When arriving to Shanghai, which at the moment holds a population of nearly 24 million inhabitants, and a thick pollution cover, you might wonder where to find anything sustainable. Well, my mission was to figure that out!
Many people recognize Shanghai from the shiny, always developing skyscrapers, the Bund and the busy shopping street Nanjing Road. After visiting these, let the work begin - find something ecologic in a mass-producing city, where money talks.
I will be very honest right from the beginning: Finding anything eco in Shanghai is a tricky one, but it is definitely possible. With a very specific research done beforehand, I found some fantastic shops and boutiques - acting as pioneers in the Shanghai raising eco-scene.
My main area of research was the French Concession, which is a great escape from the crowded sightseeing places in the city. This considerably more silent and peaceful area quickly turned to be my favourite of the whole trip. My first visit was Mian Hua Tian, a exclusive Showroom-styled boutique, featuring designers from countires such as Germany, Sweden and Italy, carefully picked and available only a few per item. The scarf in the first picture is made of recycled materials, and the clothes overall are unique and the brand of the shop is to provide good quality and timeless design. I loved the little garden and the gallery-feel of the place, i even got to enjoy a cup of tea in this creative space! Thanks to the research and by seeing pictures of the shop beforehand, I recognized the garden and knew, this is the place.
The real treasures are well hidden! In The Former French Concession, I also found the eco-shop I read most about in advance, Urban Tribe. This shop offered a range of eco-made clothes, beautiful tableware, small teacups and organic tea with some tasty little raw treats, which I enjoyed in the peaceful garden. This place was actually the one where I felt the most far away from the hassle of the big city life!
Next up was The Nike Concept Store, where everything inside is built 100% out of "trash" by Taiwanese architectural firm Miniwiz Sustainable development. Built up in last July, this concept store is made using thousands of old CD's, DVD's and soda bottles and cans. This type of creative recycling is a great statement to the fact that millions of bottles are thrown away in China.
The last research day I learned a lot about the eco-scene in Shanghai. In the morning, i headed to Eco Village to find a shop called Squirrelz. As i arrived I got to notice, that this huge new development is still under construction as new buildings and shops were built at the moment. I went to the nearby raw smoothie bar to wait for Squirrelz to open. I was very soon greeted by shop owners Bunny and Nico, who told me a lot about the different designers and the purpose of the business. They decided to open a shop so that different crafty designers would have a opportunity to showcase their products together with other eco conscious labels, of whom many works on a charity base. I especially liked the old metallic box clocks (picture above) - a creative way of showing that anything can be turned into something hip. Squirrelz want's to raise the awareness about sustainable products and their aim is to show that eco products can be fun and creative!
Nico told me about the up and coming Shanghai Eco Exhibition, The Eco Design Fair (held next month) which has grown and attracted over 10,000 visitors per year in the recent years.
From Squirrelz, I got a recommendation about Eco&More, a shop back in French Concession. They had a small range of eco swimwear and were mainly focused on childrenswear made ecologically. I loved the organic foods, beauty and tea products the shop offered, and they also keep sustainable events. The recycling machine was interesting, where you can refill your dish washing liquid bottle.
Overall, I found my research trip very successful, made many good contacts and I was excited about all the new things I learned about the growing sustainable trend in China. Apparently, it is at the moment mostly popular along foreigners, since native Chinese people are not particularly interested in recycling and eco-lifestyle, since they have been raised and living in a society of massproduction and a non-recycling environment (bottles are thrown to landfills etc.) But thankfully, there is hope for a better future, as small things can make a big change! It is brave that there's eco entrepreneurs in a tricky city for such venture, like Shanghai.
To finish my report, I would like to take this opportunity to thank UCLAN from all my heart - you made my dream come true by providing me a chance to go on this overseas adventure! It was the time of my life, It was highly beneficial for my creative studies and it raised my braveness indeed to travel so far alone. Thank you - Xie Xie!
/Nina, BA (Hons) Fashion Entrepreneurship, 2.Year Student
Visited Shanghai, China, 1.3-16.3 2014.