Viewers might notice that the photo quality has improved in many cases. For that, Stylites has to thank Mark, a Londoner now residing in Chengdu. He kindly volunteered to assist in editing and touching up the photos until my skills improve in that department.
With all the “replica” Dior Homme these days, this guide to telling the real thing, from Fake Hunter, is a must-see. The number of hits on Taobao for “Dior Homme” is now at 13828, compared to 262 on Ebay.com. Even on Ebay, I estimate that one third of the items are made in China. Also, keep in mind that the 262 on Ebay are each a single item whereas usually each of the 13828 hits on Taobao represents an item that can be bought in at least a couple sizes, colors, and quantities.
For hip kids in China these days, Dior Homme is the brand to wear. However, even merchants selling fake Dior Homme admit that it is one of the few luxury brands that has yet to relocate production to China. So no one can claim that these are factory seconds or overproduction, like they can with Burberry, Dolce and Gabbana, and Prada. The Dior Homme fakes are higher end than most fakes because, as with the real brand, the target consumers are very discerning and style-conscious as opposed to buyers of LV bags who just want the brand name. Most of the factories that make Dior Homme were started by Koreans and Japanese to target the China market and their home countries.
It would be interesting to take a survey of the thoughts of wearers of this type of Dior Homme.
Beijing-based fashion and lifestyle magazine 1626, targeting 16 to 26 readers whether in body or spirit, is featuring me and stylites.net in their next issue. Hopefully I won’t be so vain as to post the photos here.
Xiaoyang, a freelance photographer, came to shoot at my home. A 25 year old from Guangxi province, he has been in Beijing for nearly three years. He studied graphic design at University but later switched to photography. A rock fan, his favorite Western bands are Joy Division, New Order, and others in that category. Luckily, I had Joy Division on hand to listen to during the two-hour shoot.
He purchased his Dior Homme pea coat on Taobao, China’s leading online auction site, for RMB 330 (USD 45) after some bargaining. Not sure whether it was genuine or not, Xiaoyang pointed out that it might be for export to Japan. Xiaoyang shops only on Taobao because of the convenience, low price, and superior selection. Generally, Xiaoyang only buys from Beijing based sellers since that allows for transactions to be completed the same day. Unlike Ebay, Taobao has a system whereby buyers don’t have to complete payment until the item is delivered and deemed satisfactory and genuine. The payment is initially held in a kind of middle compartment from which the buyer can still recover it.
Online buyers in China are concentrated in the developed parts of the country, mainly Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou province, so shipments do not normally have to go to especially distant regions. Shipping is usually RMB 10 to 25 (USD 1 to 3) for clothing.
The negative aspects are visible in the rise of religious fundamentalism of various stripes, but could there be an aesthetically pleasing side to this? And could that be in the realm of luxury and fashion? Earlier this year, Francois-Henri Pinault, the CEO of PPR – parent of Gucci, made a prediction: “We are entering what I think is an age of irrationality and return to fantasy – and luxury is a part of that. We are at the beginning of a social trend, change in values that could go on for years – the age of rationalisation, after all, lasted for more than a century.”
He’s right, and the craving for fantasy is keen here in Asia. Hundreds of millions of high-rise dwellers suddenly enjoy knowledge of a wider, more glamorous, world. On the internet and TV, they see all the exciting choices, whether in career, love, or aesthetics. While spirituality lags, they live in a constricted universe of concrete and pollution. They can only dream of joining that more beautiful world and fashion is a key tool for this dreaming. Fashion, even luxury, is fantasy for the masses.
I ran into Kele, whose name means “Cola”, in front of the soon-to-open DKNY, which will be Beijing’s first. Kele appeared here a few months ago. He is the manager of a fashion boutique at the 3.3 shopping center in Sanlitun. Vogue, the boutique, specializes in “replicas” of products from brands such as Dior Homme, Dolce and Gabbana, and Comme Des Garçons.
JWT, the largest advertising agency brand in the US, just released a list of the 80 trends to watch in 2008. It is not always clear what the terms they use mean. While the whole list is a must-read, I picked a few of their trends that are most relevant to Stylites and fashion in China:
4. Beijing 2008 - Requires no analysis. Stylites will be on the scene to record the styles of 2008 in Beijing.
9. Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang – Considerably better looking than Yao Ming, Liu’s picture is in every ad already. How does he dress when he’s not competing?
