A Global Wunderkind
by Diane McMahon
Photography by Christian Lee
In the last decades, as Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has continued to develop its world-class reputation, it has recruited an increasing number of top-notch international students. Meet Elva Jiang. Elva graduated from SCAD’s Savannah campus last year with a B.F.A in fashion and fashion marketing and management. Now, as CEO and founder of Eva Design House—a luxury goods and jewelry marketing company—her success story is emblematic of a new breed of young entrepreneurs who are defining the future: call her a global wunderkind.
But first things first. Elva is the youngest of three children, born in Taiwan in 1992. Her family moved to Beijing, China. In junior high school she studied economics but Elva recalled, “I didn’t love it. I liked my art classes more, but I was lost about knowing what direction to go in.” She ran into an older friend in Beijing who was home on a school break from SCAD. She enthusiastically recommended Elva consider it; the major selling point being SCAD, unlike other art schools, prepared students for actual careers.
Elva, an excellent golfer, applied and received a partial golf scholarship to play on SCAD’s highly ranked women’s team. Initially, her major was fashion design. Elva didn’t feel design was her strong suit. She added a double major in fashion marketing and management. Her 4.0 grade average got her marketing internships in Beijing the summer of 2013 and in New York City with Global Brands Group (part of the global Fung Group) the summer of 2014. Elva realized even her double major wouldn’t be enough to break her out of a routine, retail career path once she graduated.
Elva knew about the Young Menswear Association’s (YMA) competitive yearly scholarships, awarded to encourage gifted and enterprising young people to pursue careers in fashion design, merchandising, retailing and business. She decided she was going to compete and win one of these awards. Elva admitted she is very competitive with herself and laughed. “I just hate it when I can’t accomplish something.”
The path was not direct or easy. Her advising professor rejected a first draft. He told her she was over-extending herself (she had daily practice for a major golf tournament at the same time) and told her to concentrate on the golf. Apparently, you don’t tell Elva to give up. With an effort she describes as “self-abuse”—including all-nighters and sleeping in her car before golf practice—Elva ultimately won one of only four $30,000 Geoffrey Beene Scholarships in 2015. And she played well in her tournament.
Elva’s winning collection of “smart-jewelry” which she describes as wearable technology is called Spiked Orchid. Each piece of jewelry—necklace, bracelet or ring—contains a central processing unit with a motion sensor for tracking biofeedback and sports performance, a skin conductor for tracking the user’s emotional state and a GPS system. She named her wearable technology company “Elvaine” and says her pioneering concept has the potential to empower modern women in golf, tennis and other sports activities.
Meanwhile, Elva’s energy is consumed by her other company “Eva Design House”, which features an elite line of jewelry, bridal accessories and women’s handbags by designers located in Taiwan and Savannah. Its success has led to a “family business” utilizing her siblings and father as partners in Asia. The mission of Eva Design House (eva is derived from the Latin, meaning “mother of life”) is to empower designers with vital marketing advice about branding and marketing in multi-national and global markets. Elva said, “Eva Design House builds a magnificent cycle that supports our designers, strengthens the clients and promotes new and upcoming talents. We strive to provide modern women with a sense of empowerment accompanied by beauty.
Elva said she is highly motivated by her father. “He never pushes, but after coming all the way here and spending so much money, I wanted it to mean something.” She says Savannah is a wonderful place to build an entrepreneurial network. “You have to start somewhere specific and be realistic and down-to-earth, even if your ultimate goals are global.” Elva gives tremendous credit to Bea Wray of Creative Coast for creating a nurturing environment for young start-ups in Savannah. Elva has also been able to leverage the talents of current SCAD students, giving them exposure and opportunity in the real-world business community, which is a win-win for everyone. Elva has a huge vision, firmly grounded in an indomitable work ethic and family support, with a mission to empower women worldwide. There is no limit to what this talented and beautiful young woman will accomplish.
Personal life: Elva just laughed and shrugged. She thinks later in life she may marry an older man.
Shopping research: She bought a necklace from Tiffany’s so she could study their packaging and come up with something even better, which she did.
Breaking the glass ceiling: She thinks golf is an excellent way to achieve parity with men in the business world.
Her dad’s deal: Elva’s father thinks building her business is tantamount to getting an MBA. He is requiring her to write a thesis about her experience. There may be a book in the future.