Predominantly led by women, Vermillion is a new B2B platform dedicated to discovering the best of Asia for interior designers, design professionals, hospitality groups, and retailers alike. Instead of looking to European and Western makers, Vermillion aims to elevate Asian designs for a global market. Curious about their story, I consult founder and CEO Krizia Li for more insight.
Just launched in February 2022 in Hong Kong, Vermillion is the first online business-to-business platform dedicated to celebrating the craft, heritage, and artistry of Asia. Vermillion currently showcases more than 150 brands handpicked for their inspiring stories, unique products, and authentic design philosophies, but lifestyle trends and crafted luxury aside, Vermillion is more than a B2B portal for discerning retailers, hospitality groups, design professionals, and merchandisers.
Vermillion gets its apt name from the eponymous vibrant red pigment extracted from the mineral cinnabar, which first documented use dates all the way back to 8000–7000 BC. Since then, the vermillion pigment has been commonly used in Hindu culture, primarily by women, and was widely used in the art and decoration of Ancient Rome, the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the paintings of the Renaissance, and the art and lacquerware of China. To Vermillion, the pigment represents Asia’s creative community that is energetic, versatile, soulful, and resilient.
Does it have anything to do with Vermillion being a predominately female-led business, I wonder? The founder and CEO of Vermillion, Krizia Li tells me it was by accident and not design. “But I do believe that women have all it takes to be successful. We are a team with blue-chip backgrounds in luxury retail, hospitality, interior design, F&B, tech, and finance, with MBA graduates from Harvard Business School, NYU Stern, and INSEAD.” Perhaps that makes it even more meaningful—the fact that she had assembled a team of brilliant Asian female minds without even thinking about it, proving that when we put gendered notions and stereotypes aside, women are just as capable as their male counterparts in business settings. Vermillion’s curation, on the other hand, includes more than 30 female-owned brands and female creators.
Featuring items from established designers as well as hidden gems, Li divulges of their vigorous vetting process where they look at various key components of a brand. “Brand story—whether it’s a heritage brand with a rich culture and history like Gato Mikio Shoten, or a social enterprise supporting local communities and using renewable indigenous resources like Hacienda Crafts, or an emerging Gen Z artist infusing technology in their artwork like Tong Xindi who uses 3D glaze printing for his ceramic artwork inspired by traditional sancai paintings.” She elaborates, “Of course, we also look at the product—from design and quality to the craftsmanship techniques; and lastly, the brand’s readiness to meet certain operational requirements for our clients.”
“Ultimately, we are looking for brands and products that represent the best of Asia—and this means a diverse range of Asian designs. Our mission is to elevate Asian design for a global market, and we strive to conserve and convey Asian heritage, philosophies, and values on behalf of our brands,” says Li. “There is so much design talent in Asia today. Yet, when we think of luxury lifestyle brands, oftentimes only European and Western designs come to mind.” From the histories of traditional regional crafts and their place in the contemporary world to how the design world is moving towards sustainability, Vermillion also publishes stories on its online platform to highlight Asia’s cultural heritage and design stories.
From its auspicious significance in Asian cultures to its gendered connotation for the female gender, the colour red represents many different things to different people. For Vermillion, it means focusing on championing Asian contemporary designs, bringing awareness to the appreciation for the region’s craft and cultural heritage, and initiating a new lifestyle moment that redefines our perception of what “luxury” and “lifestyle” can be. And for the rest of us that aren’t design professionals but just regular buyers into beautiful things, good news awaits as Li reveals, “We are primarily a B2B platform, but we are also working on curating a direct-to-consumer retail selection to satisfy the regular buyer and tastemaker, so stay tuned!”