Note to Temper self: Do not give into Dirk Diggler temptation. Nevertheless, we do hold a highly bespoke soft spot for secondhand almighty funkadelic 70s fashion with some Burt Reynolds ghetto gold to boot. And we’re in luck. Today’s neon #FashionRevolution signs feature Pawnstar, aka the place to go in Shanghai and get your fashion vintage boogie on. From up-cycling to hand-chopping mafia shopping… Is secondhand luxury China Fashion’s next big, bright star?
The Pawnstar shop at No.1 Xiangyang North Road (Lane 34) in Shanghai breathes a cool air of prime and fine vintage. Designer stilettos, frocks and accessorizing frolickings mark their presence and unlike many secondhand stores that merely specialize in women’s fashion, Pawnstar also offers the boys a chance to score some fly menswear and make some high fashion vintage noise. Moreover, the store has taken up collaborations with local designers on up-cycling projects, culminating in a fervid range of 100 per cent unique fashion items — available at the shop, obviously.
Secondhand, streetstyle and sustainability rolled into one big Bogart-worthy hotter than a deuce fashion funk — Temper digs. Looking at the bigger picture, the question then becomes…
With yard sales somewhat beyond the ken of most Chinese consumers and the lingering China gusto for high-end| newly made consumer culture, how does “secondhand” play (let alone “fit”) into this ever-aspiring market?
Secondhand Smoke Or Smoking Hot?
Current economic conditions have triggered a slight turnaround in China’s craving for the luxury consumer culture. This is not to say that brands have become “bad” in the client look-book, but a decline in luxury sales has occurred. Two big driving forces here are the fact that a) more Chinese consumers nowadays buy their products abroad rather than in China, and b) the presence of “hard-to-tell-apart” counterfeits on the Chinese market scares away potential customers.
Perhaps surprisingly so, the secondhand luxury industry in China over the past five years has experienced an upward movement. From China’s first tier cities, a consumer society most reluctant to enter the “used clothes” game with “used clothes” the nation’s fashion equivalent of New York City’s secondhand smoke, i.e. provoking gasps of “goodness gracious” disbelief everywhere. To China’s first tier cities, a fashion society in which vintage becoming somewhat smoking hot… The secondhand times are changing, one vintage piece and platform at a time. (You can get your full academic fix on the topic in Vintage Luxury Fashion, 2018*.)
Expert in the field Fang Fang, owner of secondhand Beijing boutiques Trash ‘n Diamond and Psycho Recycle, back in 2016 told Jing Daily’s Jessica Rapp the following on the topic:
“Several secondhand e-commerce platforms have emerged in recent years as well, but maintaining quality control is still a battle. One of the most popular Taobao (淘宝 in Chinese; the online shopping Walhalla) platforms for second-hand, Xianyu [闲鱼淘宝], sells just about every category of secondhand goods eBay-style. Caution is advised, though, because luxury or high-end claiming it’s guaranteed to be real, isn’t always so.”
Nonetheless, people are getting increasingly informed on the counterfeit topic and the Xianyu popularity is growing steadily. The app can boast 50+ million monthly active users as of September 2018. Recommerce is on the rise.
Hand-Chopping Mafia Shopping
Circling back to 2019, this new explosive online second-hand market doesn’t end with almighty Ali as we witness similar ventures popping up across China. Take for example Zhuan Zhuan (转转 in Chinese, which roughly translates as “pass it on, pass it on”), a platform developed by New York-listed 58.com back in 2015. This platform allows users to open up their own digi-stores to sell and trade second-hand goods. Zhuan Zhuan anno 2019 has 13 million monthly active users who post over 100 million second-hand items, raking in an average monthly trading volume of RMB 2 billion, according to CIF News International. Another example is that of Kong Kong Hu (空空狐 in Chinese), a secondhand fashion and product app aimed at the millennial China Fashion Feline.
