Shuj has reintroduced an antique craft to modern society, bridging the gap between past and present, traditional techniques and contemporary design.
The Milan-based company’s story starts in 2009 with founder Marta Marin. A sinologist and connoisseur of Chinese culture, Marin embarked on a trip that would change the course of her career. She came across an ancient product, a duvet made from hundreds of layers of pure hand-made and washed silk.
Her discovery of this unique production process, that dates back to the time of the emperor, and desire to preserve this rare art form at risk of extinction led to the creation of a modern lifestyle brand, Shuj. Known for their duvets with handmade silk filling and more recently launched bedding selection, the brand creates solutions designed to ensure a superior sleep experience.
How did you first come across this ancient technique?
Some year ago, in 2009 I was in Shanghai and a friend of mine, a Japanese/Chinese girl, was talking to me about her Chinese grandma who gifted her a duvet filled with hundreds of layers of silk for her wedding. I was curious to know more and the more I researched, the more I discovered a world of excellence that has almost been completely replaced by mass production.
How have you adapted it for a contemporary audience?
We would like to give a luxury and contemporary twist to an ancient product, paying close attention to every single detail. The selection of fabric, the sartorial details in the piping and buttonholes, the selection of real mother of pearl buttons and the beauty in minimalism all speaks to the elegant Italian aesthetic.
I had the crazy idea in my mind to rediscover this precious and antique art and spread it worldwide
In your opinion, why is it so important to sustain traditional craftsmanship?
I think is vital to maintain and support traditional craftsmanship! In contemporary society and especially globalization have really promoted the idea of everything being made easy, and it can at times be hard to understand the values of things. Traditional craftsmanship speaks about values, history, and an excellence that we need to protect and sustain. Behind these products there are real people with a lot of experience and a story to tell. I believe all of this is passed through the product itself, almost like a soul. When you are surrounded by these objects, you can feel the care and the passion that went into them.
Have you always been drawn to the far East?
I decided to study Chinese culture and language at the University in Venice because I’ve always been attracted by what is unknown and I was excited to get in touch with such a different world compared to ours. I love the language, the poetry of the characters and their hidden meanings, the rich and refined culture, the people. I still feel like an explorer discovering a new world, even now after 20 years!
(.. Sometimes I think in a previous life I was Chinese…)
Can you walk us through the process: from sourcing the silk through to the design and execution of the final product?
The silk duvets are special because we are using the same ancient technique passed by the Buddhist monks starting from the first century AD and we produce them entirely by hand working with farmers in the same area (Jiangsu province) this product was made thousand of years ago. Thanks to my knowledge of China, we work without any intermediary, and control the entire supply chain:
We select the best cocoons in the Jiangsu farms, which are then washed in ground water to maintain the pureness of silk. To emphasize the lightness and softness of the product, we’ve selected a very fine 100% cotton satin fabric made exclusively for us to make the cover of the silk filling. Each product goes through 4 different steps of quality control – before, during and after production, and final delivery.
Shuj is an innovative project where the Italian way of style and savoir-fair meet ancient traditions, that have been recovered and revived with a contemporary twist.
What are the health benefits associated with silk? How do these benefits impact sleep in particular?
Silk is a great fibre, few people are aware of its many benefits! Take nature for example, which creates silk cocoons to protect even the smallest of animals. It is a precious material with healthy virtues: thermoregulation, softness, it’s extremely light, hypoallergenic and transpiring. These principles formed the base of our silk embrace system. It is designed to feel like you are sleeping in a cocoon which is completely in tune with your body, not too hot or cold, hypoallergenic, and soft and light.
Like Lu You, the Song Dynasty poet wrote “In winter time a fur coat cannot give you the same warmth of a small quantity of silk yarns”
The Duvet is a Shuj trademark, but you have also expanded into textile. How do the two products work together?
The bedcare collection -duvet covers, sheets, pillowcases – has been developed to emphasize the beauty of the silk duvet. We have studied special blends of fibres as cotton, linen, silk and bamboo and specific garment dyeing and washing techniques to give the products a soft and special feel.
In your own words, why do you feel LVR and Shuj are such a wonderful fit?
I have to admit our cooperation was easy and natural since the beginning. We not only have the same passion for quality and innovation but also the idea that it’s important to transmit to clients the cultural and artistic values behind products.
Special thanks to Marta Marin
Images and video courtesy of Shuj
This interview has been edited and condensed.