Eight Beijing fashion and lifestyle boutiques for indie labels both home-grown and foreign
Chinese consumers’ spending power is growing, and they’re looking for labels that will help them stand out from the crowd. These multi-brand boutiques in Beijing might be just what they’re looking for
Shanghai may get all the attention for its trendsetters during Shanghai Fashion Week, but China’s capital, which has been known to breed thriving underground scenes in its creative industries, is also home to a growing list of concept stores, monobrand shops, and multibrand boutiques featuring home-grown talent.
Malls that were once entirely dedicated to big name high-end brands are now being punctuated by vibrant, well-executed retail spaces that connect increasingly discerning Chinese shoppers with fashion and lifestyle concepts that are China’s own.
While the last 10 or so years has seen an ebb and flow of bricks-and-mortar shops that have dared to create a platform for emerging designers, rising rents and a market preoccupied by overseas brands can make it challenging to thrive.
But as China enters an era of accelerated spending and rising demand for online-to-offline experiences, there has been a slew of opportunists seeking to create Beijing’s own versions of Dover Street Market or Opening Ceremony.
Of course, shoppers can find a fine selection of domestic labels at department stores such as Lane Crawford and fashion veterans like Triple Major, but below are eight additional spots essential for the inquisitive shopper.
White is Good
Meng Qi and his partner Yvonne’s petite boutique looks like a white chasm deep inside the charming, colourful chaos that comes with a stroll through Beijing’s hutong neighbourhoods. Look closer, and it’s an elegantly curated sanctuary for all things white following their philosophy, “Life is white, white is good”.
Among minimalist goodies from Denmark, Japan, and the United Kingdom are locally sourced colourless products with character, like Beijing-based designer Yi Zhou’s plaster casts of body parts turned into jewellery and designer Anne Zhou’s simplistically elegant tote bags.
This summer, look out for another colour-themed shop to complement the current instalment – in neutrals, of course.
61 Guozijian Jie, Dongcheng district
One of Beijing’s latest concept stores to hit the scene, Playlounge is the creation of former fashion journalist Wang Ning, whose vision brings a refreshing splash of colour and quirkiness to the trendy minimalism that infuses many of the city’s newest lifestyle spaces.
Playlounge seamlessly mixes art with independent designer brands to create a fun, interactive space – a design-filled haven in a massive mall – with some sections of the store entirely curated into “galleries” showcasing products from foreign brands that aren’t for sale. Aside from shopping a huge selection of clothing, shoes, and bags, customers can take a break at the in-store cafe, browse accessories for the home, or get their nails done at the beauty bar courtesy of Shanghai water-based nail polish brand Little Ondine.
4/F, Xidan Joy City, 131 Xidan Bei Dajie, Xicheng district
Another creation born of a team of former magazine editors, Algorithm brings together Chinese fashion in simple silhouettes and neutral tones with a host of lifestyle labels from the US, Japan, Australia, and even local beauty products, including shampoo and conditioner from Chinese brand Conature.
Algorithm doesn’t stop at shopping – integrated into the airy, plant-filled space is a casual fine-dining restaurant where guests can go so far as to purchase the furniture and cutlery they’re using. The two-storey boutique is spacious enough for brand events and has attracted the likes of Kenzo, Dyson, and Chanel.
1-1 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang district
WeChat: algorithmbeijing (service account), algorithm style (blog)
AnyShopStyle came onto Beijing’s fashion radar in 2011, when it first started serving as an online incubator for China’s emerging talent. Now its 14 boutiques in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai stock more than 300 up-and-coming designers, with the philosophy that design should be determined by the customer, not the fashion editor.
It’s with this attitude that a fresh, often rule-breaking aesthetic is presented against a backdrop that’s a treat in and of itself. For example, its latest location in the Central Business District was designed by a Chinese firm known for its work with art museums, We Architect Anonymous.
3B107-108 (basement level) China World Shopping Mall, 1 Jianguomen Wai Dajie, Chaoyang district
Paint by Dongliang
Well-known Beijing fashion mover and shaker and Dong Liang Studio co-founder Charles Wang is also behind Dong Liang’s younger and edgier sister, Paint by Dongliang. Large skylights bathe this whitewashed hutong boutique in light, bringing attention to some of the trendiest Chinese designers of the moment, including Percy Lau, whose sunglasses have become go-to accessories for Chinese celebrities like Yang Mi and Lu Han, as well as collections from Angel Chen, Xu Zhi and Xander Zhou.
84 Guozijian Jie, Dongcheng district
This Sanlitun boutique founded by Han Lee and Jolie Chen is home to some of the hippest indie designer menswear, womenswear and lifestyle brands coveted by China’s urban millennials – in fact, they claim to have the most extensive collection of Maison Kitsune products in China.Shoppers will also occasionally find notable Chinese designers among the selection, including Shushu/Tong, a Shanghai duo whose collections have been featured in select shops like Opening Ceremony, Dover Street Market, and 10 Corso Como.
nlg-43 (basement level) Taikoo Li North Sanlitun, Chaoyang district
Ban Xiaoxue came onto the scene in 2014 with a reputation as being the chief designer for a clothing label known to be worn by China’s first lady, Peng Liyuan. Now, the Hebei-born designer and Woolmark Prize recipient has shops all over the country dedicated to his delicate womenswear, but his store in Chaoyang Joy City Mall is one of special note.
He was the first local designer to open a boutique there, and now is helping to lead the shopping centre’s transformation into a space committed to hosting independent Chinese fashion and lifestyle brands. Ban Xiaoxue’s shop in Joy City also stocks M Essential, by Tianjin-born talent Muki Ma.
L3-043 Joy City Mall, 101 Chaoyang Bei Lu, Chaoyang district
Chinese designer Masha Ma often brings a touch of futurism and suit-inspired tailoring to her womenswear collections, but in 2016 she brought a dose of much-needed menswear to the fashion space. She worked with a team of fashion editors to launch Magmode, a platform for menswear that combines e-commerce with editorials online, and brings together Asian fashion designers and lifestyle products into the offline space. Since then, Magmode stores have exploded across Beijing, but also in Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu, and other cities, with her menswear line Mattitude headlining alongside another Beijing-born millennial menswear designer Sean Suen.
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