• photography by NELS FRYE

    Leaping Forward into the Past

    Written by Buyun Chen by Michaela Widergren

    When I moved from New York to Beijing at the end of August 2009, I packed nearly every shoe, jacket, and dress I owned. For weeks I had meticulously evaluated each item in my wardrobe and determined that it was absolutely necessary to take everything, only sparing a couple pairs of old jeans. (This, of course, resulted in a hefty overweight luggage fee.) My irrational packing was driven by the belief that Beijing had nothing sartorially inspired to offer me.

    In my mind, the ever-changing metropolis was littered with fast-fashion empires and luxury retailers disseminated across sprawling malls and outdoor shopping pavilions. This image, perpetuated by articles with titles like “China’s taste for high-end fashion and luxury brands reaches new heights” (published in The Guardian in April 2011) portrays the shopping scene as a playground for the foreign luxury market. One of the oft-cited statistics claims that Chinese consumers will buy over 40% of the world’s luxury goods by 2020. Yes, wealthy urbanites are shopping – but what are their young, financially constrained counterparts buying? As a recent transplant to Beijing, I was particularly invested in learning where the clothing-obsessed twenty-somethings – like myself – find the good stuff.

    After about a month in Beijing, I was desperate to shop – or at least, browse. I had heard that the Gulou (“Drum and Bell Tower”) district located in the east part of the inner-city, home to trendy but tourist-filled hutongs (narrow lanes), was a good place to start. On my search, I passed countless shops selling socialist propaganda T-shirts, floral patterned totes, and embroidered silk shawls – each trying to capitalize on the tourist’s imagination of an authentic Chinese past. Tucked between the traditional yogurt vendors and scattered in the side alleys, however, were small, unassuming boutiques that catered to a different consumer. Carefully curated, these shops offered modern silhouettes done in limited palettes with quality fabrics by local designers. My curiosity was piqued.

    While the figures of luxury consumption are striking, they eclipse the emerging local fashion design and retail scene. Many of the young designers have studied at elite fashion design schools in Europe and then, return to Beijing or Shanghai to launch their own lines. They belong to an exclusive group of tastemakers who are working to carve out a space of their own in the domestic and international fashion markets. But their shops and the independent boutiques that sell their collections remain sparsely populated. The pricing of these designed wares was far beyond the reach of my pockets and I suspected that the same must be true for my fellow Beijing shoppers.

    Several failed shopping trips later, I chanced upon a closed vintage shop in the Gulou district late one night. I peaked through the windows and discovered racks and racks of liberty print skirts, stonewashed denim, and flannel. Pressing my nose against the metal shutters, I spied leather satchels and tasseled brogues, enough to send me into a state of euphoria. I quickly took note of the name: Mega Mega Vintage.
    Located on East Gulou Street, the store holds odd hours. Only after a few unsuccessful attempts did I realize that the store was unlikely to open before the early evening. When I finally gained admission, I was surprised to find that all of the goods were imported from America, Europe, and Japan. The slightly claustrophobic space was decorated with old British and American paraphernalia, complete with a red telephone box in place of a fitting room. Owned by Liu Ke, M&M Vintage was one of the first vintage shops to open in Beijing. In interviews, Liu has described vintage (or guzhuo) as a culture that not only values the history of fashion, but also ascribes new meaning to the remnants of things past. For Liu and his customers, arming oneself in vintage is to confront the homogenizing force of fashion trends.

    Over the past few years, Gulou has transformed into the destination for vintage shopping. In addition to M&M, Tiger Vintage, Old News, DDR, and a handful of other stores offer vintage clothing, accessories, and home goods to a growing population of young urbanites seeking to articulate a unique identity in the age of disposable fashion. Like Beijing’s elite designers, these vintage sellers have studied abroad, traveled, and returned to China to start their businesses. The vintage phenomenon is an outcome of the mobility, both physical and cultural, afforded to a generation of affluent youths who came of age during the China boom. By wearing vintage, these identity-conscious shoppers can boast authenticity and distinction. By buying and selling vintage, shop owners lay claim to a culture that pre-dates mass production, fast fashion, and most importantly, the “Made in China” trademark. They stock their stores with European and American vintage, avoid most merchandise produced after the 1980s and instead, opt for trends from the 50s through 70s – when the market had yet to be saturated with products manufactured in China. Whereas goods made in China represent the regime of readymade appearances, vintage goods are viewed as containing intrinsic worth by virtue of its limited production, workmanship, and novelty.

    Their affinity for vintage, perhaps, bespeaks the backlash against waste and obsolescence that is gaining traction across major cities. Some critics might dismiss the proclivity for vintage as an instance of random cultural borrowing premised on an imagined past – yet another manifestation of the global fashion system. Or they may just be accidental bricoleurs playing in the storehouse of nostalgia, working to humanize forms of wear.

