The Luxury Channel speaks to couture fashion designer Rui Xu, who designed masks for Elephant Family’s Animal Ball….
Why have you chosen to support the Elephant Family charity and the Asian elephant with your work?
We still have Asian elephants in China in the very south of the Yunnan province, bordering Burma and Laos, and they are a protected species in China. The Asian elephant is very gentle, and has always been the intimate connection between humans and nature. But nowadays, people have not only invaded their homeland, but also exploited them, detested them, and abused them. During the Middle Ages, Chinese ivory products were considered among the best in the world. During that time, the hunting, killing and plundering of elephants was very rare. Nowadays, with the boom in human population, these elephants are on the verge of extinction. When you see so many shoddy ivory products in the market, you think of those poor elephants’ lives, and your heart is filled with infinite compassion. I will feel huge pleasure if my donation can bring real benefits to Asian elephants and other wildlife.
Why have you chosen to use the antelope family in your mask designs for the Animal Ball?
The Asian elephant is representative of wild animals that are on the verge of extinction and we are coming together to tell the world that they need our help. These animals have close family bonds and they enjoy social networking, just like human beings. So I choose antelopes – who are very similar in this regard – to be a friend of the elephant family. My family and I saved an antelope once in Qinghai in China. At once, I beheld its beauty and refinery, just like a fairy falling to Earth. I hope the Animal Ball can become the living room of all the wildlife worldwide, to let them tell their own stories and safeguard their interests.
What is the inspiration behind your designs?
Animals have souls, as well as dignity, just like human beings. This can be seen from their eyes. Their weaknesses reflect our own human immaturity and fear. Pretty or ugly, smart or stupid, we are all comparative; we cannot judge the beauty of the world by our own standards.
As a Chinese national, how important is it to make China aware of the plight of wildlife such as the elephant and rhino?
It is urgently important to make every Chinese citizen be aware that wild animals are helpless and in difficult situations. They have every right to the land as much as we do. China boasts many varieties of wildlife due to its varied landscape and geographical diversity, but they are facing many difficult situations. Those with commercial value are the ones that have suffered the most, followed by those who are not popular because of their appearance, or those who have been demonised by literature, such as the pangolin, the black bear and the Tasmanian devil. They have been persecuted in various ways such as being expelled, forced to give commercial performances, robbed of their organs, slaughtered or harmed for no reason. In China, there are thousands of animals being maltreated every day, due to people’s ruthlessness or ignorance. I hope more wildlife organisations can be established by the government to better inform people of the knowledge of species and ecology, to make citizens more aware that wildlife is created by God to share the earth with us. Humans ultimately do not own the earth. We should make laws to prevent the destruction of wildlife and educate more people to reduce this harm caused by ignorance.
What are attitudes like in China towards wildlife?
Most Chinese citizens do not have enough knowledge of wildlife, especially teenagers. Wildlife protection organisations are too weak with little power in this commercial world. The government is giving support ideologically while the financial support they provide is quite limited. Animal lovers and scholars have a very weak voice, and public awareness has not been established yet. In China, there are a lack of organisations like Elephant Family that can connect businesses and government, connect responsibility and entertainment, and influence communities. I think that wildlife education should be introduced into the school system. The love from children is the most powerful and can change the world.
Do you think people will every stop buying ivory or animal products?
I don’t think we should completely ban the purchase or production of ivory products. I believe in making tusks into fine artwork. But these tusks should come from natural death or regulated hunting, and this work should be completed by strictly certified artists. Inferior quality work sold purely for financial gain should be fundamentally prohibited.
What is your message to the world?
If I can use only one word, then that would be “love.” If I can use two words, then I will say “love” and “beauty.” No matter how the world changes, I hope people can always feel love and beauty through my designs.
To find out more about the work undertaken by Elephant Family, go to www.elephant-family.org. To find out more about Rui Xu, go to www.ruixustudio.com/en. To see Rui’s masks for the Animal Ball, click here.