Friday, June 17, 2011

“Breaking in” a pair of Chinese shoes

twitter icon


Confidence in Chinese-themed designs has made tremendous strides, particularly within the fashion industry. Both Chinese and foreign companies are taking footnotes.  Within the past few years, migrant labor – whose omnipresence has been fueling China’s economic growth, has become a popular fashion muse for designers.  Increasingly picked up by pop artists and designers as a popular symbol for another kind of ‘Made in China’ expression   their images now plaster the surfaces of stylishly made sneakers and t-shirts, embraced by many foreign enthusiasts as well as the new Chinese post-80s and post-90s consumers. 
              Default imagery of Chinese migrant workers evokes someone who leaves their hometown for China’s prosperous coastal cities in search of better paid jobs. But they no longer want to play the heroes or heroines in foreign journalists’ photos while they toil away at factory assembly lines.   “Speaking of China’s rapid development; people are working hard, education levels are rising, people are traveling more and enjoying more leisure time.  Why shouldn’t China’s development story be the foundation of a fashion brand?” poses an entrepreneurial-minded New Jersey businessman, Ben Walters.  Ospop (“One Small Point of Pride”), his brainchild, is a shoe brand created on the premise of re-engineering the Chinese migrant worker image.  With a large slogan emblazed across the front page of its website saying ‘Proudly Made in China’, the message is direct and clear.   
Paying homage to the faceless masses that have worked so hard is momentous decision as China must deal with their own pivotal work force changes.  With recently reported ‘labor shortages’ across factories located in traditional export manufacturing hubs in Southern China, the era of once heavily exploited “cheap labor” may have reached a surprising end. This is also reflected by the dramatic demographic change in China’s new labor supplies. As economic development in China’s inland provinces accelerates, younger migrant workers – typically those born after 80s and 90s -are reluctant to travel to distant regions for monthly salaries that are only slightly better than what they can make near their homes. Various domestic media reportedly put the labor supply gap at around a million people in Guangzhou and neighboring cities such as Dongguan, legendary centers of China’s export boom in the past three decades. Numerous assembly lines and construction sites are sitting idle while anxious employers have raised salaries by more than 30% but still cannot attract enough applicants.
  The phrase “made in China” does not generally evoke positive reactions abroad, so it has been essential for shoe companies to prove the phrase means something different for them.  A prime example is the French-owned Shanghai-original Feiyue (or, “flying forward”) which has offered a classic Chinese sneaker some hip, updated renovations.  Soaring popularity of the brand’s re-launch are evident in the high prices for a pair in Europe (multiple times that of their current Chinese cost), and in the “necessity” for Chinese and foreign hipsters in China’s first tier cities of owning at least one pair. And in the US Chinese Martial Arts community these shoes have been a must for years.
Other China design trends are following in Feiyue’s footsteps.   Thanks to sponsorship contracts with iconic athletes like Shaquille O’Neal, brands like Li Ning have gained international credentials, even producing English language commercials for their expansion in the US.  Also notable, shanzhai (imitation and pirated products and brands) have made their way into NBA courtside advertisements.

Couple this with the mounting pressure and attention focused upon the 80s/90s generation, which has been chided as useless and spoiled, but also declared to be the future of the nation. Brands like Li Ning have crafted a “Make the Change” campaign that sensitively caters to the post-90s generation.  Vancl, a brand which had been struggling to create a unique identity (there were originally mostly a copy of Vans), has spearheaded the message of “I am who I am.”
As single children raised in an environment with two working parents, members of this generation are largely independent, interested in technology and the latest trends. This is often interpreted as ennui fueled by angst about not living up to the high expectations put on them.   
Taking a different approach, Converse’s presence in China has been geared more towards subculture activities (releasing a Chinese road trip skateboard tour movie). They have adapted their own variation on the independent theme with the more street-wise sounding slogan of “Change the Game”.

         As China’s GDP grows, is global influence will become progressively more noticeable.  Meanwhile, we will see a gradual acceptance as foreign nations recognize this global shift.  Domestically, the post-90s generation will rise to their feet clad in re-vamped brands firmly mounted in a nationalist resurgence and coyly marketed as “vintage China”.  They won’t know it; but unconsciously opting for Vancl over Vans is for their own collective benefit.  The rapid pace with which China is changing will reinforce this wide-spread behavioral change based on a shifted attitude towards national identity. 
Now, when will “Made in China” become a label with positive connotations?  When will it become cool?  Can Chinese themes even connect broadly outside of East Asia? Will “Made in China” follow a similar route as the once stigmatized “Made in Germany”, and become perceived as a signifier of great quality?”
It will be interesting to see how China steps up to their new role as influencer rather than as a cheap producer.  Thoreau said, “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away”.  As the quality of goods improves, Chinese design trends will justifiably make their mark if they continue relying upon their own distinct, esoteric origin; it will proudly charm Chinese, and provide something completely novel abroad.

The Modern Breakfast Tale: a barometer of love & family dynamics

twitter icon
Imagine savoring the culinary equivalent of Maslow’s self-actualization at breakfast table or relishing the nutritive conquest of a breakfast battle spearheaded by one’s Oedipus Complex. Sounds like a whimsical prescription given by a psychologist oblivious to the average human’s morning time constraint? Because if you are like me who’d rather have an added half minute to apply the 3rd layer of my favorite SPF 35 sun-protecting lotion than to allocating those 30 seconds in the morning rush to second-guessing my breakfast, then you and I would probably be perennially happy with our physiologically-oriented breakfast choice – a formulae-laden plate of protein and carbohydrates compounds, with a few scattered in-breakfast entertainment of dried nuts & berry blobs.        

