If you tuned in to the first part of this series, I mentioned that Beijing had a beautiful mix of ancient China and modern architecture, but in comparison to the fashion capital of Shanghai, Beijing seemed a few decades behind. Shanghai was bursting with life around every corner, but it felt a bit more familiar than Bejing. The western influence in Shanghai is definitely more apparent, beautifully decorated coffee shops, multicultural advertisement and a general acceptance towards foreigners. Contrastingly, Yu Yuan Gardens in Old Shanghai was one of the more ancient locations in, rich in traditional Chinese architecture and patterns. Yu Yuan Gardens was one of those places you literally cannot turn a corner without being impressed by the beauty of the structure.
In terms of menswear, Shanghai’s fashion consciousness is surprisingly underdeveloped. That directly correlates to the general focus of men in the city, which is less about personal expression, but more about personal success, hence the reason a lot of luxury brand names were on display amongst the attire there. There was however an entire section of a mall dedicated to up and coming designers, which is where I saw what Shanghai truly had to offer. China’s artistry came through in some of these one-off designs, from expressive silhouettes to rival an early 90’s Yohji Yamamoto, to striking Rock ‘n’ Roll/ Punk leathers that would make John Varvatos himself blush. And Gene Simmons. Gene Simmons would also blush.
Every part of the city is lined with intimidatingly huge shopping complexes, containing a plethora of clothing stores predominantly aimed at women, with a few menswear sections. The more affordable clothing wasn’t that different from what you can find here in the west, but I found the most interesting pieces were the creative accessories they had, presumably because of the ease of access to factories in China, making it easier for designers to experiment at lower costs.
We attended Shanghai Fashion Week’s press conference, where a few big shots in the Chinese fashion circle congregated to talk about… something. They were speaking in Mandarin so I had no idea what they were saying, but the food was good.
Speaking of food, Shanghai’s dumplings are legendary. The city is famous for their ‘Xiao Long Bao’- Chinese Soup dumplings. Let’s do the math: minced pork suspended+ a rich soup stock [placed inside of a bite sized pan fried dough]= rediscovery of taste buds. Being an uneducated foreigner, I hastily bit into the dumpling resulting in spurting boiling soup on my hands, but it tasted so good, I was incapable of feeling pain. I’m definitely lying.
We also visited Harbin, which is probably the next big city in China, and honestly the most fashion conscious out of the places I visited. The men and women were dressed immaculately there; presumably because of the incredible underground fashion stores we found stocking independent designers from South Korea and other parts of China. Incredibly cheap, not incredible quality but really cool pieces to experiment with.
Architecture, history, technology, art, food; if you’re interested in some if not all of these things, then you will definitely love China. It was an indescribable experience and I cannot wait to return. There is so much opportunity particularly in menswear and honestly some of the best food I have ever sampled, nothing like the inauthentic Chinese restaurants in the UK! Oh, and everything is generally dirt-cheap there. A premium restaurant will cost about £7 for a huge dinner, travel will cost about £3 from one side of the city to the other by taxi, and W.W.E-style massages cost about £8.
“Inspiration is contagious” (Not an ancient Chinese proverb by the way)
Slide 5-Trousers from All Saints, Trainers from New Balance