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Mary Ching: East Meets West for the Modern Woman

Alison Mary Ching Yeung’s sexy brand of shoe design is on its way to becoming a global powerhouse. The British-Chinese designer has already established Mary Ching as one of China’s first international luxury brands and when TALK recently visited the fashionista, she revealed plans are afoot to transform her local boutique brand into a “Chingdom.”

She’s been described as ‘China’s Jimmy Choo’ and the ‘Louboutin of Shanghai’, but Alison Yeung is nothing if not original. Her coloured hair hangs in loose braids on either side of her head as she and her pug, Dim Sum, greet visitors at the door of her office, housed above Mary Ching’s flagship boutique in Ferguson Lane.

Educated in England, France, Italy and China, Yeung now resides and works in Shanghai and brings her special mix of East and West to the business of designing show-stopping shoes for what she calls the “Mary Ching woman".

“We cater to young, professional women. These shoes empower her,” Yeung explains as she sits amidst the chaos of her creative space. As well as looking for empowerment through their footwear, even a cursory glance at Yeung’s designs makes it obvious the Mary Ching woman is someone not afraid to stand out from the crowd. Mary Ching’s Autumn/Winter 2010 collection, Adulterous Empress, is a feast of decadent materials, including velvet, mink, cashmere, suede and fox fur, with Yeung’s signature platform stilettos and sky-scraping wedge heels. 

Though she says her inspirations change with the seasons, a classic beauty runs through her collections and she confesses to a long-time love of vintage. Keeping abreast of contemporary designers is also obviously important in this line of work and though she declines to name specific contemporaries who inspire her, Yeung says she is most attracted to modern designers with a sense of humour. “I’m always looking for an element of playfulness, heritage mixed with playfulness.”

This sense of play is certainly on display when we visit Mary Ching’s studio. When asked about her favourite designs, Yeung heads straight for a collection of bespoke, brightly-coloured Converse sneakers her team is currently working on for a client. “Aren’t these great?” she says, holding up a pink sneaker adorned with feathers and jewels. 

Despite the occasional foray into eccentric sneakers, it has traditionally been the combination of Asian themes and local materials with European quality and sophistication that sets the Mary Ching aesthetic apart. It’s a combination which obviously stems from Yeung’s own multi-cultural background, though she also believes it reflects the conflicts and complexities within every modern woman.

“There’s so much rich culture from the East and the West, and this combination of cultures creates this tension – it’s sexy but vulnerable, fashionable but fragile,” she says. “Women are never one or the other; they’re always a combination of things.”

Proudly ‘Made in China, created in Shanghai,’ Yeung makes no secret of her desire to lead the charge in ushering in a new era for luxury goods in the Middle Kingdom. Despite a reputation for quantity over quality in the Chinese manufacturing industry, she is confident a change is on the horizon.

“I think there’s going to be a shift in attitude. That’s coming, I see it coming now,” she says. “Chinese people are learning about taste, which pushes them to improve the quality of the goods they are manufacturing and buying. People want to invest in good products and take pride in their possessions.”

There are already a great number of women in China and around the world salivating over the prospect of making a pair of Mary Ching shoes a cherished possession, and if quality combined with unique design is the key to attracting more customers in the future, then Alison Yeung is sure to be crowned queen of the Chingdom.

Mary Ching – Eminent Luxury Luxury Shoes and Accessories. Boutique 106, Ferguson Lane, 376 Wukang Lu, near Tai’an Lu. Tel: 134 8286 9378. Web:


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