After four years as a press officer for Dior Homme and 12 as an independent consultant for clients such as Kitsuné, Chevignon and De Fursac, Jacques Shu opted to move away from the fashion world and begin a whole new career as an estate agent. We talk to a passionate enthusiast who has never been afraid to step outside his comfort zone...
What drives you in your new career and what’s your source of inspiration?
My new job isn’t really all that different from the world of press relations; in the end, it’s still about knowing how to advise people, reassure them and help them make the best possible choice so that ultimately, they’re satisfied. Whether it’s journalists, brands or now property buyers, it’s always meeting people and talking to them that inspire me.
I’m motivated by people putting their trust in me. I find myself caught up in the details of each client’s life, whether there’s a new baby, an inheritance or the start – or even the end – of a love affair. I often come in at a critical point in their lives and we’re there together, trying to turn over a new page and find the place where they’ll start their new adventure; suddenly I’m a small stone in a vast building.
Who are the people who’ve played a critical role in your life?
I’ve been fortunate enough to come across people who’ve believed in me, people who live by instinct and in the moment, rather than in theory. Meetings like that are hugely important, but the most critical figure in my life is my father. He gave me a taste for putting in the effort and an appetite for work. I try to live up to the courage he’s shown – and has had to show – in his life. He fled China in 1946 with a stream of other refugees. He was just ten years old, and alone: his parents stayed behind and he only saw them 30 years later. When he arrived in Taiwan he had nothing, but he studied there and then left for Paris. The only address he had was for a Catholic home. He studied for his PhD in Jussieu, learned everything, became a university professor, created a home and raised four children. He imbued me with the endless desire for a better life, never being afraid to start from scratch, daring to put yourself at risk, ultimately to win the game, however long it might take.
Is the city or country that inspires you anything like you?
I love travelling in South-East Asia, especially Thailand; it’s a country where I feel really at home. They have managed to combine the culture of the past with something that can seem almost futuristic at times. I’m thinking in particular of Koh Lipe, a little island right down in the south. I also lived in India for three months last year; it was a time to take stock, almost like an initiation. The right place to question how you’re living and decide to do something radically different...
What’s the art of living, in your view?
My father made me aware of free choice, the freedom each of us has to control our own life. So I make clear decisions about what I do, how I live, whom I decide to live with or how to tackle a particular situation. You need to stay in control of your life rather than just endure it; otherwise, you just betray yourself indefinitely. You need to be brave enough to follow your intuition, wherever it takes you. My ideal epitaph would be “He lived the way he wanted to”.
What was your top project?
I’ve been proud of many projects. There was the collaboration with Chevignon, for example, which started out from a simple idea I suggested, even with no experience of styling. That was another time when I had good people alongside me, who were bold enough to embark on something new. We reinterpreted the iconic Chevignon padded jacket for five cities: London, inspired by a British tartan, Paris, with a grey chevron, Tokyo, with a Japanese floral fabric, Capri with a seersucker pattern and New York, with a new take on the teddy bear.
What’s your favourite expression?
Death is the only thing you don’t recover from. People often forget that, but everything else is relative.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced or will face in the future?
When I stepped outside the comfortable world of Dior to go freelance at the age of 26. I felt as though I was leaping into the void.
Looking back, I loved that feeling, all the possibilities you only start to glimpse if you’re brave enough to risk everything, when you decide to start all over again from scratch. I’ll always be pleased that at least I tried; giving up in the face of difficulty is something I find particularly annoying.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing instead?
I’d have liked to be an interior designer, creating an atmosphere, finding just the right item or piece of furniture, changing how somewhere looks, working with space. In my new job, I’m always instinctively drawn to reworking the layout, projecting myself into the place and the other person’s imagination.
Where’s a favourite place you’re likely to be found?
If it’s not Bila Beach, then it might be at a yoga class or various places in northern Paris, for example Bob’s Kitchen in Halle Pajol in the 18th district for brunch, a really excellent restaurant (vegan andgluten free). La Brasserie du 104 in the 19th, Yikou, l’Aqueduc Street in the 10th or Maison Nomade in the 10th. For me, these are places that express the changes in northern Paris; I’ve been following theregeneration process closely...
What’s your favourite object? How much does it weigh?
Undoubtedly, the watch I finally treated myself to, the reward you give yourself when you’ve worked hard. It’s a steel Rolex Air King with a dark blue background I’d wanted for a very long time. I wear it all the time, just like my wedding ring, though that’s symbolic rather than just a favourite thing. It must weigh 100 grams.
What carries weight in your life?
That’s an interesting question. Weight suggests importance as much as it does some kind of burden, so I’d say education. Education is critical. It forms and shapes people, helps us to live together and respect other people; it’s a compass, until it reaches the point where it stops us from moving forward... You need to be able to make the most of it and then free yourself from it to write your own story.
Which LE GRAMME item(s) do you own? How do you wear/use them?
I wear a silver Cable and Bangle on my right wrist and even sleep with them on. I wear them together with a little Thai bracelet, a souvenir of my first trip with my partner.
If LE GRAMME were a decorative style, what would it be?
Definitely a Hausmannian apartment for the brand’s resolute French identity and its Parisian chic – discreet, sober and elegant. So Hausmannian but with very clean lines, not much furniture and a whitewashed parquet floor. Something contemporary and minimalist.
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