Cairn Wu Reppun
Owner, William The Beekeeper
Known as “The Beekeeper,” the vintage concept store in Shanghai features Reppun’s in-house brand, Kaileeni. It also stocks a variety of other indie brands, vintage items from around the globe, art work, furniture, books and home grown organic honey flown in from the Reppun family farm in Waihole, Hawaii.
“The business of vintage is a new concept to any society with new money. It is only recently that, say, Russian women have taken to accepting ‘old’ things. In the Chinese language there isn’t even a word for vintage, only second hand. But anyone can see that the Chinese are a very malleable society in that they are open and willing to accept new concepts. We’ve been in business for four years. The original store, called Kaileeni, was also vintage and it’s taken some customers all this time to finally be okay with buying a few vintage pieces. We’re in it for the long haul, so although it has been a difficult model, it’s what sets us apart and eventually we’ll do well. That said, we have the luxury to be patient and teach customers about vintage goods that may not be popular now – as we also sell goods that are currently in demand, including new indie designers, books and organic honey. Also, we have a great deal of foreign customers who love vintage. Basically, we sort of have something for everyone.”
Although most people see public phone booths as a remnant of a past without mobile phones, Pullum saw them as an “underperforming asset” that are still relevant in the modern world. Selling advertising space on Shanghai’s 8,000 phone booths, Pullman says Phatmedia is the city’s largest poster space provider with clients like Disney, Coca-Cola and Nike.
“The thing that really appealed to me was that this was an existing business, but a failing one. Phone booths were a sleeping giant, but everyone thought they were a crappy media. They were in a bad way in terms of market perception. Instead of just selling space on a certain road, we sell space by audience. I can put you outside supermarkets, bars or cinemas, depending on whom you want to sell to. Our mapping idea was so new and novel – it was clear that if we got that right it would work. We first trained students to take pictures of all the phone booth sites within 30 days. Every site was mapped so we knew what was in the surrounding area and we got the coordinates of each site. Once we got that mapping organized, it was very exciting to be able to talk to clients. I think the key issue for me is that China is very fertile; you can plant anything here because of the economy and make it work if you do it right. And there is a lack of expertise, which makes it easy for someone who has been in business for a while to fill that gap. There’s a lot of expertise still to come to China.”
Joseph Ng & Billy Potts
Founders, Handsome Bag Company
Joseph Ng and Billy Potts create functional and surprisingly stylish bags made from discarded taxi upholstery with the help of skilled local craftspeople.
“Materials that have been recycled tell a story. They have been designed and conceived for one role. When you find a way to take this design and reapply it, the previously unseen genius and beauty of the material really comes out. In our case, taxi upholstery tells a very specific story about our urban landscape here in Hong Kong. An ubiquitous stitch pattern that would normally go unnoticed in our day-to-day interactions with a taxi suddenly becomes an aesthetic highlight. At the same time, the utilitarian aspects translate into advantages such as waterproofing and ease in cleaning and maintenance. Hong Kong is gradually changing its attitude towards using recycled materials. We think that the whole world is now realizing that our resources are finite and that this is a first step towards some large changes that we need to make. We need to consider what happens to objects when we have finished with them – how we dispose of them, how we can minimize or reuse waste. Many designers have known this for years: We cannot produce as we did in the 1950s – with no regard for limited resources.”
Owner & designer, Paper Tiger Shanghai
Paper Tiger’s gift wrap designs reflect Shanghai’s art deco period and Beijing’s hutong past. They are produced using 100% recycled paper and soy-based ink. Born and raised in New York, Young currently resides in Beijing.
“My local consumers appreciate the Chinese-inspired designs and my foreign consumers appreciate the recycled/reversibility aspect of my paper. It’s interesting because I think [Shanghai’s] older population probably embrace using recycled materials more. I see a lot of older Shanghainese re-using household items and clothes. That said, I think a lot more can be done in schools to educate children on environmental awareness and the recycling movement. I find it shocking when I still see young people throwing their trash out the window or as they are walking. It’s really appalling, and I blame their schooling, their upbringing and the overall attitude of this country towards earth awareness. It will [change], but it will take time and effort. There has to be a broader education and understanding of why using recycled materials matters and how it affects other areas of environmental protection.”