13. Cooperative consumption – JWT might mean (1) groups like Yahoo Freecycle that aim to reduce consumption through trading used products, (2) coordinated and planned purchasing based on the needs of small communities, to economize and reduce ecological impact or, though this is unlikely, (3) less coercive forms of marketing, advertising and sales in which the seller forms more of a partnership with the consumer. In any case, Stylites aims to track all three of these trends in China.
16. Designer Phillip Lim – The fashion designer of Chinese-origin JWT singled out, Lim relies on a gentle palette to create wearable-looking and fun pieces. He just introduced a men’s line which looks fresh but totally approachable, which is a notable accomplishment. Stylites will track perceptions of overseas Chinese designers in the Mainland.
37. Intellectual luxury - This seems to be a derogatory term denoting intellectualism for it’s own sake, though I’m not certain. I prefer to think of intellectualism as a luxury product that the elites everywhere engage in when they have the leisure and wealth needed to do so. In keeping with their country’s traditions, the elites in China are already starting to engage in intellectualism for fun rather than profit. It will be interesting to track the intellectual products they consume and the spread of “intellectualism as fun” to the general population.
39. Japanese designs (Tsumori Chisato, Uniqlo, Muji, etc.) – This hardly seems like a new trend. Nonetheless, the spread of Japanese style beyond the avant-garde to the mainstream is notable in the States, and of course in China. Everyone is wearing overproduction from Japanese brands. Anyway, why did Uniqlo close in Beijing?
41. Lifestyle curators – In China, this will be huge. The nouveau riche will demand it. More on this to come here at stylites.net.
57. Recycling into fashion (Nau, Gary Harvey, etc.) – This is going to intensify. There have already been dresses made from condoms, not to mention sportswear brands that use old bottles. Being so fashion-obsessed, what will the Chinese do with all this cheap apparel that is being created once it turns to rags or goes out of fashion? This is a special focus of stylites.net.
75. Vicarious consumption – Perhaps the most fascinating trend here, this Thornstein Veblen term is highly relevant to the current experience in China. Most older people will only achieve joy through the consumption that their progeny can engage in. They didn’t have the money and now they don’t have the youth to wear the Dior jacket but they can be gratified by seeing their kid in one.
I would like to thank JWT for coming up with this list. Stylites will be looking into many of these trends and others as they relate to fashion in China.
An attempt by an average but witty guy to share his fashion wisdom with misguided females, this diatribe on female fashion sins is amusing in a frat boy sort of way. He’s right about crocs and red lipstick I suppose – I’m not a huge fan of either – though the idea that there are just three types of red pushes his musings into Neanderthal territory. I’m just supposed to find the piece amusingly vulgar and refreshing, but the angst from men with boring style and cleverness to spare directed at the “pregnancy blouses” has always perplexed me. A lot of guys who wear un-tucked stripey shirts seem to make fun of the women who wear pregnancy blouses.
Can one be against a style because it is trendy and overdone? I suppose, though some people can still do them well. I get his point about this type of clothing being appropriate only for pregnant women, but they can also be an interesting play on proportions. Like many styles, they are a runway trend – that looks good on rail-thin models – that many ordinary folk took too far. Yes, they look bad with fat denim-clad legs protruding, but beautiful, slim ones, bare, or in colorful stockings are not as unsexy as he suggests. What kind of women’s style does excite him – tight jeans and a fitted white tank top?
As for the Cuban dictator hat thing, I find a tad annoying, though I haven’t really had the misfortune of seeing many of the hipster women that he mentions. There is an argument made time and again about style: “it was made for X, so if you’re not X, don’t wear it because you’ll look like a poser.” I believe much of the point of fashion is aspiration and fantasy. At its highest level, fashion is about narcissistic delusions. It gives ordinary, boring, people with burnable money and time the opportunity to dress to escape their mundane life. You don’t have to be a writer, artist, or dictator, but you can pretend you’re one with the right hat.
All the same, it’s a funny piece, and he is essentially laughing at people with mainstream and unimaginative senses of style, so I can’t complain too much.
Pheobe is a tour guide here in Beijing who buys mostly domestic brands. Her usual shopping places are Oriental Plaza (where she is in the picture) and Women’s Street. She is from outside of Beijing but has lived here for six years. Those are not her body guards.
These two scarf clad young people attended college in the United Kingdom. His current trading business involves frequent trips to London, where he also does most of his shopping. The velvet coat is from Calvin Klein. I’m not sure what to think about velvet coats. They seem elegant with a good dose of 18th century flamboyance, but they would probably wear out quite easily in the elbows and other places.
