Yep, quite a distance from Beijing. Not much time to update now. I was expecting people to be more conservatively dressed. There are a lot of brightly colored scarves with dyed hair revealed in front. The men wear suprisingly tight jeans.
In a city with innumerable lovely girls, 95% of whom compromise their natural beauty with over-reliance on lace, glitter, and chains, it’s spirit-lifting to see style that highlights the grace of the wearer while at the same time being a little unique. I even forgive the somewhat blatant red LV bag – at least this model is not so often faked as of yet.
Please check my column and street style photos in the February issue of That’s Beijing! It is hot off the press!
Updates have been less frequent in the last couple of weeks because I have been very busy with my day job, and because the frigid weather reduces the number of stylish people.
Over the next three weeks updates will likely be still more sporadic. I will be traveling through the Middle East over and may have limited access to the internet during visits to remote historic sites, probably while staying in hostels lacking wireless. When I have the chance, I will post photos I have taken recently.
Hits on Stylites have spiked recently and I recommend that all new viewers enjoy the archives. Street photos are arranged by area in the categories to the right. The best photos are to be found in “Nanluoguxiang” and “Xidan” though “Dongsi” also has some good ones.
Zhai Yanxin’s work incorporates custom tailoring and design. I have always said that this was a natural course for high-end fashion to take here in China. Why buy an Armani dress when a thousand other people have the same one (and aside from the final stitches done in Italy, the Armani was probably made in China anyway)? For the same price or lower, a stylish Chinese lady can have a completely unique piece tailored for her by Mr. Zhai, for example. More from Xinhua here and take a look at the designer’s blog.
These two young college girls were at Tango to sing karaoke.
Coach says China will be its #3 market after the US and Japan. This quote from Coach seems to sum up the attitude that most foreign luxury brands have toward China and the rest of the less-developed world: “In non-Japan Asia, consumers are at a different stage in the lifecyle of their experience with luxury goods. Luxury for them is much more about status. It’s a badge.”
In the West, is luxury an expression of personal style, a connection with traditions, or an celebration of beauty and quality?
Valentino Fashion Group S.p.A will be opening its first free standing Valentino boutique in Beijing this week. In the Peninsula Palace shopping arcade, this flagship boutique will carry the menswear and ladies wear collections as well as bags, shoes, sunglasses and watches. Despite a rather thin presence on the ground in China, the brand Valentino is already quite well-known and has been a frequent victim of trademark infringement. There are many clothing brands based in China that include the word “Valentino” in their name.
I’m on a company trip at moment, so I haven’t really been able to update the site. Please do start checking back as there will be new photos soon.
Huang Yue designs original and inspiring haute couture for local celebs and bigshots. Check out his shop opposite 3.3, next time you are in Sanlitun. Even if you don’t fancy his work, you will enjoy talking to him if he is around. He is such sweet fellow and always makes time to listen and say a nice word or two. Quirky as well, he also has some unique ideas on fashion in China. More on his shop later.
I love the jacket he is wearing, which is, naturally, one of his designs. Too bad the photo isn’t better. Made from a tweedy silk/wool blend in an extremely loose weave, the blazer is completely un-constructed with no lining. You could call it a sweater-sport coat.
Paco Ou just opened Bustout, the largest and most cutting edge street wear emporium in Beijing. My review of the shop will appear in the February That’s Beijing, so I don’t want to say too much here. Keep your eye out. He wants the store, among the most spacious retail spaces I’ve seen here, to be a platform on which education of local youth on the origins of hip-hop culture can occur. Apparently, middle class kids in baggy jeans and over-sized headphones don’t really understand the culture behind the look and the music. According to Paco, the hip hop artists that do achieve mainstream success in China do not play genuine hip hop, from the perspective of the music itself and the feeling that goes into it. I agree with him on this. I’ll give a lot more detail on Bustout within the next couple weeks.
He must have been expecting to be flash photographed. I often wish I could comment on the attitude, voice, or vibe of a certain person I photograph. Stylites is not a platform for my thoughts and criticisms though. With so much Burberry print covering China – in collars, fake scarves, ties, and window curtains – this ranks as a use of the plaid that I like. The young entrepreneur’s plaid stands out from the crowd of epuelatted coats that define this winter.
The January Trouser Press, featured in That’s Beijing, has my suggestions for Asian men on how to dress. Two key pieces are:
- colors that provide high contrast with skin, keeping away from most yellows, beiges, or cream, and most browns
- avoiding bulky clothing and most off-the-rack items intended for export to Western markets
Daniel Sui is a designer for Kappa in China and he appeared on Stylites before. The IHT had an interesting story on the public offering of Dongxiang, which owns the exclusive license for the Kappa brand in China. As the existence of Daniel’s job proves, this Italian sportswear brand is not only produced and sold in China, but also designed here. The article speaks of over 20% annual growth of the Chinese sportswear market.
