Dear Shaded Viewers,
Our trip to Beijing Design Week wrapped up in early October and one of the last highlights was our visit to the opening of the gorgeous new shop from the brand Shang Xia. Founded in 2008, Shang Xi brings Chinese craftmanship to the needs of contemporary lifestyles though a mix of heritage and innovation. Translated, “Shang Xia” means “up” and “down”–a reference to the brand’s philosophy of the flow of energy from the past continuing through to the future, transmitting the essence of Chinese culture and its aesthetics.
We were meant to attend the opening of the exhibit organized by the store at the very Soviet-friendship-era-sounding Agricultural Exhibition Center, but the Chinese government shut it down less than 12 hours before the show was to open. It was October 1st, the big holiday commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and government officials decided it was too close to Tiananmen Square to host a non-government event. Welcome to China, dolls!
Given that the shop only had a few hours to prepare a smaller presentation in their retail space, I was impressed by how they pulled it together so quickly and did such an expert job! BTW, the Shang Xia exhibit is currently at the Agricultural Exhibition Center until the end of October, so march on over there if you happen to be in Beijing!
Jiang Qiong’er, CEO and Artistic Director of Shang Xia, showed us some of the pieces for sale, cut from to-die-for fabrics. This wrap is from Shang Xia’s Cloud silk collection and features ultra-fine Muga silk and mulberry silk, hand-woven with a creamy white and light gold grain. No two pieces are identical. Inspired by Han Dynasty traditional clothing, the long and wide cut floats generously around the body (like a cloud). Light as a feather, thin as gossamer. Divine!
Anne-France Berthelon, who writes for Ideat, modeled the piece.
The partitions in the store are designed to invoke the shape of ancient grey-bricked hutong walls.
Qiong’er showed us the beautiful book (all the photos are shot by Paolo Roversi–impressive!) about the brand and her family, which includes this photo of her grandmother, Zhu Xiuyin. (We all got to take home a copy of the book, which is gorgeously produced.)
Paolo Roversi’s photo of Qiong’er’s grandmother complemented by this sumptuous swathe of red felted cashmere. It’s made from the rarest quality of Mongolian cashmere which is kneaded, rubbed and rolled into seemless, elegant shawls.
This I absolutely loved: the walls in the back of the shop are made from compressed pu’er tea. They impart a lovely, subtle scent.
And of course pu’er tea was served in the corner of the shop with the compressed-tea walls. Pu’er is the most famous tea from Yunnan province.
This featherweight bowl is made from eggshell porcelain that employs a technique that has existed for almost a thousand years. During the Ming Dynasty, porcelain master Hao Shijiu invented eggshell cups. The porcelain is remarkable in its extraordinary thinness and takes over forty processes to make, from turning the clay mixture to firing three times.
On one evening, we were invited to a bottomless champagne toast at the Baccarat store in Sanlitun. Here is Jeffrey Ying wearing his celebrated electric-blue mohair suit. Because I was out all day on a Long March from design exhibits to press lunch to shop visits, I was in my utilitarian Uniqlo for the People’s Liberation Army casual top. I didn’t know we were going to end up at such a fancy fete!
Artist Cyril Duval and friend during dinner at the new Italian restaurant in the Opposite House hotel.
Of course Alice McInerney (right) and I had to organize a dinner for all the visiting press at our favorite Yunnan restaurant in Dongcheng, just two hutongs down from the fabulous Orchid Hotel where I stayed last year. As you may well know, Yunnan food is my all-time favorite cuisine in the world. Here we are digging into a second platter of flash-fried shrimp and lime leaves. My other favorite dishes are the fried goat cheese and mint salad garnished with extremely hot chili peppers. From left: Dan Howarth of Dezeen, Anne-France Berthelon of Ideat, Greg Schoeder and Alice. (Ana Dominguez Siemens from El Pais was also there, but she was in extreme pain from the chili peppers and I think she was rolling around under the table when I took this photo.)
Alice and I at Dada. We stopped there after dinner but the music was terrible and the crowd was dodgy and crunchy (honky hippie kids from Europe and Australia who think they discovered the hutong lifestyle). We left and went to Mei Bar which offers excellent cocktails and lounge-lizard music. I had a fresh rosemary mojito.
I was really surprised that Putin let one of the Pussy Riot girls out of jail to attend the Lacoste and Campana Brothers party at Captital M. Must have been one of those shady deals between the Kremlin and the Chinese Communist Party.
Jeffrey and I at Dada.
On one particularly boozy night, I went to one of my favorite Beijing discotheques, Baby Face, with Dan from Dezeen and James Gaddy from Surface. It’s a straight place so the slide show of half-naked white men behind the DJ was rather curious.
The dance floor at Baby Face. Yes, this is where all the rich Communist Party brats go to party their privileged asses off and then pass out under the tables. In front of the club is a row of Mercedes and Ferraris. That’s the new face of Communism, dolls. It brings to mind what Evan Osnos wrote in the current issue of the New Yorker: “…the son of a close aid to China’s President, accompanied in the predawn hours by two women in states of undress, had totalled a black Ferrari on an expressway in the capital. For the Party, as it prepared to anoint a new slate of leaders to run the country for the next ten years, the timing was excrutiating.” I’m sure he was driving home from Baby Face!
Marianna Cerini looks on as Dan Howarth of Dezeen is possessed by the spirit of a bygone empress in front of the Opposite House.
Not quite the view I had from my terrace in Vienna or my beach-front suite in Rio, but of course my Beijing hotel view featured a construction site. I think they are building a casino/gulag/tapas joint here.
The maid put this red moss in my room to “purify the air” but I think it might have been a moss version of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers pod.
Thanks for reading.
My previous reports on Beijing: