Harry Winston may specialise in exceptional diamond creations for the body but, with the opening of its new salon in Shanghai this month, it has also created an exceptional jewellery box to adorn the Chinese landscape. Built from scratch in the smart Xintiandi district and tucked cosily into the base of the Andaz hotel, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, the Harry Winston pavilion reflects the shape and character of a faceted stone.
The structure and interior were overseen by Harry Winston's regular design associate, Bill Sofield of New York's Studio Sofield. 'Light was the starting point,' Sofield explained at the opening event. 'I've often thought that jewellery shops can feel like little prisons, so we aimed to have as much natural light flowing through the building as possible, as though it were being reflected in a diamond.'
Sofield has a point about the dark, claustrophobic nature of many high-end jewellery boutiques, products of an industry that is understandably furtive about drawing too much attention to the value of its wares. His design is a welcome antidote and completely transforms the retail experience.
While there are no closed-off areas, the two-tier building has viewing areas upstairs and down, where displays are carefully angled to reflect the products. Subtle colour and lighting variations make the men's and women's watch areas feel right for their intended consumer yet, at the same time, open to all.
The building succeeds in bringing the traditional, sometimes stuffy business of jewellery shopping elegantly up to date, welcoming casual wanderers and serious investors alike. Meanwhile the old-style gold font used on the exterior (created by a Winston designer in the 1930s) nods to the company's heritage (Harry Winston established his eponymous New York boutique in 1932) and adds a distinctive New York touch.
To celebrate its foray into Shanghai, Harry Winston has unveiled a range of limited-edition watches and a line of charms in platinum and diamonds, an HW monogram and lucky '8' among them. It has also launched the Qipao Ultimate Adornments collection to pay homage to the brand's latest destination.