Speaking of online shopping sprees…
Take twenty-something Jane Zhang who in an interview with Financial Times describes herself as an example of China’s so-called “hand-chopping mafia” (Sina Weibo hashtag #剁手党#| duòshǒudǎng; no Sweeney Todd visuals on display), Chinese slang referring to shopaholics who feel the urge to cut off their hands to arrest (or, rather, “handle”) their compulsive online shopping. Nevertheless, Zhang has found a cure to fight the urge: Secondhand e-commerce. “After seeing a dress I like on Taobao, I will search for the same item on Xianyu. Usually, I am able to find a near-new one at a cheaper price.”
And just like that, a trend was born.
Modish Millennial Mayhem
The Chinese millennial is changing their shopping patterns, marking a strong taste for the new, yet a bleak attention-span for that same newly acquired view. In other words, these consumers are perpetually getting rid of their been-there-done-that boring booty and on the lookout for some fresh (fashion) tasty. However, despite the rapid growth of aforementioned digital “garage sale”, problems remain rife. The earlier-mentioned problematic reality of fake goods, that is. China’s (second-hand) luxury client remains in search of better authenticity platform to verify the desired products. The pieces of that secondhand luxury puzzle are coming together. Enter: Pawnstar (荡铺| dàngpū in Chinese).
Pawnstar, Shanghai’s premium secondhand fashion retailer, finds itself right in the middle of the Former French Concession on Xiangyang North Road, a close walk to IAPM and the Shaanxi South Road station with subway lines 12, 1 and 10. This is on the same block with wine bar Kartell and Egg and at the heart of an emerging independent retail, dining, and nightlife area that includes such well-known streets as Julu, Xinle, Fumin, and Donghu. Fashion boutiques like Industrial, Dong Liang, Nike Lab and many more are all closeby.
The store itself has a small street front and then a much larger second floor that includes the processing center for Pawnstar’s online business. Accessories and jewelry are on the first floor while men’s and women’s clothing are upstairs. As before, Pawnstar offers a range of vintage as well as secondhand contemporary and designer fashions, mostly consigned by locals. Pawnstar also has a line of upcycled accessories that are made in collaboration with young designers and artists.
Like most of the street-side buildings in the Former French Concession, Pawnstar is housed in a pre-liberation row house with some original details remaining. As the first and only shop of this type in Shanghai, Pawnstar has a loyal following of both locals and travelers from foreign countries and other cities in China such as Chongqing and Guangzhou who are in town for business or leisure.
The secondhand sanctuary is the missing puzzle piece connecting the eye opening sustainable secondhand dots. Its originators and founders Nels Frye and Beijing-born entrepreneur Jane Jia for one are keen to keep those fashion goodies off the hook.
Frye And Fashion, A Fait Accomplis
Through its China-based activities, this new conceptual collective seeks to broadcast the acceptance of both buying second-hand clothing and the various groovings in terms of re-use, up-cycling and sustainability. In command of Pawnstar’s strategic direction and marketing, Frye tells Temper, “We hope to encourage Chinese fashion shoppers to make their contribution to limiting waste and pollution by wearing garments longer or shopping secondhand.”
“On the one hand, the shop is making sure that people understand that wearing secondhand is about getting a bargain and finding a unique personal style, but is also probably the very most sustainable way to look good. Of course, buying high-quality and classic pieces also helps. The other thing that we have set in motion is our up-cycling program. We work with young designers who use old pieces of clothing and fabric to create unique and new items. For us, this whole undertaking is mostly about encouraging people to think about re-use and the ecological impact of their consumption.” Frye concludes.
After selling designer and premium fashion and accessories mostly through WeChat and Taobao for more than a year, Pawnstar in 2016 decided it needed a physical home that would mesh with its overall mission as well as its aesthetic sense. The whole point was not just to set up shop; the concept demanded a site where people could conduct firsthand consumer research concerning a deeper understanding of attitudes towards secondhand shopping in China.
Pawnstar has become a fashion fait accomplis.
You can now go bananas at Pawnstar on No.1 Xiangyang North Road, Lane 34 (襄阳北路34弄1号 in Chinese). In taking a cue from Diggler himself here, Pawnstar — and secondhand luxury in China at large for that matter — are coming in strong. If they both continue at this pace, they are bound to feature across China Fashion theaters in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline.
Plus, remind yourselves, the right secondhand touch can take you from Frumpy Grandma to Foxy Mama in a heartbeat. Primo smokin’ stuff.