Export Manager Mr. Edoardo Simone of Brunello Cucinelli was in Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of Hong Kong’s The Swank, the first retail outlet in the mainland that will be carrying his brand. The Swank opened its first outlet last Friday with a celebration (covered by luxury insider) at the Beijing Hong Kong Jockey Club Clubhouse.
Brands on offer include Isaia, Balmain, Dormeuil, Andrew GN, to name a few. This is, in a sense, only the second major multi-brand high-end retailer to land in Beijing with the first being Lane Crawford, also from Hong Kong. The norm here is free-standing boutiques in large malls, of which there are an ever-growing number. This limits the market to those companies that have the size to finance a major commitment in the form of staff, rent, etc.
This has a couple of effects, which I regard as largely negative. Mainland customers have been up to their ears in Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Gucci, Armani, D&G, Hugo Boss, and other brands that are either part of major fashion groups or, in any case, heavily reliant on marketing. When a good portion of a company’s revenue flows into advertisements and public relations, one cannot be blamed for wondering how much is left for creating high-quality luxury goods.
Whereas Lane Crawford offers many fashion-forward and avant-garde brands, the Swank brings to Beijing relatively smaller Italian companies, like Brunello Cucinelli and Isaia, that invest in the best fabric, craftsmanship, and good working conditions. These cater to a somewhat more mature audience, from around 35 to 55. It will be very interesting to see how these brands perform in China. They are only recognized by a few and do not rely on heavy branding, glossy models, and appeal to the fashion crowd. Judging by the shawl-lapel suit worn by Mr. Simone, the garments do have some style.
Though very retro in attire, she was at an outdoor electronic music show that seemed quite of this exact moment. The event was put on at Sanlitun Village by Acupuncture, which will be co-hosting the 2009 Beijing electronic music festival, this May. She said that most Chinese fans of electronic music are post-college and pre-35. The taste of college kids is still very dominated by pop.
A young designer in his own creation, which is 100% wool and button-free.
Chris Chan, an in-house PR guy for Izzue, hooked up my invitations and such. He, like many, is rocking the slim bowtie. For more Izzue party pics, head to facebook.
CNN reports on H&M’s arrival here. Hopefully for my Swedish brethren (my father is Swedish), the crowds will keep coming. Beijingers remain in dire need of the inexpensive basics H&M provides, so prospects look good. The product mix looked quite complete.
Success will not be a result of location. Around 300 meters down the vacant lots of the main walking street at recently refurbished Qianmen and a good ten minutes from the subway exit, one can only conclude that H&M received an incredible deal on rent. There are no similar fashion boutiques in the area and most pre-H&M foot traffic was domestic tourists. Either H&M realized these people have an even more dire need for their goods or the landlords gave free rent for the year.
As you may have heard, H&M opened its first shop here amidst great fanfare. I had hoped to go into some detail about the opening party and the mobs who stood in line the rain on the next day, the official formal opening, but I have been extremely busy. Anyway, this cute pair was at the opening ceremony.
Many men go for this sort of look. It covers all the bases at this particular moment. We’ve got the slim black jeans and the peak lapel “fashion coat” that isn’t a suit jacket but also isn’t a conventional sport coat. There is the slim, black tie, loosened. Then, most important, is the waistcoat, beloved piece for this generation of young urbanites in Beijing and beyond. Oh, and of course the Converses. Those could be on any one, but they make this fellow more approachable. All things considered, the look succeeds. All of the men I see on the subway should imitate this.
Zhao WeiLin (赵伟霖), Marketing Dept of Citizen Watch (China), says his preference is for “the Anglo look” or “gentlemanly with a penchant for slightly more fashionable and quirky details”.
Photo: Anne Li
From Anqing in Anhui province, He Lulu (23) is now at the Communication University of China, studying to be a TV host. Despite all of the Western cartoon characters she is wearing, her favorite of all time is Hello Kitty. She does dress this way every day. Apparently no one at her University thinks it odd.
Some will accusing me of photographing everything strange I see and neglecting pedestrians who exhibit true good taste. Others will point out that there are whole tracts of Tokyo in which those who don’t mix hot pink with yellow and the Pink Panther with Sponge Bob are treated as lepers. The goal of Stylites remains to catalogue, and ideally profile, the interesting characters stalking the streets of Beijing at this particular juncture in history.
