Waistcoats were embraced by fashionistas of both sexes this spring and into the summer in Beijing. They were mostly low buttoning and black, in a style similar to what is worn with black tie ensembles. This pairing with a peacoat was the nattiest ensemble on the ‘xiang. A documentary-maker for CCTV, he loves his style as “British”. He advises Beijing men to eschew brandnames, though sometimes there is no choice but to choose fake Dior when completing his outifts.
Wielding this interesting bag purchased here in Beijing, Halla is the shopping and travel editor for The Beijinger. The July issue of “The Beijinger” just came out and it includes the full results of the 2008 Reader Bar and Club Awards. The Beijinger is That’s Beijing’s new name. In this Beijinger, as always, you can find the latest Stylites as well as my column on men’s style, Trouser Press.
From Hong Kong, Oz is a graphic designer who studied in the Midlands of England. He arrived in Beijing a week ago and already prefers it to his home town. Things will be better after the Olympics when tourists are fewer and the place is less “messy”. He does say that it’s impossible to find decent fashion items in Beijing. Perhaps the sleeves on jackets selling here are too long.
Aurelien and Tony have made much interesting use of the best local silks in both their fall/winter and spring/summer collections. The silks they use are not what one usually encounters in the fabric markets. Many are sourced in Shandong instead of Zhejiang, the province we usually think of as the source of all good silks. In the previous photo of Aurelien he wore a silk tweed coat; here he is in a very light silk charmeuse turtle neck shirt. The fabric is a satin weave with the expected shimmery quality, and the cut is both slim and drapey. This vertical striped shirt will enhance the height and slenderness of wearers who are already tall and thin. Silks of this type have always struck me as particularly risky when compared with linens or cotton poplins for people who have even an ounce of extraneous body mass, since there tends to be little give.
I have concerns about wearing silk directly on the body. It seems less breathable than other summer fabrics, though it is clearly more dramatic and special. Tony and Aurelien assured me that the silks they use are relatively breathable, so perhaps I will look into this. We are still waiting now to hear the final word on the opening of the Le Divan boutique in Sanlitun.
The earthquake period really did alter the mood of the country, with the effects discernible in every aspect of life. Liu Lu says that her store’s business was going well until last month. Customers have clearly adopted austerity measures, since spending on fashion during such a period seems a bit frivolous. Many people she knows are sending the money that would have gone to dresses and shoes to Sichuan, which she stresses is as it should be.
The hot weather should make sales pick up a little though as people start to beef up their summer wardrobes. Griping about the heat and noting that the average fellow does not look so good in a sleeveless shirts and short shorts, I asked her what men should do in the summer since we are forced to cover ourselves more than women. She commented that in Beijing, “wifebeaters” are not as big of a fashion crime as they would be in New York or London. Certainly, in the hutongs of Beijing, it is far from uncommon to see men with their arms and even their stomachs revealed.
On a more fashionable set – or at least this is how they perceived themselves – in Hangzhou a few years back, the sleeveless blazer was actually a major style. It was different from a vest because it tended to be the same length as a traditional blazer or suit coat and often featured the button position, vents, and shoulder pads of a suit coat. It could just as well be a suit with the sleeves hacked off. These were usually made in low-quality polyester and worn sans shirt. They were purchased by those who felt comfortable revealing their chests. Perhaps we should be glad that I can’t locate a photo of this look.
Still, I am earnestly attempting to find comfortable suit alternatives for summer. Can a light waistcoat or vest be a substitute for a suit jacket or blazer in the summer? It could be a backless vest in a very light cotton. Here in Beijing, I have been seeing a lot of these vests on both sexes; they are usually paired with tee shirts. If it were a suit, the bottom piece could be longish shorts. This is probably pushing things too far beyond the bounds of good taste.
I’m not sure how well it goes with the whig, but it’s an interesting whimsical print in a silk chiffon. Left over from a high-end order meant for export, Lu got hold of around 15 meters, which means she was able to make five pieces – truly a limited edition.
Some people actually consider mixing black and brown to be a no-no, but Niklas is proving them wrong. A teacher from Sweden, he believes that fake items are underrated, describing his “Converses” as just as comfortable as the real thing. However he still prefers Swedish brands since they are cut to fit slim people.
The sale just started yesterday at Lane Crawford. Get over there before it is too late.
Items are 30% to 50% off. In many cases, this just brings the price down to what it would be at about a 10% discount in the West, but not all of us have time for the trip back.
Unfortunately, my girlfriend wouldn’t let me spend too much time assessing the women’s clothing collections. The shoes on offer are quite nice, if you skip all the cheesy stuff and the rather brutal and strangely geriatric designs of Jil Sander and Dries Van Noten. There was an odd piece – I can’t remember the designer – that looked like a computer chip that wanted to be a samurai. The Miu Miu flats (RMB 1800, after 40% discount) in patent and calfskin are cute and a good shoe – considering the general low quality of women’s footwear – with leather soles and stitching rather than pasting. Hey, I view this from a man’s perspective. I don’t remember the brands, but everything under 1800 seemed to be pasted, rather than stitched. I’m a lover of much of the Alaia line, but there wasn’t too much on sale.
