Soft Mountains is much more like a multicultural platform rather than a fashion brand, it's key aim is to promote the cultural diversity and our rich artisanal traditions and raise the awareness, whether it’s celebrating Chinese ethnic minority aesthetic, or empowering local indigenous community. We aim to start a dialogue between the past and future.
In September 2019, we held our first exhibition in London. London means a lot for us. Our team members are all graduated from London college of Fashion, and we met each other there. It’s the place that has evolved our perspectives and shifted our mindset. It’s the place that made me realize the value of my identity and culture as an ethnic minority youth. Finally the soft mountains idea was born in London.
We named the exhibition as ‘ The Pieces We Are’ in order to pay tribute to our roots and my people behind the brand. ‘We’ stands for diligent and talented ethnic people; the skilled local indigenous artisans; the like-minded friends who supporting us along the journey.
We celebrate the rich culture of the Nuosu. The exhibition is organized around the core values of Soft Mountains: History and Culture, Craft and Sustainability, and Reinterpretation and Design.
Chapter 1: History & Culture
We come from heritage. By knowing our past, we get to the future.
Reflecting our founder’s Nuosu background, Soft Mountains has heavily drawn inspiration from the depth and cultural wealth of Nuosu life. In their rugged environment of high mountains and deep valleys, they lived a life in harmony with nature and developed a rich cultural tradition of ritual and the arts.
The photography show in this section provided a glimpse into the Nuosu way of life and philosophy， tracking back how does the culture look originally.
Chapter 2: Craft & Sustainability
Craft is our vivid living history and memory.
This section is a nod to our brilliant artisans. Craft and community form the foundations of Soft Mountains. The Nuosu people have a profound affection for silver, and their metal-working tradition dates back over a thousand years. Nousu silver jewelry contains their whole cosmology inseparably connected to nature and all things and powers inhabiting it.
We see our artisans – who master ancient techniques running through generations – as true collaborators. Each year we visit them for one to two-month-long research trips. Working directly with craft-makers without middlemen allows us to maintain transparency in our supply chain and pay our master artisans fairly for their contributions.
We consider ourselves as a cultural exchange platform more than a simple fashion brand. We aim to sustain and celebrate long-standing traditions and provide Nuosu people in rural Liangshan with a means of economic independence. In keeping with our sustainable ethos, some of our pieces are made from upcycled dead stock silver and vintage jewelry.
The images in this room document one of our research trips travelling through the Cool Mountains area in Liangshan in Sichuan Province in 2018. It uncovers the exquisiteness and beauty of the craftsmanship providing a spotlight on our talented artisans and neglected traditional handcraft techniques.
Chapter 3: Reinterpretation & Design
Tradition is like a flowing river. We want to work with our heritage to create newness. We want to tell a different story about ethnic minority than the typical stereotypes and cliches.
Nuosu heritage lies at our core. In our collections, the openwork beads and the four-pointed stars are essential elements of traditional Nuosu jewelry, carrying the meanings of auspiciousness and blessings.
We are proud of our Nuosu heritage as well as its aesthetics, but not limited by its traditional expression. We aim to use design to create new and authentic conversations around it. We seek to find a fine balance between the past and the future by introducing new designs, materials and techniques that have never been seen before in Nuosu areas.
By extracting these elements from the conventional way Nuosu people wear their jewelry, we hope to plant a new energising force into the tradition. In doing so we aim to create high-quality products with a contemporary look, which broadens both the meaning and appeal of “indigenous” jewelry.
The most seductive thing in existence is the beauty beneath the surface. Soft Mountains stems from a deep love for heritage, craftsmanship as well as nature. We are proud of our Nuosu heritage as well as its aesthetics and seek to find a fine balance between the past and the future by working directly with our indigenous master artisans in order to stay true to our roots.
This style of bead is a powerful motif in Nuosu culture spreading luck and wisdom. When Nuosu women got married, they wore a long chain of these beads given by our grandmother to say best wishes to the new generation. The contemporary simplicity of the halo earring’s design take these lucky Nuosu beads with us wherever we go.
For Nuosu people, we are the children of nature. And nature plays a big role in our culture and life. In Nuosu culture, this cross-shape represents the stars in the sky. Our ancestors developed a system of astronomy and they used to tell the time of year by star constellations. They’d organized their lives around it, planning journeys to visit relatives when the moonlight shone brightest. These shiny nights would be when uncles and brothers would disappear into the mountains on long hunting trips.
Deep sea earrings
The chain represents the strength and elegance of Nuosu women. It’s heavy, difficult to break yet sways with a captivating grace. These earrings capture this strength but also combine it with a marine motif. Coral and shells traded along the Silk Road have always been treasured by Nuosu people. Pearls provide a sustainable alternative that offers a softness to the hardness of the chain.
These earrings were inspired by the buttons traditionally worn by Nuosu men and women. The spiral motifs represent the curled fronds of fresh young ferns, which our brothers and us would harvest to eat as children. Ferns are an ancient plant and variations of this design have been used by Nuosu artisans for hundreds of years.
LOVE double chain necklace
The flat chain design is unique in Nuosu region, women usually worn from ear to ear traditionally. The symmetry and cleanness gives it a contemporary feel. In the old days, our mums always wore this flat chain, that is why we name the new double chain necklace ‘LOVE’ to ode our eternal gentlewomen.
Mercy body chain
Nuosu prefer the body jewelry both for men and women. They like wearing the body jewelry at ceremonies. The body jewelry was made of precious materials like coral, shell and sterling silver in previous time. The Mercy body chain has various kinds of ways to wrap and match, for the sustainability sake, we use cultured pearl to replace the traditional materials for more playful and modern options.