Fashion and China: These two words unfortunately tend to stir up stereotypes: of Chinese tourists draped in baggy luxury, embossed with English phrases that may provoke laughter at the wearer’s expense. Of international students on campuses flexing with their newest Louis Vuitton or Gucci as they went on their ways to meet their friends for a game of mahjong. Of cheaply made knockoffs.
People do dress in those ways (and there are definitely a LOT of counterfeit goods here), but we’re missing something. Shanghai is known as the “Paris of the East” with its bi-annual Shanghai Fashion Week attracting the attention of thousands. Today’s young Chinese are wealthier, and that means their tastes are becoming more specific, and more refined, too.
For the past 2 years, I’ve been living in Beijing, China’s ancient capital. At the city center, in a neighborhood called Sanlitun, the most stylish fashionistas congregate to shop and show off. The dominance of expensive, gaudy brand names is over now (although MANY still dress that way). In my time at Beijing, I’ve been able to observe 3 broad trends of how the stylish tend to dress here. Today, we’ll take a look.
This is the most common general style you’ll see on the streets here. The fit is baggy, oversized intentionally, and the branding ubiquitous. People in China tend to follow the zeitgeist of the U.S., Korea, or Japan, most frequently. The latest and “greatest” all have brand-new storefronts in Sanlitun: Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Aape by A Bathing Ape, and of course Supreme (many sport counterfeit versions of their hoodies). People tend to dress MUCH looser here in general (both men and women), so sometimes it’s hard to tell if oversized fits from Streetwear are influencing people, or if it’s just the general style here.
A few images courtesy of Gunshu (he regularly posts content on the Chinese social media platform Weibo), a photographer based in Zhengzhou
If loose and relaxed is your calling, you may want to see how you can incorporate these lovely Relaxed Sweatpants or the Regular-Fit Sweatshirts into your fits. They're all made with plush, luxurious organic cotton; all dyed with natural dyes.
By far the most eye-catching trend I see in China. Indigo, Indigo, Indigo. People love that dye! I’ve spoken with some of the long-time style Icons in the Beijing workwear community and they have told me that “people are more and more dressing with intentionality in mind,” so they would dress with specific outfits that would fit a certain identity, rather than randomly mesh-mashing luxury pieces together to haphazardly assemble an outfit out of them.
I don’t think I’ve seen any city in the U.S. where workwear is as popular as it is in China right now, to the point where you have established luxury boutique shops devoted to the likes of Feit, Heimat, Porter Classic, and Story Mfg. Expensive stuff, along with a host of China’s own lauded Raw Denim brands. The style is loose, and the fabrics tend to be made from natural fibers.
I really believe people here would love some of the T-shirts from the latest natural-dye collection from Wolf vs Goat. I can see the Ice Blue and Sassafras organic cotton tee shirts being especially popular.
The left is a picture taken by me and the right by the aforementioned Weibo photographer
The classics tend to go hand-in-hand with minimalism here. It’s the Acne bros. The Heidi fanatics. The modern gentleman. This general style seems to be popular amongst the more conservative and low-key fashionistas in Beijing, those who want to either dress like masters of darkness, respectable young professionals, or minimalist models; or all of the above at once! Personally, I’d probably sneak a White Japanese Oxford into one of these outfits, or perhaps one of Mauro’s (Wolf vs Goat's founder) latest Italian drawstring trousers paired with a nice pair of leather penny loafers. In any case, these types of fashion enthusiasts aren't going to go anywhere anytime soon.
Mr. Zhang, looking stylish but professional in his asymmetrical coat, along with another dark-minimalist fashionista, courtesy of another Weibo user.