Taiwanese jeweller Cindy Chao has a taste for haute luxury and hot sauce
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My personal style signifier is a Saint Laurent jacket that’s structural and neat, with an elegant cut. I don’t wear much jewellery, but for important occasions I wear an emerald dragonfly brooch that I designed. Emerald is my favourite gemstone – I love green – and the brooch really reflects my mood.
The last thing I bought and loved was an artwork called Breeze Over Water – Autumn by Su Xiaobai. It is traditional Chinese lacquer painted on wood and I love its special texture – the patterns seem spontaneous. When I see it hanging on my wall, its cushion shape reminds me of an emerald. It brightens up the entire space.
And the thing I’m eyeing next is conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s Top Dog monoprint. It’s a bit crazy and I love the colours and the phrases: “call the shots”, “master of the universe”. It’s all about the self and ego. I want it for my office.
The best gift I’ve given recently was a pair of cream-coloured, calfskin Hermès gloves, with elegant mocha-coloured stitching, for my son. I only see him twice a year as he studies abroad. He texted from Philadelphia, saying he was very cold. I was in Geneva at the time and immediately went to the Hermès shop, bought the gloves and FedExed them to him. When they arrived, he called to say he would be very warm from now on – that made me happy.
And the best one I’ve received was a collection of 60 hand-decorated Dutch clogs that each member of my team made for my birthday. I didn’t want them to buy me anything, so I asked everyone to personalise a clog and was amazed by the creativity. I’ve placed them on the floor of my office and it looks like a piece of installation art.
An indulgence I would never forgo is champagne. I like the small producer Salon, which makes a single-terroir from the Côte des Blancs.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. I learnt how our brains can be trained to break habits. In a way, my creativity can be a bad habit in that once I get going, I can’t stop. I’m very impulsive.
My party jewellery staple is my 2015 Black Label Masterpiece X Mystère de la Nuit earrings. There’s a subtle glamour created through emeralds and sapphires. Also, combining titanium and silver was a real challenge back in 2015 and the piece reflects both my personality and work as an artist. The motif is symbolic: I would like my life to bloom like these flowers.
An unforgettable place I’d love to return to is Oman, which I visited two years ago with no expectations. I was immediately taken by its landscape – vast desert with rocky topography, but by the sea. It showed me a type of extreme beauty, and when I looked at the desert, I felt a sense of quiet power and connection with the land.
A recent “find” is Sushi Hirata, in Tokyo’s Ginza district. It’s tiny, with something like eight seats. Head chef Hirata Norimasa pursues the high art of sushi with a spirit of perfection that really resonates with my creative philosophy. 828 Ginza Takamoto Building, 6F, Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo 1004-0061 (+813-3572 0828)
My style icon is the president of the European Central Bank and former chair of the IMF, Christine Lagarde. She’s strong and competent, and I admire how she presents herself. She’s not traditionally glamorous – her beauty and power come from within, so will last.
The last meal that truly impressed me was at Paul Bocuse in Lyon. I had the signature black truffle soup, which mixes foie gras with lots of black truffle. It was deliciously heavy – the kind of food I have only once in a season. bocuse.fr
I nearly always drink champagne, but if I’m in New York in the colder weather my cocktail of choice is an occasional whisky highball.
The last music I downloaded was a Maria Callas album. My favourites are “Madama Butterfly” and “Ave Maria”. I like to immerse myself in her amazingly wide range and the emotions her voice carries. I’m attracted to her dramatic life and can almost imagine the challenges and struggles she endured, just from listening to her sing.
In my fridge you’ll always find avocado, sugar-free iced tea and at least five types of Taiwanese-style, super-spicy hot sauce, which I like to put in my pasta.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a half-leather, half-fur coat from Jitrois. I like the combination of different materials, plus it’s easy to travel with.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Van Gogh. Being a great creator takes courage, and while most would say that Van Gogh’s depression made him crazy, for me, he was so brave. He broke boundaries and didn’t care about reality.
My favourite room in my house is my walk-in wardrobe. I buy a lot of things I don’t always wear but my wardrobe is like my personal toy room. I can go inside and play.
The objects I would never part with are my sketchbook and my Bible, which are always with me when I travel. I particularly love the sketchbook I use now – it has thick, rough paper, which is easier for sketching, and was bought in a small shop in Venice that I’ll probably never be able to find again.
The people I rely on for personal wellbeing are my personal trainers – Redick Chen, for weight-training and some HIIT, and Echo Huang, my yoga instructor. I like the balance I get between the two.
The beauty staple I’m never without is Frédéric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady by Dominique Ropion. Name aside, it has a mix of feminine and masculine elements, which reflects both sides of my personality. £245 for 100ml
My favourite websites are luxuryculture.com, which I’ve followed for 10 years. I like how it combines fashion, architecture and culture, all in a sleek design. And masterclass.com, where various industry leaders are interviewed. Each episode is only 10 to 15 minutes long but you get into their mindset – recently I’ve been watching two to three before bed.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be an architect. My jewellery is highly sculptural, so I feel I’ve already satisfied my work as a sculptor.
I always dance when I hear jazz, invariably with champagne – and a cigarette.
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