    Before I left Beijing, I went to a vintage and secondhand flea market hosted on the roof of Triple-Major, a concept store that carries obscure labels from across the world. The event was as much of an opportunity to purchase imported vintage leather pumps as it was to get acquainted with a community of locals and foreigners invested in the fight against the ephemeral. In a city so intent on erasing the vestiges of history, wearing vintage has become a battle cry that calls attention to their appreciation of the past.

  • photography by LENA MODIGH

    Ulrika Lundgren, RIKA

    Written by Mari Florer

    “I love biker jackets, that’s my thing.”

    Ulrika Lundgren is a Swedish born fashion designer, stylist and business woman - she’s the woman behind the international fashion brand Rika.

    When I got in touch with her for this interview she told me she only had 30 minutes to spare. One hour later I felt a smile spreading over my face when the thought hit me; “She likes talking to me”.

    Listening to this truly enthusiastic woman describing the start of her project is pure enjoyment. It is also clear that the trademark Rika and the person Ulrika Lundgren are synonymous in spirit.

    Looking at Rika’s collections it is no surprise that biker jackets and classic French style female chic are personal obsessions of Ulrika.

    From interior stylist into fashion designer
    After graduating from her interior design studies in Amsterdam she began to work as an interior stylist for magazines like Elle Decoration and Casa Vogue and travelled globally. Slowly as more people appeared in her photo shoots the clothing became more important and her interest in fashion grew from there.

    “In Spain I made a leather bag with stars, mostly for fun, about 100 bags for close friends… and I invested all the money I earned from my photo sessions in my brand Rika, which I started in 2005” she says.

    The star-bag was a hit. It has been carried by many famous fashionistas all over the world. Alexa Chung, Scarlett Johansson and Kate Moss to name a few.

    Rika Maison guesthouse, Amsterdam
    Today Ulrika resides in Amsterdam. The city has a nice touch of small village and the child friendly environment makes it an ideal place to live in. Also the geography is right.
    “I work a lot in Paris and London. Amsterdam is in the middle”, she says.

    Her Rika boutique, in Oude Spiegelstraat 12 in Amsterdam, has grown into a Rika Maison guesthouse. She designed the rooms herself.

    “It´s decorated like my home.”
    “And, your home. What does it look like? “ I ask.
    “We live in an old school house rebuilt by a Dutch architect. It has black floors with white walls, ceramic vases, velvet pillows. Simple. Just like Rika Maison.

    “So where do you see Rika in the future? For example do you want to design a line for men or create a children collection?” I ask.

    “I did try to develop a children collection once but in the end it turned out too expensive.
    I will keep focusing on the Rika collection, the Maison guesthouse and my Rika magazine and developing that. “

    Swedish or a Dutch?
    I tell her that the Swedish department store NK in Stockholm, Sweden is promoting her as a Scandinavian designer but when I read about her in Elle, they present Rika as a Dutch label.
    Does nationality matter?
    “I feel like a Swede. But my brand feels neither Swedish nor Dutch. For me it is of great importance that my mission is connected to my brand identity and not a place on earth. But I am inspired by girls in cities like Malmö and Copenhagen. I like the Scandinavian style. Not too dressed up - just good looking.”

    The spirit of Rika
    It is not only money she invests in her company. Ulrika Lundgren is personally involved in the styling of every collection. Her creative capital is the essence of Rika. I tell her that I think the pictures in the look book are lovely.
    “Yes, that is where I leave my hallmark and there is where the collection is presented.”

    It’s easy to imagine that she has given full attention to every little detail concerning Rika.
    Speaking to Ulrika I must admit I sometimes get a glimpse of a perfectionist or even a control freak. Have you ever found yourself dressed all wrong in a situation when it wasn’t really appropriate?

    “No, I am cautious. I analyze things. I Save my thoughts in my mind a while. Then I make a decision. But I like challenges. At one time, five or six years ago, I made bags decorated with bugs and spiders. Most of the people thought it was weird. Today when the jewelry designers uses such motives all the time it would probably be a success.”

    What is the most rewarding thing with being a fashion designer?
    “To see young women wear my creations… and that they are satisfied and want to buy my clothes. Appreciation.”

    Can you name a Dutch designer and a Swedish designer you like?
    “Well. I do wear Acne sometimes. But I don’t wear any Dutch designers. My favorite brand is Céline. I love it - classic French Parisian girl style.
    When I dress I always wear something timeless. I am 40 years old - not 20. Black is classic”
    “I always spend a little extra money on shoes, bags, jackets and trousers. Today I carry a blue bag, a Marc Jacobs cardigan and a couple of Acne trousers. I like it simple.”

