Shanghai Trendspotting

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Shanghai is a huge, vibrant, emergent city that has had the world’s gaze upon it for at least the last five years.  I might argue, however, that there has not been a any cultural development coming out of the city that has really influenced the rest of the world; and ‘modern Chinese style’ doesn’t count – I think it just as likely that this fad is being spun by foreign design agencies eyeing Shanghai.  No, there is not yet a Harajuku, Carnaby Street or South Compton that is setting the world’s imagination alight, and no youth culture, musical or style trends that have had any meaningful effect outside of China.

But that is not to say it won’t happen.

This trip, far more than any previous visit, I was struck by the sophistication of the young people on the trains, buses, and on the street.  They were dressing more cohesively, colouring their hair, flaunting their iPods and demonstrating the embers of individuality that a large city like Shanghai should be driving.  The general manner of people (ie: selfish and rude) also suggests to me a capacity for individualistic, independent thought; probably more-so than what I see in Taiwan.  I could be entirely wrong about that though; who knows what a Quasi-Communist education does to you.

But no, this trip I saw people dressed in some tasteful clothes, expressively vulgar clothes, and a whole host of trying their best to piece together a ‘look’.  It will be interesting to see how this evolves since the media is so restricted.

A local lad stands proudly, showing off his purple mane.

The other thing I couldn’t help noticing were the number of Sony PSPs and Nintendo DSs on display during underground train rides.  It’s perfectly possible that these were fakes, and simple movie players instead of bona-fide games units, but it was interesting none the less.  What I found more surprising were the sheer number of female players; clearly the macho game scene of the west is translated a bit differently here.

Indeed, on my last day, I came across a Nintendo demonstration area in the mall beneath the hotel.  A hoard of girls were demonstrating the things you could do with the DS to a delighted crowd of females and children; boyfriends and fathers in tow.  There were tables showing-off make-up games, cameras and games … I have heard of female purchasers being persuaded by tangible benefits rather than brutal features, and it was interesting to see this demonstrated.

Make-up apps.  Isn’t it funny that I now say ‘app’.

Other stands welcoming a stream of visitors.

But this is still China, and demonstrations of wealth still rule the school.  Ferraris and Porsches were everywhere, and there were as many Bentleys and Rolls Royces as you could shake a stick at.  Best of all was this modified Buick (a premium brand in China, bizarrely!) … smooth.

Gin & Juice

But as I have said before, I maintain that what makes Beijing cool is the Chinese (the rock music, the art …), what drives Shanghai are the foreigners.  Tony and Kelly took me to a British-style gastropub called The Waterhouse.  Serving hearty, modern food in a distressed warehouse atmosphere, it offered the perfect vantage point for looking out at Pudong and the amazing developments happening there.

New York’s scene is, by definition, driven by immigrants and foreigners.  And maybe Shanghai’s will be in a generation’s time, blurring the line between what ‘foreign’ and domestic Chinese trends mean.

View from The Waterhouse restaurant roof bar (avoid the cocktails, though).

5 Comments

  1. bluesinwhite
    Posted 2010/11/13 at 12:57 | Permalink

    well….Some of your oppinion is right. But I don’t think you can always think Chinese is a place that people love face market, want to show their flashy outside in terms of design industry. To be honest, this kind of description I hv told by the Taiwanese market for long long time, just half half. I am not quite agree with it. Because some of my Macao clients also like this. Honkongnese is also like this. Hongkongnese girls ,first see a girl , by seeing their bags name and trend. In short, I feel people want very good quality brand , that is true. Since so many unsavety feelings living in China, some people want good brand, which is also a answer.

  2. bluesinwhite
    Posted 2010/11/13 at 13:15 | Permalink

    I consider this for a while. Maybe Hongkon is a mature market. People already know lots of good quality and big brand already. They don’t need to gather to know more about them. But Shanghai or maybe China is not that much mature market. So in advertising China, PR EVENTS is always the bad channel to do the branding. So maybe it is because lots of Chinese want to have brand education. They want to know more about the world , especially in the feeling of always blocked away from facebook, twitter ,youtube,etc., There is a philosophy in the ancient China, the move feeling of forbidden you put on , the more desire will be built. It is a little poetic,coz Asian people hv poetic soul. Hope you can understand it. Sorry for bother so much ;-)

  3. Posted 2010/11/14 at 21:37 | Permalink

    Your comments are excellent, and very much appreciated – thank you.

  4. bluesinwhite
    Posted 2010/11/14 at 23:13 | Permalink

    with pleasure.

  5. bluesinwhite
    Posted 2010/11/16 at 18:45 | Permalink

    hi, I am considering abt this questions in the car, outside the car, in the office ,during lunch time….

    I deconstruted this proble. It can be seen like this.
    These is two kind of pleasure in this world. People live for deep happiness. I think it is no need to be discussed.
    But the thing is ONE PLEASURE that feed your SOUL, while the OTHER PLEASURE only feed your EGO.

    The problem gets to be. You want to be duality. You wang both EGO and SOUL.
    Or , you just give up your ego, stop feeding them , and see the real truth of you. and finally it may be a deepest pleasure, without need for luxury and fashion flashy, without status and rich lifestyle.

    But another way is a little compliated. But I found anyone when they listen to the music, in a beautiful atmosphere, bumping into a artist, they have got soul to have some kind of resonance in it. So I guess the only way to balance your SOUL and EGO.
    is, to have the best appreciation ability of beautiful talent, like music, drawing, poetry, if you have talent understand them deeply, truely, madly, you may have the ability to work and living in a quite balanced way.

    That’s what I have thought today. Too many words……

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