I wanted to take more pics of revelers on Christmas, but ended up having a rather quiet evening. Until 5:30, I was actually at work. My company, despite being American, did not give us the day off. I will be posting new pics soon.
On behalf of Stylites.net, I would like to wish all viewers and their families a Merry Christmas. I wish all of you the very best of health and positive relations with relatives. Let’s also consider the countless people who don’t even get to think about the frivolous subject of wearing interesting or stylish outfits.
Please, when possible, try to consume environmentally-friendly and ethically or locally produced fashion or, ideally, buy second hand. If you must buy something from a sweatshop, please make sure that it is at least a genuine product. The conditions in the sweatshops that make counterfeits products are even less well-regulated. So, yes, buy H&M rather than fake Prada. If all else fails, at least buy something unique that makes n interesting style statement.
I would also like to add all of the holidays that I forgot to mention before, such as Hanukkah. I’m sure there are some other holidays that passed over the last month as well. The first day of Kwanzaa is tomorrow, so I hope that all its celebrants will get the most out of this period of honoring family, community, and traditions.
Thank you very much for your continued support of Stylites.net. For me, your checking back here as often as possible and leaving your comments and suggestions is the best possible Christmas gift. I really appreciate it. Over the next few months, there will several additions here at stylites.net and I’m very excited about unveiling them. More on that later. – Nels
He was just about ready to go back inside after finishing a smoke. He does a pretty good job of not appearing chilly. This hair stylist on Dongsi avenue seems more sophisticated than his unruly peers at Xidan. Dongsi is famous throughout Beijing for its hair stylists, many of whom are said to have trained in Korea. The street is lined with both tiny establishments and larger and higher end ones like this. In modern Beijing, the Eastern part of the city with the Central Business District and embassies is generally more developed, though the West is coming up as well. The Southern part of the city is the more backward part, in the opinion of locals.
They always say that it takes a certain type of man to wear a tuxedo shirt without a tie and links without a suit. I think this guy is doing it even though I suspect that he doesn’t ever this shirt with a bow tie. I also like the bell bottoms, or perhaps wide leg trousers since I’m not sure if they flare or not. This type of trousers is definitely out of fashion, even in China, so this look takes confidence. These particular trousers were actually custom-made. The very slim ankle is the rage here, just as it has been for a while in the West and in Japan. Fuller cuts, though not the flared trousers of a few years ago, are coming back into style though. The slim, tapered pants do not look good on everyone.
When you’re 16, you don’t have to be subtle about getting into the spirit of the season. She’s a student at a foreign language high school. Deliberately dressing this way for the occasion, she plans to attend the Christmas Eve mass at Wangfujing church, the largest and probably oldest in Beijing. Though not Christian, she says that young people in China today are very interested in Western culture, which is why she’s attending church and is dressed this way. As far as polka-dot on polka-dot ensembles go, I think the boot and stocking match works…fairly well. Revealing bare leg between the stockings and coat is pretty naughty.
Edit: I just realized I had spelled the word “stocking” as “stalking” in above. It’s a funny mistake to make on Christmas.
Apparently the Paul Smith at Oriental Plaza – the only Paul Smith in Beijing – has closed. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this, but I wonder if it is in any way connected to the proliferation of Paul Smith fakes in China. The number of Paul Smith items listed on Taobao.com has now surpassed 20,000. I’m not sure if there is a single authentic item.
Kenzo is now the only bastion of upscale quirkiness in Beijing’s most popular mall. It is far from rivaling Paul Smith.
The other day, I visited IKEA for the first time – I had never been in the States or Europe. The deep pink coat and wool polka scarf of this fashion design student had a sixties flair, distinguishing her from the numberless hoards of identical members of the new middle class who crowd IKEA and made me feel very claustrophobic.
There may have been a place with a better light situation to photograph her, but I wanted to include the message that is behind her. IKEA asks customers to bus their own trays, a novel concept in China – even McDonald’s has given up on this. The sign explains that this is to save on costs so that they can keep prices low. In general, IKEA impressed me with the efforts they make to educate customers on European modes of shopping and attitudes toward consumption. They are the only retailer I have seen in China that charges for plastic bags and, everywhere, they highlight the use of recycled materials. In the self-packing area, they ask customers to leave any unused cardboard for others to use. I’ve never been to Walmart, but I suspect they do not go to these lengths, and they probably don’t sell such ingeniously designed knick-knacks.
