North Fake jackets and cashmere sweaters are among Beijing's better
buys, but emerging rock stars and drama students are seriously handicapped
by the lack of fashionable second-hand clothing in the capital.
This shortage is about to be remedied by a trio of hutong-bred Beijing
kids, who are used to wearing hand-me-downs and would never spend their
money on new Levi's. Graphic designer Li Yong (27), musician Gao Yang
(23), and skatepunk Lu Jiankun (23) plan to use their streetwise proletarian
chic to fill an empty fashion niche in Beijing with their own second
hand clothing store and tattoo shop. 39 Second Shopping opens this week,
offering customers quality vintage threads, skateboards, tattoos and
other accessories essential for hip urban life.
39 Second Shopping is deep in a traditional alleyway in Xinjiekou at
the northwestern corner of Beijing's ancient walled city. The shop is
number 39B in 100 Flowers Hutong, hence the '39' in the name. The 'second'
is not only for 'second hand', but also for the 39 seconds it will take
you to pick out the threads of your choice, and for the yi which means
number two in Mandarin and is usually rendered as 'B' in street addresses.
39 Second Shopping is surrounded by courtyard houses or ping fang that
have not yet been branded by the ominous 'chai' character that means
'demolish' and signals the death-sentence of so many old buildings in
39 Second Shopping's traditional building distinguishes itself from
its more subdued neighbors with a four square-meter graffiti art work
of a young Beijinger riding a mountain bike. Inside the courtyard, all
four walls are covered with youth culture decorations ranging from 'Stay
Punk!' slogans to Rastafarian flags depicting the jagged leaves of a
well- known herbal medicine.
The two rooms of the shop are separated into a used-clothing shop and
a tattoo parlor. The plan is to both buy and sell used clothes, using
the resources of Beijing and Tianjin second hand markets as well as
Beijing's large foreign student population. Gao Yang, whose own body
is covered with ink from all over China, is most enthusiastic about
the tattooing venture.
"It is really hard to get quality tattoos in China," he says. "My first
tattoo was done in a beauty parlor by someone who did old ladies' eyebrows,"
he recalls, lifting his sleeve to reveal a six inch-long ink rendition
of a dragon. Although Gao himself has tattooed several friends, the
shop is hiring a professional artist from Hunan and has plans to import
a quality tattooing machine from the US. Until it arrives, they'll be
using the traditional Chinese machine, so be aware of health risks and
tattoo at your own peril.
In preparation for the opening of their new shop, Gao, Li and Lu are
painting the walls, collecting merchandise and making business plans
day and night.
The three entrepreneurs used their savings to start up the business
and fix up the shop that used to be home to Gao and his family when
he was a small child. "I remember, when it was really cold in the winter,
family used to sleep in one bed in this house," Gao says. "That was
when my family started our first business," he says, "we used to sell
yang rou chuan'r (roast lamb skewers) in the alleyway."
Graffiti murals and business plans have changed the old alleyway a lot
since then. The influences of Channel V, smuggled CDs and pirated movies
are irreversible. The 'three big necessities (san da jian) which used
to be a watch, a bicycle and a sewing machine may soon become a skateboard
(huaban), used jeans (jiu niuzai ku), and a tattoo (wenshen).
39 Second Shopping
39B Baihua Shenchu Hutong, Haidian District
(On the east side of the road, 600 m south of
Tel: 1380-116-1151, 130-116-2051