Traditional Chinese clothes & things that caught my eye this week

4 minutes estimated reading time

Making traditional Chinese clothes cool has been something attempted by multiple groups over the years. Shanghai Tang was founded by the former businessman, restauranteur and columnist Sir David Tang. More recently, there have been Han nationalists or fantasists that wanted to roll back the clock to before the Qing dynasty.

Shanghai Tang S/S 2007 ‘look book’ film
South China Morning Post on the Hanfu movement. Trumpism with Chinese characteristics?

This effort by a couple of Hong Kong based fashion designers is one of the more interesting efforts that I’ve seen making traditional Chinese clothes cool. They definitely have a Hong Kong aesthetic in their approach and the Hanfu movement members would complain about the Manchu elements. but I think they do make traditional Chinese clothes cool.

In China, you’ve had cities that became well known for their role in the global supply chain. Shenzhen became the electronics capital, Dongguan was the centre of shoe manufacturing and the eastern city of Yiwu focused on Christmas decorations. This all became more complex over time. Shenzhen still has factories and corporate headquarters for technology companies. But its also now the second largest stock market in China.

An old television factory complex has been redeveloped into a creative, startup and retail space called OCT-LOFT. The best analogue I can think for it is the Tea Building on Shoreditch High Street or the Truman Brewery at the back of Spitalfields.

Dongguan saw much of its shoe and clothing production move inland to poorer provinces, or abroad to countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh. Former factory sites were redeveloped, Huawei moved much of their workforce out of Shenzhen to a campus in Dongguan.

Yiwu still focuses on Christmas decorations (and Chinese new year decorations). Much of the work is done a piecemeal basis rather than in sophisticated automated factory lines. (This concentration of light industry also explains why China managed to close down the city to handle this winter’s power outages, since you can’t do that with heavy industry safely.) This documentary trailer by a Serbian film maker gives you a feel for the city.

There is is so much in the film, the aspirations of young people and what work that they are prepared to do. The Chinese version of the American dream and the demographic time bomb of an ageing population.

I read a number of China related email newsletters, the latest one that I started reading is the Trivium China Tip Sheet. I’ve been reading it for a few weeks now and can recommend it. You can sign up to it here.

Recent work by 72&Sunny Amsterdam for Coca-Cola.

72&Sunny Amsterdam for Coca-Cola

There was a consensus that restarting advertising after media spend was pulled at the onset of COVID-19 was a pivotal moment for the brand. Coca-Cola had put in place a three months of advertising pause and on the back of a social media embargo. The idea was that the brand’s voice should shine through – the message in culture, not the can. We decided to double down on Coke’s core value of optimism, which as been at the centre of Coke brand advertising for a long, long time: hilltop, the Christmas ads, joy machine activations etc.

At the time when Coca-Cola pulled their advertising there were (rightly) serious questions about the wisdom of the move. There is a large swathe of data to show that advertisers who spend through a recession come out with enhanced market share. The problem faced by marketers is what to say in the adverts beyond the brand. Also what happens if you promote a product and customers can’t buy it due to shortages (like 3M masks or Charmin toilet roll)? I understand the calculus that drove some of Coke’s decision making at the time. Given Coke’s move; when they came back, they HAD to get it right.

Clever digital out of home media buy by a Chinese property developer. The video is designed to make use of the digital screen that comes in from the left of the screen, goes around the corner of the building and above the second retail unit. The creative uses the buildings design and illusions of perspective to provide the immersive experience.

The illusion works best when going across the cross walk in front of the camera, so the design incorporated a lot of thinking not only about the amount of footfall, but likely direction of footfall in front of the advertisement.

I discovered it on LinkedIn, but would guess that it has been shared by multiple people across several platforms.