Tagged: Xidan 西单

No part of Beijing is more closely associated with youth culture. The crowds of stylish young people are positively overwhelming. In the past, style here has ranged from the bizarrely provincial, to the unapologetically Japanophilic, to the tight jeans and bleached hair that leave one guessing as to whether the wearer is a hair stylist or of a more interesting profession. As with many parts of the city, Xidan becomes more sanitized with the opening of every new high street shop.

In a League of Her Own

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Not long before seeing her at the Burberry party (the post before), I encountered Ivy in the hutongs. Born in Beijing, she grew up outside the Second Ring, she now lives near Nanluoguxiang. At the moment, in addition to studying design and designing, she writes for a range of fashion magazines. Ivy frequently travels abroad, preferring Paris and Tokyo.

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This pair of shoes is part of one of her collections. Anyway, I am eager to see more. Her website will be up soon. I’m sure her aesthetic thoughts will creep into our hearts and enchant us away from the codes we hold to most dogmatically, the way ivy encircles the most stolid, old, structures, breaking them down…

Pink Panther and Sponge Bob

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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.

Beijing, Impossibly Small

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The China Post tells us the total population of the municipality of Beijing, including legal and illegal migrant workers, is 17 million, a figure cited by most others. The Embassy of the PRC in the USA frightens us a bit more with 20 million. Many of my acquaintances, aiming to drive the annoying foreigner from these teeming shores, claim 25 or even 30 million. When talking to friends back home, I round up to a neat 100 million. Any fewer would be a let down. This is China.

And yet, I have almost never in recent memory walked down Nanluoguxiang without encountering at least three people I know. In evenings, when I don’t really photograph, the number is even higher. At times, it approaches 100 million. In Sanlitun, it is also common for me to run into people I know, though there I often pretend I am someone different. Granted, in the other million hectares of this miasma of concrete devouring the North China plain at light speed, it would be almost shocking to see a familiar face.

I literally always run into photographer Xiao Yang. Though I do like him, our meetings have not been intentional after the first one. Xiao Yang was on his way back from photographing the famous British-born art collector and critic, Karen Smith, who resides and houses her myriad works of avant-garde modern Chinese art in a courtyard near Jingshan.

Stylites One of World’s 5 Best Street Blogs

Just as I received the hard copy of Der Spiegel in the mailbox of my courtyard, I also got word that H&M Magazine’s issue that features Stylites on page 18 was available in H&M shops around the world. H&M Magazine included Stylites in its list of the “World’s 5 Best Street Blogs” along with the Sartorialist and the Facehunter, the two most well-known blogs of this type. In thanks, I should mention that H&M will be making Beijing perfect, to paraphrase one of their slogans, within a month by opening its first shop at Joy City in Xidan.

H&M says its magazine has a global circulation of three-million. The top three US dailies are USA Today (2.3 million), The Wall Street (2.1 million), The New York Times (1.1 million), according to Wikipedia. Der Spiegel is a magazine with a circulation of 1.1 million.

The article includes a picture I took last summer of Edie Bao, who also appeared last week.

Also, I just saw that another blog Double King: Online Magazine for Fashion and Marketing did a post on Stylites.

Beijing’s Young, Hip, Couples

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These couples may not be at the cutting edge of style, but it’s always fun to find couples in which the two parts seem to go exceptionally well together. This is rarer than one might expect. The usual situation is a female concerned with fashion in an utterly girly way and usually carrying a designer handbag, accompanied by a horribly dowdy male with pleather shoes and an ill-fitting overcoat. These two study art design at Beijing Huijia University. The skull trend, investigated before, seems loath to die.
It’s a bit late, but I might even jump on the trend. Velvet slippers with the skull and crossbones have been one of the hottest items for at least two winters, as this article from the Spectator explains.

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And these two are recent graduates of university. They now operate an online fashion boutique. They are both born and raised in Beijing itself. This is surprisingly rare. Most people I encounter were born in the provinces and came here to work. She is indeed wearing a Yoo-hoo hoodie. This is in fact what convinced me to take the pic.

Some of my other favorite couples that have appeared on Stylites are the high school pair in which the guy was wearing M&M trousers, the two roommates wearing zebra pants and this pair of lovebirds. The last picture gives a great look at a wall along Nanluoguxiang from about eight months before the Olympics. Things are a lot cleaner now, though I adore the interesting patterns that the elements create on walls over the years.