The IKEA in Beijing is the second largest in the world after the one in Stockholm. Being half Swedish, I was quite proud to see how crowded it was and the cleverness of everything. It was also nice to have Swedish meatballs, layer cakes, and sparkling water in the cafeteria. Of course, IKEA is no longer Swedish, and in fact IKEA doesn’t even seem to be a company, as this economist article explains. The store does maintain its Swedish feel though, and it is great to see it in China.
Europeans might have an easier time exporting their eco-friendly mentality to China than to America. A recent survey revealed that around 60% of Americans see global warming as a serious problem while nearly 80% of Chinese do. The number must be 100% in the Bay Area, but it’s not surprising Americans are less worried when you consider that most of them live in places where pollution is barely noticeable. Also, we tend to export our dirtiest industries to other countries. Global warming and pollution are not the same, but when you live in a smaller environment that is visibly deteriorating and warming due to human activity, year after year, it is easier to accept the warnings of scientists regarding the worldwide situation.
Ms. Chen must seem fairly “normal” compared to most of the people I find. She caught my eye mainly because she was the most simply dressed person in a huge field of bubble-gum pink, leopard boots, and sequins at Xidan. In that cacophony of fluorescent, overblown make-up and synthetics, someone can really stand out through not trying too hard and being gentle on the eye. She said she doesn’t care much about fashion.
These hair stylists stand outside the malls of Xidan all winter long, waylaying unsuspecting passersby, attempting to drag them in for a cut. They insist that the potential victim’s hair looks terrible and that they can do a better job – or perhaps it is just my hairdo that is particularly dreadful. Even if it is, I’m not sure that I would trust them to make it alright.
These guys are particularly aggressive with females. They will corner unattached girls, getting really close to them, and talk to them for as long as possible, even following them. I don’t think it is mean-spirited or with definite ill-intent, but it certainly would make me uncomfortable if I were one of the targets.
I like the rock and roll look of this guy. I think it is important to realize that Stylites is a record. Much of the time this is an anthropological exercise rather than an aesthetic one. I’m not deliberately attempting to provide style inspirations or examples of refined taste. The attempt is to document the development of style and fashion on the of Beijingers – to show the style landscape, as it were. So if the people photographed are rookies in the world of style or global fashion, then that is what will be here. I’m going to be putting up a full mission statement soon, that will pick up on these ideas.
This guy was trying to help me find other people to photograph, though that might have been yet another ploy to talk to girls.
After all of these pics of young bohemians and foreigners promenading down Nanluoguxiang, Beijing’s hippest traditional hutong, I decided to photograph one of the real residents. Mr. Li Shuming is a painting teacher and he has lived on the street for several decades.
I liked the hat and the nice fit of his Mao jacket, actually called a Zhongshan jacket in China after Sun Yatsen. The jacket is made out of a thick wool, unlike most of the Mao jackets I see which are made from a ratty poly-blend. This is great outerwear and I suggest that viewers consider having modernized versions tailor-made.
H&M is offering organic cotton, but it seems people are dubious regarding the ethical standards of factories that produce for H&M. Wouldn’t it be funny if you could walk into a store and see detailed production data for each rag right on the tag?
“This cashmere sweater was produced with prison labor in Jiangxi province, but the dyes are all natural.”
“This silk/rayon blend scarf was handmade, by a locally owned factory, in a Yunnanese village, but the chemical dyes run off into the nearby Xi brook. Birth defects are common downstream in Wu county.”
“This organic cotton wife beater was produced by workers treated fairly and ethically. The owner of the factory was just shot for bribing the local magistrate.”
But I don’t want to scare people away with my dark, and not very amusing, humor. I do have solutions. With the level of education of the average consumer, we deserve the maximum amount of transparency possible. I propose the following online trading site for handmade goods.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but it is a very interesting and strangely retro concept. One of the more interesting aspects of it is that you can see detailed information about the creators and even links to their sites. It is a much friendlier community than ebay. More on this later.
Some visiting HK girls walking down Nanluoguxiang. My eye was actually caught by the yogurt bottle in the hand of one. This sweetened yogurt, in a reusable bottle, sells at every street corner here in Beijing. I try to drink this rather than other sweetened beverages, because it saves packaging. This yogurt costs about one US quarter and has been on offer here for over a decade. Consumption of yogurt and other dairy products in China has skyrocketed, with support from government, because many experts have pointed to the advantages of consuming calcium. The amount of sweetened yogurt selling in grocery stores is astounding, though non-sweetened plain yogurt is impossible to find outside of stores catering to foreigners. Chinese find the flavor of our Middle Eastern yogurt to be too sour.