Monday, April 26, 2010

Chinese "Vintage" Design

Contemporary China is not known for its excellent design work in any field, as far as I gather. From architecture to graphic design, package design to fashion design, Western viewers tend to see the underlying concept of design in China as function over form.

And while I can certainly point to many aesthetically unpleasing examples of buildings, magazines, packages, and products in China, I have also been noticing not only an increasing number of boutiques that specialize in quality graphic T-shirts, notebooks, and trinkets, but also old-school package designs that I'm going to term Chinese "vintage." "Vintage" because to me, they look old-timey, and I do believe most of the examples I will cite are in fact well-established brands, but I deduce also that there is a growing collective yearning for nostalgia among younger generations and I wonder how much corporations play into that by creating new "vintage-look" designs.

In contrast to the graphic Ts and trinkets, I can't say that examples of this design aesthetic seems to be increasing in number; I think I've just lately been taking a closer look at the thousands and thousands of packages that I see on the shelves at supermarkets.

One such product is Bee & Flower bar soap. I was recommended these by a friend and former CHENGDOO Magazine columnist Jessie Levene, and I noticed on a trip back home that they are available at the grocery stores in L.A. Chinatown as well. I think these are a fantastic example of the type of package design I'm talking about: the printed-paper wrapping allows the fragrance of the soap to come through; a brief introduction to the soap (in Chinese, English, and Spanish) is included and attached to the package with the gold medallion sticker; each of the four fragrances comes in a different colored paper (sandalwood, brown; rose, pink; jasmine, green; bouquet, dark green) for easy recognition. The soap, by the way, is lovely as well. I've stowed a couple in my closet to ward off bugs, and I use them to wash with, too. Like the introduction claims, they do leave my skin soft and fragrant.

The iconic Shanghai bicycle brands Flying Pigeon and Phoenix offer more examples of this aesthetic. (See logos for both). I'd point you also to photos of my beloved Feige bicycle (which I bought twice, both secondhand; neither lasted more than a few months under my careless ownership), but I couldn't find any.

Much has also been already written in English about the Chinese wushu shoe brand Feiyue, whose design has been licensed to a French company that sells much pricier versions of this classic all around Europe; such shoes have been spotted on the likes of Orlando Bloom. Funnily enough, the shoes are trendy among subculturists in China as well, and they're apparently not very easy to obtain in Chengdu. Last year, I met a guy from Hangzhou who had brought several bags full of the shoes to Chengdu to sell during the Zebra Music Festival. In Shanghai, these shoes go for around RMB30 per pop. The Hangzhou roadside entrepreneur was taking in upwards of RMB100 a pair, he said.

And, of course, with the rising popularity of vintage design, here's a modern take on classic bicycle design.

Images from:
Bee & Flower soaps

Bee & Flower closeup

Phoenix bicycle ornament
Modern vintage bicycle
Flying pigeon logo

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

China street style, finally!

[Photo credit]

I have been wanting somebody to do a China street style blog for a long time. In fact, I would do it myself if I had a digital camera. Alas, I have only a film camera with a broken shutter, and although a top one-third blackout with a soft edge might pass as artsy, I cannot afford to constantly develop film, nor take the time to scan it.

But I can be satisfied for a moment because recently I discovered Stylites in Beijing, and while the fashions may not be as outrageous or exciting as those featured on FRUiTS or Hel-Looks, they're sophisticated, understated, and show the occasional flash of color (turquoise tights, anyone?). I do find it interesting that a good number of the subjects either come from or now live in other countries. But I like how each one has a little story, unlike many of the U.S.-based street-style blogs which simply just show a photograph, and that the stories are in both English and Chinese. I'm generally not a fan of bilingual publications, but I think for such a thing, especially centered in China, it would be ideal to be in English and Chinese.

One of these days I'll have the cash to buy a camera (maybe the day I decide to stop squandering all my money on kilograms of wool), and I'll record Chengdu fashion too. And maybe one day the sun will come out, too.

Well, I can't post one link without another, can I? These days I am having fun at 爱手工, a Chinese social-networking site for handmade enthusiasts. I say Ravelry is something like a Facebook for knitters due to its high level of interactivity among members, but this really is, complete with update/status board, event pages, etc. Too bad there are only a handful of users in Chengdu.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Link roundup: We're in the news, and funny stuff

Milestone! On the eve of our third anniversary, our little project has made it into the Chinese news! Click here to see it. (It's a clip, largely translated from marketing prose by yours truly that appears on our media kit, talking about how our readers voted Zebra Music Festival the Best Cultural Event of 2009.)

Apparently it's not "just me" who gets annoyed. The general public's "inability" to "properly" apply punctuation is alarming. This post from The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotes made me laugh out loud.

That was a lame link roundup, but I've already spent half the day reading blogs that I don't want to link to, and I want to do other things with the few hours left before the week is over. So I'll also add this: For all three of you reading (Hi Coloradan!) I changed the title of my blog because I thought the old one was stupid. I thought it was stupid the whole time, but I thought it was even stupider to use, ahem, "not being able to come up with a name for my blog" as an excuse to not blog, and I did like the way it filled the space on the screen. Anyway I think this title is a more accurate representation of the blog, and it sounds funny, both in English and Chinese. I "think." I do not know why the last two characters are being rendered in a different font than the first three, however, and I also do not know how to "fix it." If anybody does, "please help!"

Oh, all right ... another one. This guy's pretty funny, too, sometimes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

AUTOBNOXIOUS: Celebrities on Bikes

Why do I feel like I'm always seeing photos of Miley Cyrus on bikes? Perhaps more importantly, why am I always seeing photos of Miley Cyrus? I don't even really know who she is or what she does, except that she's the daughter of achy breaky Billy Ray--and even that I didn't know until a month or so ago, when my nearly-60-year-old dad clued me in. Does she sing? Act? Be a Mouseketeer? Who knows, and who cares? What's important is that mostly I see photos of her tooling around town on two (non-gas-powered) wheels.

While a certain Huffington Post blog post might try to half-assedly posit otherwise, unfortunately, I don't think this is some greeny celebrity trend: I think that Little Miss Cyrus is just too young to legally get behind the wheel of anything else. Wait, no, according to Wikipedia, she's 17. Well!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Teaching English in China

The American Citizen Services in China finally did something quasi-useful: They've put up an information page for people interested in teaching English in China. Only about 20 years after Americans started coming to China to teach English. Well, better late than never.

Here's the link.

Honestly, I haven't read the whole thing in detail, but it looks fairly thorough, and I think I'll make it my new go-to link when people ask me for advice on teaching English in China.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Knitting links, plus a crafty one too

A knitted bus, does it get any better? Part of the trend called "yarnbombing," also known as knit-tagging. I'd heard of this but only as stop-sign cozies. Wonder how it would go down in China? Could be a big fat waste of yarn if it gets taken down two minutes after being put up.

Also, an entire knitted village. This one's definitely more the product of the "old-lady knitting" that knitting is often stereotyped as, but whatever. It's still pretty neat. More pictures here.

Finally, you patrons of the arts, an architect-almost-out-of-work (apparently the unemployment rate for architects in the States is over 50 percent) friend of mine is turning over a new leaf by selling handmade prints on her Etsy shop. Have a look, and if you like, support!