Oil, Econ and Rock ‘n’ Roll

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Mylène Chen is an economist at Shell China Exploration and Production Co. Ltd. On the side, she sings for a rock band. Only 22, she speaks English and French, perhaps taking her name from France’s answer to Madonna. It’s funny because, in one of their constant comparisons of China with “developed” countries, several Beijingers have remarked to me that youngsters here have far fewer hobbies than their counterparts in the West. They do face far more constraints in the forms of huge loads of schoolwork and pressure from family, but I think that many people I meet in Beijing do a pretty good job in surmounting these.

Dapper Germans Understand Browns

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To celebrate the recent spike in German viewers resulting from the recent Spiegel article, here are two stylish German businessmen I encountered in Sanlitun. Claus Vogel is Senior Consultant at MSM Mandarin Strategy Management Consulting GmbH, a China-focused firm based in Düsseldorf. He shows us how well brown and navy go together. The navy Hugo Boss three-piece is nice with not only the shoes but also the brown tie, far preferable to the usual bright stripyness.

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His friend, mixing a utilitarin vest and high-quality casual wear, looks practical but stylish in earthtones. The suede monkstrap wholecuts are from Trickers and made in England.

Translation of Der Spiegel Article

What is chic in Tokyo or Helsinki? Style conscious people discuss on the internet what is worn on the streets of this world, and they thereby change elite models worldwide.

The man whom Nels Frye spotlighted did not look especially good, but he was worth a second glance. Frye met him on Changan Avenue in Beijing, a type with an unusually long beard [NF Note: I described him as “Jesus-like”], Adidas-like shoes and checkered coat and a cane. In no way a model, but that man had style, an unusual sort of boho, so typical of China in a state of explosion, the birth of a new creative class, said Frye. [NF Note: Collecting bottles definitely demands resourcefulness but I’m not sure about creativity. He addressed the man, asked permission to take a photo and put it on his blog. A little later came the first comments. On Frye’s website a small debate erupted. This photo inspired Nels so much that from then on he travelled all over Beijing with his camera. He photographed girls, ones who have cut their hair like Manga figures, young men with beards, pea jackets, pants with piped jeans and zebra stripes, and he put their photos on the internet.

For him street-style blogging was a hobby

So the American businessman, Nels Frye, 27, on the side, became a street style blogger. Every young person who allowed him to document the style of their city entered his blog which then was sent to the entire world. And in consequence he turned the established world model on its head.

What is important is not trends but style. Street-style bloggers show what real persons in their daily lives wear on the street and convey this to an audience of millions. Instead of showing over stylized mode-lines with skinny models, they show in their internet diaries how real people interpret a couture-circus. Not trendy but determinedly style. Everyone can comment on every picture. English is the universal language. There is no competition: it is a democratic forum for young people who express themselves and make the internet a common medium of style.

For Frye it led to this suddenly people from Chicago, Berlin or Helsinki comment on his blog with suggestions that a coat should be lengthened a bit, or that a particular outfit is well thought out. Other blogs, who do the same as Frye in Beijing, link to his site “Stylites” and from day to day the number of hits increases. Publishers of style magazibnes ask if they may use his pictures, and designers invite him to their exhibitions.

Worldwide, there are hundreds of these street-style blogs, etc……….

Harmonized Couple

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Both seeking work, Nikki and Snow live in Fengtai district, where, they say, there is nothing fun to do. Nikki says the best way of finding work and doing well in general is to make sure all of your thoughts and deeds are “harmonious” and do not upset anyone. In his opinion, for young people to succeed they must “become harmonized” (被和谐). He also commented that Korea has a much bigger influence on Chinese fashion and popular culture than the US and Europe, which he says offer more classic styles. Nikki runs a taobao shop that sells second-hand and vintage products from the West and Japan.

Lovely Couple with Attainable Style

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These days the Burberry plaid can only be done well in accents like the roll-up cuff of hot Hannah’s padded jacket. The fitted, herringbone blazer is perfect for Sunday and Chris knows how to pull it off casually. Their individual looks go well with together. The tweed coat worn by Chris is perfect outerwear for fall and even early spring. He had it made at Senli and Frye.

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Just to give more of an idea of this coat, here is a photo of me in mine. I was in desperate need of a haircut that day.

Teddy Pendant at Uniqlo – 小熊吊坠在优衣库

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I ran into Jesse Chen, an IT salesman, at the first Beijing Uniqlo on its first day of business. He and his friends made several purchases and felt quite positive about this new shop at Xidan. Likening Uniqlo to Ikea, he commented that the quality seemed better than Zara, while the prices are significantly lower. As for domestic competitors, Baleno and some others might qualify, but he felt that no Chinese apparel retailer possesses the same ability to create a “culture” around its brand.


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His cute teddy bear pendant reveals that even as a grown man he retains a small child’s spirit.