• Transform magazine
  • March 03, 2024

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Why local authenticity is the new international

Photo Of Jenny Hu

Jenny Hu, senior strategist at Design Bridge and Partners’ Shanghai office, shares her team’s story of developing an identity for Rissai Valley, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and explains why authenticity was key.

From the sweeping popularity of Sriracha in the US to the triumph of Chanel's 2023 Métiers d'art in Africa, local authenticity is taking its way in the brand world.

The reason behind this phenomenon seems straightforward. Ever find yourself in an exotic destination, torn between a bite of McDonald’s and the allure of street food adventures? It’s hardly a conundrum – we’d find ourselves delved into the hidden gems on the street. Rewind 20 years, though, and the script flips. I imagine asking my younger self back then, a little girl from a small town in China, “McDonald's or a hearty bowl of Grandma's hand-pulled noodles?” Believe me, I would cry for hours to get a taste of McDonald’s nuggets.

Over these 20 years, with the increasing omnipresence of globalisation and mobile tech, it’s easier than ever to grab a bite of McDonald’s whenever and wherever. Yet the elusive aroma of my grandmother's hand-pulled noodles has become a treasure lost in the bustling winds of change.

In a world prioritising efficiency and scale, personality and authenticity seem too unimportant and are easily brushed aside. However, as individuals, we crave authenticity – something real, personal and deeply connected to our identity and experiences. 

Knowing this too well, Ritz-Carlton came to Design Bridge and Partners with a task: to create an identity (name and visual) for their hand-picked estates nestled away in Jiuzhaigou, where the people of Xi Zang have lived for centuries and was named a UNESCO world heritage site. Our goal was clear, to create an identity that effortlessly weaves the beautiful scene and experience meticulously curated by Ritz-Carlton Reserve, to allow visitors a natural, authentic connection with local people, place and culture. 

With our hearts dancing in the shared belief, DBP happily embarked on a journey to Jiuzhaigou, a place that flows with inspiration. Inspiration came when we talked to a local villager, his story with the place he called home. Inspiration came when the team learned about local Xi Zang writings, an artistic form of expression, a whimsical marriage of asymmetrical beauty and creativity. Inspiration came when the team immersed themselves in the captivating surroundings, the vivid colour of local architectures against the peace and elegance of nature. 

Thanks to these magical encounters, our team came up with the name, Rissai Valley, coming from Ri-Cai-D-Ku, which is what the locals call their homeplace. Meanwhile, the visual identity and typography system for Rissai Valley deeply inherits the essence of the Xizang’s script. Most importantly, by creating an identity perfectly meshed with cultural landscape of Jiuzhaigou, we not only created something personal and authentic to the locals, but also fashioned a want for travellers around the world – to visit Rissai Valley, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

Looking back on the thrilling journey of Rissai Valley, our team reaffirmed our core belief: what makes who we are and what we hold true will eventually become our armour, our superpower and our story to share with the world. Our identity matters. Our experience matters. And see, local authenticity will transcend boundaries to become the new international.