Let’s go to territory I know better. I particularly recommend looking at the men’s shoes, all the more fashion forward brands are on sale and most sizes are still available. They have a well-edited collection. In terms of quality and style this is the best value that can be found in Beijing. There are quite a few goodyear welted, full-grain leather, shoes made in Spain and Italy in the 1500-2500 range, which is not overwhelmingly pricey by international standards. Good for foreigners, size 44 (around a US 11) is available in most sizes, though 45 is rare. Unfortunately, the classic brands such as Santoni, John Lobb, and Church’s are not on sale.
Some of the other shoes are designed exclusively for Lane Crawford, and the quality is very respectable. The styles are fashionable but would not stick out too much in any work place. While not a huge bargain, it is by far the best one you will find in Beijing with such an excellent selection. These are light years beyond the dress shoes in that dreadful little shop – everyone loves it because there’s nothing else – in the Nali Market, which are invariably pasted and in terrible leather. Back to Lane Crawford, steer clear of the well-known designer brands like Paul Smith, Yves Saint Laurent, and Miu Miu; the prices are much higher and the styles are inferior to the Lane Crawford store brands. There are some really kitschy sneakers and sandals from some of those trendy brands like Raf Simons.
Ties are also on sale, and the collection is superior. Big brands like Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood can be had for around 700 and there are some more beautiful, smaller Italian brand ties for 600 or so. Again, this is the best tie selection in the city. The only other shop that comes close is Aleia, in Oriental Plaza.
The clothes are also on sale, but I can’t really convince myself to spring 1500-3000 for a shirt or trousers. There’s just much less work going into these than a good pair of handmade shoes.
Still find Lane Crawford too dear? If you want an even bigger bargain or would prefer not to pay anything at all, I am selling or giving away a good deal of my work and casual wardrobe because I live in a small hutong residence and need some breathing space. I am a size 40L in suits, a 32 waist, and wear a size 44/US11 shoe. Text me at 13910092410, as much of the free stuff will probably be gone by tonight.
Yes, a lot of people smoke in Beijing. Poor workers smoke, but so do cool creative types. Smoking appears to have the same subversive appeal that it does in the West, but the habit is aided by the very cheap price of cigarettes. On the way to practice, she had no time for chit-chat, but she did say that she wouldn’t pose if I was from City Weekend. I said I wasn’t, but I think she probably didn’t want to be in any of the English language magazines. Of course, my photos appear in That’s Beijing, soon to be called The Beijinger.
His photographs make Beijing cranes seem tranquil and connected to China’s heritage of ink painting. His motion pictures capture the trauma and apparent injustice of interrogations. Zhao Liang, an artist whose style projects beyond his masterpieces, also likes to give Beijingers a fun night out with the outdoor concerts he organizes at the Three Shadows Art Centre.
Rico and Erica have both read at least a couple works of Kafka, in translation, but Rico says she prefers Milan Kundera. These two Czechs came up because Rico said she studies finance but wishes she could focus on literature. The Kafka should still come in handy once she enters a cubicle. Please note that I have a gnawing feeling that there is a debate somewhere on whether Kafka can be considered Czech. Or maybe this isn’t even debated; he was a Jew from Prague who wrote in German.
Before the hot weather started up a week ago, long cardigans were everywhere. Look also at the post below. I associate long cardigans like this with Japan and Hong Kong. It is probably no surprise that Uniqlo carries its own version.
A PR executive from Hong Kong, Patrick remains fan of Beijing after living here for eight years. He says the odd thing about Beijing, in comparison to other Asian cities, is that it does not bother trying to fashionable. Young people in Beijing have their own style throwing things together in ways that can be either disastrous or interesting but are always oblivious to the trends. I also like the color of his suede shoes and the details on his shirt, from Yohji Yamamoto.
Patrick doesn’t seem like the type of guy that hangs long underwear out to dry on the side of a public street in a bar and coffee shop district. Around Nanluoguixang, those types still abound – thankfully. It adds the charm and flavor, we foreigners seek. In fact, the same people that hang their underwear out to dry publicly, also walk around the street in just their underwear. That’s also charming, though I think more of an effort should be made to add personality to these inner garments if they are going to be used as outerwear. Some options might be tie-dye, little embroideries, or perhaps even some of the features of normal clothing drawn on. For pants, they could draw pockets, cuffs, and a zipper in a whole range of colors.
At an American PR firm, Wang Xiaodong rocks the long cardigan and works mainly on Vidal Sassoon. Song Ying, in media, just got back from studying in Korea and she says that the air is worse in Beijing now but the people are much more fashionable. Does that mean that overall things are improving aesthetically? In any case, Beijing girls still don’t care as much about appearances as Korean ones, who literally all have had plastic surgery.
Norwegian Mariann Thomassen really likes Beijing and its music scene even though her electro-pop band Surferosa had its big breakthrough with the album Shanghai My Heart. She is known throughout Oslo as a fashion icon and frequently appears in street pictures series like this. Her band is on its first tour through China.
Based out of Chengdu, Xu Weijia has started a brand of high-end menswear called Rich Gainer, which will compete for the same stylish guys as Gucci and Dior. Prices will range from RMB 1,000-2,000. As a brand builder, he never buys fakes, and that is the real Dior Homme tie with the spider and the a real baseball type jacket from Gucci, both bought in Hong Kong.
This retired train conductor is no fashionista, and he confesses he has no interest in clothing. Nevertheless, I think I would wear his coat, from the uniform he used to wear on the job.
A Great Light Has Gone Out. Yves Saint Laurent, 1936-2008