The Beijing rock scene lures talent from other music hubs. Austin, Texas, guitarist and drummer Taylor arrived in Beijing four months ago to make music. In Texas he was part of Balmoreah, a band that blended classical, western and rock to produce a unique sound evoking the tranquil empty spaces of Western Texas. Taylor describes the region, his original home, as a perfect one for creative work. Distractions are minimal and entering a meditative, focused states is natural.
Beijing may not be terribly tranquil, but Taylor thinks it is also a good place for creatives, and they have been flocking here recently just as they do to Berlin, which he thinks has a similar vibe. He lives in the Nanshiliju area, one filled with bohemians, but also enjoys hanging out in the Nanluoguxiang area where there are several performance bars that he frequents. His favorite local bands are Lonely China Day and the Re-TROS.
Born in Beijing, photographer Anne Li immigrated to England at age nine. After graduating from the London School of Economics with a degree in international studies, she worked at Rothschild as an investment banker for two years. She found out that her heart was elsewhere and took off to study a year of photography in Paris and then three months of tango in Buenos Aires. She is now a freelance photographer here in Beijing, shooting fashion for magazines as well as portraits and more artistic work for herself. In addition to photography, she loves all types of dance, singing karaoke, and partying with friends at Mesh.
Her style seems to have moved pretty far since her days in the square mile, or maybe this was her casual Friday look. The skirt was made by a young designer based in London, Nadia Ivanova and the cardigan is from Primark.
She bought the shoes on Nanluoguxiang, but they are about the only item she has been able to pick up here in Beijing.
A visiting artist outside of his hutong home.
The Chinese version of Japan’s LEON magazine is now available throughout the country under the title Nanren Fengshang (男人风尚). Ni Ya (倪亚) is Style Director for LEON, which he says will offer a functional approach aimed at teaching men how to dress their best while expressing personal style. This approach to fashion magazines is characteristically Japanese, in contrast to the abstract, slightly vague, representation of style that appears in Western fashion publications. Most men’s publications targeting Chinese men have adopted the latter approach.
Ni believes the main difference between Chinese and foreign fashion labels is that the former are more geared towards mass taste, while foreign labels focus on specific demographics. China Fashion Week was not an attraction. He explains that the labels present lack unique voices. His favourite fashion label is Phillip Lim.
Photo: Anne Li
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Also, I am visiting Europe at the moment, so updates will be a little bit sparse for the next few days. Regular daily updates will recompense next Monday, when I return to Beijing.
Sai Le (赛勒) adores Japanese culture and fashion. Often going by the name Asako, she also reads Japanese fashion magazines like Mina and Vivi. A media consultant living in Chaoyang district, Asako spends free time in the old city, usually around Nanluoguxiang or the Lama temple.
The look may not seem exactly revolutionary, but I like the way she achieves such attractive outcome, while harmoniously incorporating so many elements I normally despise: an unconventional piercing, unnaturally colored hair, ripped jeans…the list goes on. The lush green velvet jacket and decadent jungle cat flats paired with ripped jeans achieve the type of “casual with a twist” look that I rarely see done so well here. The boyish hair style and stud are an interesting contrast with this look that is at once refined and rebellious. The orange hair works nicely with the green jacket. Others should take note. Recently, there have been a growing number of young ladies with ginger hair wearing bright red coats. This is insane – and in a tedious way.
I should start a “classic Beijing” category. It would include young rockers like this and old men in Mao jackets, which is the sort of funny combination that makes this an interesting place to live. Thinking of the city and its denizens, I immediately think of an image like these two. I was going to add “post 2000″ but in images and movies of youth in the city from the late 1980s, I’ve noticed some of these types. Is the current breed as tough, as genuine, as their spiritual forebears?
It’s a much more pleasant image than that of a chubby businessmen with alligator loafers holding a pleather murse or a kept woman in pink fur carrying LV, which are what I think of for several other prosperous towns. Beijing is China’s bohemia. You noticed, I’m sure.
The city never feels bereft of boy rockers in their skinny jeans. They have appeared on stylites many times: last year and more recently. Plenty of girls too: Norwegian, Gia, and rather pretty.