With a rising underground music scene, an established contemporary art scene and prominent names in the fashion industry, the Beijingers are more and more looking to express themselves individually. Now they, and the large number of expats thriving in the big city, can go second hand shopping for a personal style at newly opened Trash & Diamond.
Just before I left Beijing and China I had the great opportunity and privilege to meet with Fang Fang, the owner of Chinas first real second hand store Trash & Diamond. I wanted to know more about second hand shopping in China, but I was also curious about the big upcycled bottle chandelier sparkling it away in the store’s ceiling as well as the impressive centerpiece table made from upcycled cardboard. Fang Fang and I also spoke of originality in China and the interesting and more and more influential scene of Chinas creators.
Fang Fang is careful to point out that Trash & Diamond is not just another vintage store, of which there are a handful in Beijing. In fact, Trash & Diamond hardly have any vintage items at all, they focus instead on a buy-sell-trade concept that let worn clothes back into the cycle with the goal to prevent waste in a country widely recognized as a giant manufacturer of cheap clothes.
Hello Fang Fang, please introduce yourself to us!
– I have a complicated background. I grew up in Vienna, Austria and then back to Beijing when I was 12 where I continued my middle school. Then I went to College in the U.K studying graphic design. After my graduation I have worked as an Art Director. I came back to Beijing in 2009. Working for Apple, I had a few opportunities traveling to LA, where secondhand shopping is blooming. After quitting my job, I decided to open my own secondhand shop, and try to recycle almost everything.
Tell me more about how you got the you got the idea to open the second hand shop Trash & Diamond? I heard something about over 20 suitcases full of clothes..
– I always liked old stuff, maybe I got it from my father who collects antiques. He took me to flea markets every weekend when we lived in Vienna back in the 80s. I think I have been to most flea markets in whole Austria!
– I also love traveling and when I do I like to go and visit all the local secondhand stores, it attracts me more then those shopping malls. I buy stuff around the world, and I have collected much mre than I should have. When we were house moving, I realized that I have 21 suitcases of clothes! I thought that I should get rid of most of them. Afterwards, I realized I’m not the only one who has a headache over their large wardrobes. Since buy-sell-trade store are so common in Europe and US, why can’t Beijing have one too? I did some research, and found out that there is no such shop in China yet, so I will be the first! How exciting is that?!
Buying second hand clothes is a new concept in China, how has it been received?
– So far so good, mainly young people in the age of 20 to 35 I will say. The mainstream still have some concerns as it was owned by other people, but after all it was better received than I expected.
You want to introduce the buy-sell-trade concept to a wider audience, now that the store been open for half-a-year, who is the typical customer? And have you reached a ‘new’ audience that did not yet know of recycled fashion?
– Most people in China have never experienced or hardly experienced secondhand items ever before in their lifetime. But as more and more students traveling abroad for study, the younger customers are familiar with this kind of stores. So I think its easier for them, and they will be our spokes people to introduce it to their friend and friend to friend. Word of mouth.
What is the future of second hand shopping in China do you think?
– I think its a big potential market, thus I’m working on it, because I believe in it. I hope I can be the big role to introduce this kind of recycled fashion concept to wider China. China is the biggest clothes factory of making, but do we really need that much clothes? It is such a waste, why not make the most of the existing sources?
I love that a great second hand store opened up in Beijing, but what first really caught my attention was the inventive interior design, that is also made from recycled / upcycled material. Can you tell us a bit about Trash & Diamonds interior design?
– Thanks for liking our store design, that is my husband Cao Pu’s effort.
Yes, I understand that your husband Cao Pu is the brain behind the design?
– My husband is an architect and I am a graphic designer. For this project we brainstormed together for a month before deciding on the current design.
– We have a lot of friends working in live house or bars, from whom I can easily collect empty bottles. We sent messages to our friends, and friends friends, and afterwards they sent us the bottles by express delivery or brought them themselves. Then we found two workers that helped us turn the empty bottles into a ceiling of chandelier. It was fun and we all had a great time. For the cardboard….em……we use to move home quite often and every time we do so, there are many cardboard boxes left. It is a light, easy to cut and stable material, and it is everywhere. So we decided to use this material.
I first came to Beijing via the Korean punk scene. After my studies in Seoul I followed a korean friend and member of the korean punk scene to Guilin, a city in Chinas southern province Guanxi. During a visit in the vast, noisy capital I was introduced to many of Beijings creatives, something that made a lasting impression on me. After only a brief visit back in Stockholm, I decided that I needed to go back to Beijing to learn about the cultural development that follows the economic development. Fang Fang is part of Chinas creative scene and so is her husband. I asked her what she thinks about creativity and originality in the complex, stirring capital in the north.
Your husband is a member of acclaimed Beijing based indie music group Queen Sea Big Shark known for their spectacular live performances and outfits.
– Yes, Cao Pu my husband is also Queen Sea Big Shark’s stage designer. He is the biggest creative brain behind this fascinating indie band. I am proud of him.
How much creativity and originality is it in Beijing? Do you see a move away from Made In China to Designed In China, will China in a not so distant future be more known for its design than its copies to the western world?
– Well, we already start seeing designers from China on a worldwide level. Fashion designers, film directors, artists, architects (some are chinese but holding foreign passport, but that doesn’t change that they are chinese) etc. Countless names. But true, now China is more known for its ‘Made in China’ or bad quality. But slowly I believe there will be more ‘Designed in China’ coming up. China has a deep and strong history of creativity in every aspect, recent years we lost a lot of our own uniqueness in design, that is a great pity. But the history is always there, if we can make the most of our uniqueness and dig more into it, its not hard to win back our reputation. But it is going to take quite some years…
I asked Fang Fang to namedrop a few interesting Chinese designers that she thinks represent Designed In China. She gave us many interesting names, many of them are her friends and renowned in the fashion industry. Sometimes their design is available second hand in the Trash & Diamond store.
– I have a lot of fashion designer friends. Zhang Chi Beijing’s rising fashion star, he is one of the biggest talent and a close friend, we have known each other for almost 5 or 6 years from when he just came back from the UK. Vega Zaishi Wang is another friend of mine, very young and professional. Chaotique Studio is my recent new love, I bought a lot of their collections recent days. It is owned by two talented girl friends, Su Guang Yu. Fashion designer Masha Ma became worldwide recognizable recently and is fashion week’s new love.
– These are all my good friends, our store owns a lot of their designs too (some are second hands some are their mistake pieces).
– One of my dearest friend Liu Zhili, we graduated from the same college back in the UK, and he is now one of the best product designers in China. He is a good example of ‘Designed in China’ as his design are so simple and practical to people’s everyday life, and some with a strong traditional chinese thought behind. Please have a look at their work, its impressive not only to China but worldwide.
The designers mentioned by Fang Fang are not Upcyclers per se, but as China is developing in a time where sustainability is nothing new, combined with Chinas large cultural heritage, is it too much to hope that these designers have a different mindset than the ones moulded in a previous era?
When Fang Fang and I met in the Shuangjing store, it had only been open for half a year, but Fang Fang and her partner in crime Lin, hoped they could soon open a second store creating a buy-sell-trade chain store. That plan seem to go off allright cause just a few days ago I received an invitation to the opening party of the second Trash & Diamond store in Wudakou, an area in Beijing known for its many universities. Congrats Trash & Diamond!
++ Visit Trash & Diamond in Shuangjing (22 International Art Plaza) or in Wudakou, Beijing
++ Follow Trash & Diamond on Weibo