    She tells me she’s going to attend a Vogue event soon and doesn´t yet know what to wear; maybe jeans, a shirt and a biker jacket. To her it is crucial to feel comfortable. Girls are most beautiful that way, she thinks.

    The conversation is interrupted. She calls me up in a few minutes.
    “Are we finished?” she asks.
    Just one more question I say.
    Do you have a male styling icon?
    The smile returns to my face. That I had figured out.

    photography by LENA MODIGH

    stylist MEGHAN SCOTT / Magnolia Agency

    hair & make up ELIN TORDENLIND / Magnolia Agency

    model LINNEA / Stockholmsgruppen

                        / www.rikaint.com

  • photography by ELLEN ROGERS

    Ellen Rogers interview

    Written by David Barrie by Sandra Myhrberg

    Ellen Rogers is a fashion photographer who creates and inhabits a highly distinct universe. Full of temptresses, dark landscapes, ancient scratched, almost mythic surfaces, her work has been published in the pages of Dazed & Confused, i-D, Tank and Vice magazines and she has worked for many fashion clients, including Charlotte Olympia and Piers Atkinson.

    Via email, on a computer somewhere in a darkened house, rain-soaked landscape or photographic shoot – who knows? – Ellen agreed to be interviewed by David Barrie, a documentary producer and director who’s made films on art, design and fashion.

    D: What’s the first word or idea that first comes in to your head when you hear the following words: Theatre. Tree. Sleep. Erotic. Simon Cowell?

    E: Theatre: Red velvet. Tree: Black branches. Sleep: White curtains. Erotic: Cream. Simon Cowell: Some sort of putrid Yellow-Green

    D: What do you think of mobile phone apps that allow people to generate stylised, square format digital images of everyday life?

    E: Hehe. I don’t actually have one, but I think they are harmless fun. They certainly look better than the normal photos the iPhone takes.

    D: You’ve just published a book called ‘Aberrant Necropolis’. Burial grounds are usually places of reverence and convention. When was the last time that you visited a cemetery and what did you notice?

    E: That is an interesting question because I was last in a cemetery in Norwich. I was there contemplating with my family whether or not to give my mother a place there. I said to my mother that I always wanted her with me, always at home. My family however like to know there is a place to visit and talk to her as it can be hard to talk to a box in someone’s house.
    I feel selfish in my constant decline but I can’t help think that having her outside in the cold with thousands of other dead souls is not what I want for her. Regardless of how attracted to them I am aesthetically.

    D: You’ve said in the past that you’re “obsessed” with ‘the supernatural’ and ‘the occult’. How do you know that you’re “obsessed”?

    E: The Occult means ‘secret’ and this is the drive behind my every move and integrity. I am infatuated by the idea of dissecting fear, beauty, love and abject disgust to see how they work, what their mechanics are, how I can use them to my advantage, my art.
    The ‘supernatural’ and the ‘occult’ hold intrigue, deep routed mystery and a constant question. This is too what I strive for. Maybe I want a very real separation from answers, an untouchable and reverential secret. Few things mean more in my house than a drive for mysticism.

    D: Do you think that we live in a time when we want to be immersed in something that’s not real?

    E: It’s a horrific time. Banks are a very real danger and are taking over or lives. We are all seeming to fall into debt and it isn’t likely to get better soon. Yet in the midst of this black fog over the world’s nations, comedy sales on DVD are at an all time high. Computer games are bigger than ever and we all want escape. This is natural. But as the majority of us close our eyes and dream-of-never-land, the wolves outside our homes are howling. They are here.

    D: Often you work with a model called Hana. Who is Hana and what is it about her that makes you return to her as a subject?

    E: Hana is a twenty year old student from Norfolk. I love her dearly and she is my muse. I find her to be all the things that I am not. She is the antithesis of my being and I am so attracted to that. She has also seen so much in her life. She is intelligent yet in lifestyle we are polar opposites - and great friends. Every time I wish I could explain something about myself, I will use Hana. She is the vessel through which I tell my personal story.

    D: What are some of the particular feelings, experiences, spaces or objects that you find yourself returning to in the notes and journals that you keep?

    E: I have for a time been writing together many characters. I am not sure how often I have spoken this aloud but all the men and women in my photographs belong to my ongoing world, and play a part in the larger story. Sometimes I will do the odd shoot to fill in the blanks of my story and most often I will cross reference my story with my journals. I am now working on a new set of images where I battle political slights and I will try and address many points that disgruntle me. The first in this series was ‘The leaf room’ - where I explain about the dangers of testing on humans.

    D: Is there a particular aspect of fashion or the work of designers that you’d describe as art?

    E: Most certainly. Their artistic practice is much the same as mine, or any other persons who call themselves an artist. They are in essence writing a concept and staying faithful to an execution. Many designers of fashion are, to me, true artists: and I would never discredit an artist on account of their medium.



There’s nothing to see here.