China news on quality products, lifestyle, design and services.
In its never ending search for quality products made in China, Nicely Made in China met Nicole Bernard, the owner of Longma, an Australia-based equestrian equipment company that makes all its products in China. From Tennessee where she was born, to Alvie (pop.60) near Melbourne, via Beijing where she spends half of her time, Nicole has traveled a long way. She stopped by at the Bookworm in Beijing to talk about her passions for China and horses, and how these two passions recently became intertwined.
Nicole, can you tell us how you started Longma?
A year or so ago my riding coach -Chris Smith 1980 Australian Olympic show jumping rider- came to visit me in Beijing- , and while discussing the equestrian market in Australia we realized it is bipolar: you either find very high end and very expensive gear or cheap junk. Horse riding is called the sport of kings and it is an expensive hobby. People who spend a lot of money on a horse care about what they put on their horses’ backs. I thought that hard-working people who love riding deserved high quality equipment at decent prices and that’s what Longma has been trying to provide for a year now. While I will not compare Longma with Australian master saddle makers, I can say that we’re trying to achieve a level of quality that these people respect.
This week, Nicely Made in China goes green and meets with Alia Malik, Shangrila Farms managing director in her Beijing office. Alia, a half-American, half-Pakistani New-Yorker is a development economist. She talks about fair-trade and helping Yunnan farmers grow coffee and raise bees.
This week Nicely Made in China gives centre stage to Mr Gao ZhenMin, a luthier, owner of Huaming Bass. Mr Gao Zhenmin lives in Hebei and makes his speciality to build and repair double-basses and cellos with his wife, Ms Wen YaXia. NMiC paid him a call in his Hebei workshop where a collection of stringed instruments await his attention between fragrant Sichuan maple and alcohol-based home-made varnish.
When did you open your workshop?
In 2004, after working for 7 years at the oldest Beijing instruments-making factory where I was assembling, adjusting and testing the instruments. While working there I met a lot of music professors who told me there was a niche market in making instruments for high-end classical and jazz musicians. That’s how it started.