Hidden behind an imposing red door on a grey hutong just a stone’s throw away from Wuhao, a great concept-store has very recently opened in Beijing. S.T.A.R.S. (Si Tou Ai Ran Se) is a compelling new home for fashion with an edge, featuring a curated selection of avant-garde and exclusive designers for men and women, as is so often the case in Beijing. The store carefully balances international brands as well as some great emerging local designers with accessories, a few exclusive luxury candles, and then, smack in the centre of all this strong creativity, there is the Zen garden. Everything is presented around it, as if to remind us that the core of all is the mind, where the power to create these beautiful collections resides.
EXECUTIVE: Michel ALARCON
TITLE: Buyer & Art Director
Tell us about your store and what defines it?
It is a unique space in Beijing where we present an exclusive selection of international fashion designers and also new pioneers in fashion who are not distributed yet in this city. We also have an art gallery where we hold exhibitions regularly.
Who is your core customer?
Our core customer is mostly working in the fashion, arts and show-business industries.
Which brands do you stock?
We carry men’s and women’s brands such as Gareth Pugh, Alexis Mabille, Jeremy Scott, Klasica and April 77, among dozens of brands. Each season, new brands will join this exclusive selection.
Does the local audience in China fully understand what you are trying to communicate?
The local audience is curious so they are completely enthusiastic when they visit us and when they discover a cozy space like ours, where fashion and art mix perfectly together. For them, it is a unique shopping experience that they won’t find anywhere else. They feel privileged and that is why they want to come back and talk about us.
What is your impression of local designers?
I remember coming here 10 years ago for the first time, and all you could find from local designers was cheap copies of big brands or Chinese-inspired clothes only. Now, the new generation of local designers is really improving in the last few years on a creative level, and especially on a quality matter. I’m very impressed. I already met some of them since I arrived and I wish to support their work in the future by presenting their collections in our store.
How is the business model in China different than in other countries?
When you start a new project like ours, you have to bring something new, fresh and different. We chose to offer to the Chinese customers another view on fashion and arts, what we love and what we believe in, adding a touch of “French way of life” as well in the atmosphere of our space. Definitely not what they are usually used to in department stores or other shops. Another plus that makes a difference: our space is hidden in the traditional streets of the city, which make people more curious and excited about us. It’s like a treasure map game: their satisfaction is fulfilled when they pass through our red doors.
What is the greatest misconception about Chinese designers?
Chinese flower prints, traditional Chinese clothes revisited, the famous Mao collar—this is how most of the people consider Chinese fashion, I guess. But now China is really emerging in the fashion industry, like Japan and South Korea already did. Chinese designers are more “fashion-educated” than before, more aware of what is going on in the fashion industry, more willing to succeed internationally. They want identity and individuality, far away from the Chinese clichés they’ve been associated with for too long.