flags - as is graffiti - but to me that suggests some of the forbidden opulence of the Mary Ching brand as a whole", Alison smiles.

Just off of the rainbow-coloured dining room is a comfortable lounge space, jam-packed with trinkets and treasures from Alison's various and exotic travels. There's drawings from Tibet, fabrics from Thailand and statues from China's farflung provinces, all playfully combined with decidedly more local pieces to eclectic effect.

"I co-founded the Shanghai fashion map, and so that's what we used to paper the wall and ceiling. We do a lot of events and I was thinking I should invest in a proper guest book, but in the end we went for a message wall for people to write on. It's a lot more fun and I love what people have written so far."

The lights, too, are testament to the team's creativity: all handmade, the straw-hat shades inject an extra kick of surreal into the space as a whole. Other favorites include underwear mannequin sidetables, Ching-endorsing cushions, and beautiful stacked Vietnamese trunks as tables. Citing local markets and online emporium Taobao as invaluable sources in the makeover process, its relatively low cost makes Alison's choice of interiors all the more inspiring.

"It's important to not take yourself too seriously and just have fun with it, I think. It was a very industrial space with tin walls and graffiti was a good way to get around that. But it's also quite opulent, and still quite elegant. Fun, humour and playfulness were all important, as was showcasing elements of Chinese design in a contemporary way. English eccentricity meets Chinese opulence: that's what Mary Ching is all about."

Although more conventional, the downstairs atelier also takes a decidedly playful theme, with a five-foot Mao statue greeting visitors, soon to be joined, Alison reveals, by Xi'an warriors in that particular Mary Ching purple...

With new product ranges in the pipeline for 2012 (think scarves, handbags, belts and the like), expect to hear much more from Alison's Chingdom in the coming year. For now, though, keep eyes and ears peeled for news of their occasional in-house sales - we promise it's not just fabulous shoes you'll come away with, but also ideas aplenty for quirky, funky and inspiring interiors. For more details about Mary Ching, check their website here.

Frances Arnold

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