Soon after his pilgrimage to Dunhuang Chan started sketching his designs for the nascent brand. The process lasted seven years, during which he carried his sketch book with him everywhere, every day - sometimes showing the designs to close friends. The first which he felt captured the spirit he wanted to embody was Wulu, a gourd which in Chinese culture symbolizes good fortune. This Wulu design eventually became the brand’s most iconic creation.
One day he shared his ideas and designs with his good friend the renowned actress Maggie Cheung – who immediately fell in love with the concept, and wanted to be part of the brand when it launched.
When Cheung went to the 2004 Cannes Film Festival to pick up her Best Actress Award, sporting a single Wulu earring, the intention was not that her appearance should be Qeelin’s launch. She wanted something unique, and Chan had just produced his first prototype earring, which was a reinterpretation of the traditional Chinese gourd – the wulu or hulu. As Cheung’s good friend, Chan simply “supplied the goods”.
But the response was overwhelming. Cheung stunned the international audience, and so did Wulu. Chan’s modern Chinoiserie vision entered the international limelight, and the brand — as yet unnamed — became the hottest topic of discussion in luxury circles. “I was not planning to launch then but there was no better time,” says Chan. So in May 2004, Chan officially launched the brand with the opening of a corner at the Parisian Hotel de Crillon. In September of the same year, the brand moved into a corner of the renowned Parisian style boutique, Colette.
“I launched Qeelin in Paris because my aim was to have an international brand to bring the treasures of China to the world,” says Chan. “But I soon decided to launch in Hong Kong as well. There were too many copycat ‘Wulus' here, which was not fair to those who bought the authentic designs.”
Qeelin launched at Lane Crawford Hong Kong in late 2004, and before the year ended, the first standalone Hong Kong boutique opened at the IFC Mall, where the store proudly remains today.