Beijing is known for its historical and political sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and even the Great Wall. Being the capital, Beijing is known to do things in scale. In recent years, esteemed architects have added new pieces like the CCTV tower and Olympic stadiums into the fabric of the city.
But Beijing’s most recent development is less apparent from an outsider’s perspective; on the ground, a growing community of doers, makers and purveyors are popping up — spearheaded by a group of young Chinese from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, etc, and from abroad as well.
There’s a growing interest in independent work across all disciplines. From fashion and design, to food and beauty, there is an interest in smaller labels (or label-less brands) by consumers, and a growing community of makers too.
Many of these creative businesses can be found in Beijing’s Dongcheng District amidst the hutongs in gentrifying communities. An afternoon trip will give you a different perspective of Beijing, but keep in mind, most places do not open until 1 or 2pm.
Tucked in a relatively quiet hutong is a store inspired by a Chinese apothecary called Triple-Major. Ritchie Chan, 23, started Triple-Major in 2010 after realizing that there was no where in the city that sold apparel of his style (quirky, avant garde and conceptual). Now, the store represent 15+ local and international brands, plus his own Triple-Major label across accessories and apparel categories. He has since opened another concept store in his hometown of Hong Kong called Signed-by and often partakes in international fashion and design events. 81 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng District 8402 0763
Dongliang Design Studio is the fashion world’s baby known for exclusively retailing Chinese independent designers such as Ricostru, Vega Wang, and Chictopia. Their first store was a tiny space intended to act as a design studio however along the way, the two began discovering fashion design and found a bigger space on the same road. In 2011, a second boutique (their flagship) was opened in Shanghai. I bet they have prospects beyond that as well. 26 Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng 8404 7648
Suzuki Kitchen has three perfectionist partners who value food quality and experience beyond belief. Detail oriented, warm hearted and also stylish, their first restaurant offers homestyle Japanese cooking with a choice of curry rice, hotpot, and kimchi bowls sure to fill you up. Their head chef is Japanese and uses his own recipes to make everything from scratch. Even the curry down to the apples! Available are the best organic eggs I have ever tasted– rich, creamy and flavorful, sourced from a Japanese farm in China. They also have a limited offering of desserts each day. Ask for their caramel cheesecake; it tastes like creamy clouds that have a toasty caramel depth. Second restaurant opening soon. 77 Xiao Juer Hutong, Dongcheng District
Spoon House is a husband-wife operation named after Spoony’s childhood nickname. Their store is filled with a random collection of designer products, ceramics by the duo themselves and their huge spoon collection they aquired from all over the world. The two are often eccentric in dress, rocking sweaters with lightning bolts emblazoned on top and exuding confidence in their creativity. Perfect place to scour gifts for friends and souvenirs that don’t spell cliche all over it and will not put a dent in your pocket. 211 Gulou Dong Da Jie, Dongcheng District
Jam Bar opened in 2011 by a team of friends in the creative industry. The guy behind the bar, with a slight goatee is Liu Laoban (Boss Liu) and main partner. He lived in Japan for over 5 years experiencing firsthand Japan’s well-trained bartenders before returning to Beijing to create a jazz-infused community-focused space. Liu Laoban besides proudly making his drinks is an amateur chef that concocts in his spacious open kitchen a Japanese take on Western food. Try his avocado salad, you will probably fall in love. 206 Gulou Dong Da Jie, Dongcheng District
What I love most about this growing community now is the mutual support everyone offers without fear of “competitors”. All of these people are helpful and amiable, truly considerate about supporting each other’s business with the shared awareness that there will be a spot for all. This outlook makes the climate and the shopping experience very amiable and has helped very much my own work with Nuandao.