The funny thing is that I have the exact same herringbone trench coat and I was wearing it that same day. Daniel also wore it for his photo shoot with 1626 (1626 also did a shoot and interview with me that should be appearing over the next couple of weeks):
The coat is intended for export to Japan and is by some obscure brand. The cut is really slim and the styling is quite nice. I think the coat looks good and that’s why I bought it despite some misgivings. The price of around USD 50 also didn’t dissuade me. Unfortunately, truths like “you always get what you pay for” do seem eternal. This coat has the same key defect as many stylish pieces made in China for export to Japan as well as stylish fakes of brands like Dior Homme and Burberry Prorsum. That defect is poor quality materials. The fabric, buttons, thread, and lining are all sub-par. Even H&M and Zara offer substantially better quality. The fabric began to pill after a few wearings and the buttons are about to fall off en masse. Anyway, all I can say is that it is worth using Senli and Frye to get a durable piece that will last through the years. That said, sometimes one does want throw-away fashion – this certainly doesn’t seem very ecologically friendly though.
I meet so many female acting students, it was nice to finally encounter a male one. He has a sort of rugged urban style with a very modern jacket that seems even faintly athletic.
China Daily profiled Stylites and me in its lifestyle section. I think the article is quite good, but I look like a bit silly in the photo. I’m glad they included this quote: “With people in China, there is not much of a knowledge of rules, [so] if they don’t care, why should I?”
This Amway manager’s daughter is studying at the Central Academy of Drama and she was down from Northeastern Jilin province for a visit.
Few US brands are more associated with China in the minds of Americans than Nike. Thinking of sweat shop labor and prison labor in China, Nike immediately comes to mind. Even if Nike really is the worst violator, someone has done a bad job on PR if the perception I have is widely held. Of course the lost fingers, poor ventilation, and 16 hour work days are the fault of the contractors and not Nike itself and, to give credit where it is due, the efforts of Nike’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) officers toward creating better working conditions have won much praise for the company.
Regardless of any negative associations, Nike nearly always sees rising profits, of which China is now a major source. Nike is one of the most well-recognized foreign brands in China. Over the seven months leading up to the Olympics, Nike will be releasing new products that cement the stature of the brand here. One of the first examples is the new Air Max 90 that celebrates Team China’s success in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where it won 15 Gold medals. See the pics here.
Interestingly, even as Nike’s business improves in this market, much of its production is shifting out of China due to rising labor costs. The Chinese company that is one of Nike’s biggest suppliers, Yue Yuen Industrial, has shifted much of its production to Vietnam and Indonesia to cut costs. The new Chinese labor law, approved at the end of 2007, is expected to push even more producers out of the country.
Pink in a decidedly Japanese way, Fang Yuan also does hair at Xidan. She didn’t have a chance to speak before I was swarmed with male stylists criticizing my haircut.
Xidan strives to be Shibuya, the amazing epicenter of Japanese street style, but often achieves a rugged flavor of its own, more suited to Beijing. Before their encasement in drab Western business attire – China’s selection in formal clothing is quite boring and generally of low quality – Beijing young people get the chance to experiment with quirky looks from Japan and Korea. This rare style reservoir, where nearly every pedestrian makes some kind of effort to stand out, presents the challenge of sifting through overwhelming crowds and persuading those with the most tasteful or unique outfits to pose. In Xidan, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of people. It is not really like this in the rest of Beijing, which is spread-out and does not feel as crowded as Manhattan or Hong Kong.
Unlike in more Eastern parts of the city, shoppers at Xidan often have no concept of what Stylites in Beijing could possibly be and I was accused more than once of being a wretch up to some foul tricks.
A new UNCTAD report calls China the worlds largest exporter of “creative goods” with a total figure of USD 89.1 billion in 2005, including Hong Kong’s USD 27.7 billion. Italy was number two with USD 28 billion in 2005. This includes goods such as films, music, traditional crafts, design and architecture, but still is a rather surprising finding. Considering that China bemoans its deficit in cultural products and lack of creativity, this is not what I would expect. Also, China’s government constantly stresses development of innovation to address this deficit. I would have to research further into what categories they are using to come up with these figures. Doesn’t Hollywood export even more than USD 28 billion in one year? Perhaps it doesn’t count as creative. It’s frustrating to see a statistic that doesn’t make sense, but not have time to research why it came into being.
No one doubts the potential in China though. There may not be many well-known Chinese designer brands, but with this country’s love of fashion and the number of young people studying it, the country seems on track to become a source of creativity within the next few years. Reflecting the critical role of China in global fashion, France’s Fashion TV kicks off its global talent search for this Olympic year in China seeking to unlock all of the design genius that might not otherwise find a platform in this competitive industry.