Now, for those creative and romantic types – do not despair! Why? Because the possibility of redeeming the elixir-like self-actualizing breakfast prescription at the supermarket’s breakfast aisle just got one step closer.

According to the research findings of a breakfast study with a goal to (re)discover the meaning of a good breakfast, the findings came forth to support the evolutionary instincts unmistakably held by our Homo sapiens ancestors - even in today’s everything-turning-into-an-iPhone-app society there lies a universal truth to the meaning of a modern day breakfast. The Deep Metaphors revealing our unconscious psychological framing of this daily morning ritual point to reaffirm our strong and innate needs for a balanced family dynamics lubricated by the love and connections each household members show toward each other.   

For example, an innovative, healthy and nutritious breakfast dish in New Delhi prepared by a dutiful and caring Indian housewife does not only lower the cholesterol level of her husband and brother(s)-in-law, but will also significantly reduce the risk of tipping the scales of a carefully managed family dynamism in a large joint Indian family with complicated in-law relations. The rich flavors of indigenous grains and spices that go into the home-made breakfast congee in China served with the constant scolding of the tiger mother are just the self-explanatory yin and yang of her love manifesting in a Chinese kid’s breakfast experience. In contrast, the Russian working mother in Moscow transforms into a fairy in the woods with magical powers when she prepares breakfast with love and affection for her family. However, just like breakfast comes in different serving styles, portions, crunchiness and flavors, the kind of love and family bonding that breakfast embodies in various cultures leaves us as researchers stand in awe of their unfathomable depths and unbounded universality.         

So next time if you see a breakfast kit in a supermarket shelf printed with cooking instructions that promise the restoration of the in-laws relationship - you'll want to test out how exactly that recipe achieves this balance of equation on an unconscious level if ‘love’ is not among the list of printed ingredients. If this is going to be true, I can't wait for it to happen!      

No Hang-ups on Good Provocation

twitter icon

Could advertisements using blatant sex appeals influence consumers with good provocation?

When I grew up in China, there were not many opportunities to learn about human’s body anatomy from scantily clad models glamorously posing on the 30-foot-billboards hung up at department stores. Even if there were anything attempting for the slightest hints, my mum would have made sure to quickly jump on that “perfect counter-example” by which she’d teach me lessons of good taste and the very important virtue of ‘do-everything-in- moderation’. And since then it made me wonder if all the mothers in the world are like that.

With the advent of globalization and today’s liberal advertising standards, heeding my mother’s conservative style critiques has long become a thing of the past. The cultural openings to enjoy an unprecedented freedom have also made explicit advertising increasingly a commonplace in China.  

Over the years of living in the U.S. as a wide-eyed 20-something, I’ve nimbly doubled the speed at learning how this unabashed advertising technique is practiced here. Some U.S.-based international brands have been known to carry it to the limit on using suggestive photography to depict lust and blatant sexuality in their U.S. advertisings. However, here is the thing. Even though many of these explicit advertisements have not yet been imported into China, I think that given the provocative nature of their contents, it’ll only be a matter of time to see them flare up outcries from media pundits and the general public once they do join the inevitable global rush Eastbound.   

So I wonder: with so much fireworks and smokes worthy of millions of advertising dollars a year, to what extent would consumers be persuaded by advertising images such as the ones below? Dashing steep-jawed heartthrob in tightly fitting beach shorts and the brawny object of infatuation smitten with the apple of his eye?

Both of the pictures are actual ads from the American brand Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F), whose giant flagship store on New York’s 5th Avenue often stages semi-nude employee/model line-ups to greet the blushing and grinning customers at the store entrance. Images like these that contain blatant and unabashed sexual contents (or at least innuendos) have been heavily used by this clothing label and have caused several controversies in the past.

Anyway, the reason for posing this question is to do with a view that when brands are presented with different options to frame the sex appeal messages - each with a varying-degree of sexy or raciness – they should be careful not to waste the message on purely outward showcase of sex appeals which only exist in a handful of genetically gifted male and female models. So for brands marketing sex appeals - what is the rule of thumb for creating good provocation that wins the hearts of the consumers?

If we look beyond the surface level of the attention-grabbing tactic, for some clothing brands like A&F believe it or not, having models with perfect bodies wear little to no clothing seems indeed a better way to communicate the brand’s sexy image and upper-scale positioning. Ultimately what is being advertised here is the enviable lifestyle – whether it’s a certain fashion sense, grooming routine or physical attractiveness – all of which are just strategies using psychological frames to channel the brand’s sex appeals via these practically naked models to influence the consumers’ subconscious.

For example, personally the A&F ads make good provocation in my opinion because it succeeds at entrapping my fashion ideals with a very American kind of illusion. An illusion lets my body stretch freely as if to infinity, and aspires for a well-toned, healthily active physique which can be exposed comfortably under the bright rays of sunlight in nature. In fact, my subconscious mind has already constructed an upbeat mental frame for this brand in the same way my inherent beliefs help me recognize the American way of life - the eternally high-spirited youthfulness, always moving up and ahead, and grabbing- the-bull-by-its-horns kind of take on life – sustained in this cool and sexy body of the college-aged boys and girls refusing to get old.    

As of now, it’s my turn to be blatant at exhilarating how much I’m already sold on this brand. But after all, isn’t this a brand’s dream if a good advertising frame can turn its consumers from passive receivers of sex appeal messages to the active co-conspirators of the brand's sexy-lifestyle positioning?     

Sunday, January 9, 2011

北京后海·三里屯·上海豫园Beijing and Shanghai @2010 December

twitter icon
December in Beijing is probably one of the coldest months around the year, but the freezing temperature did not cool off my enthusiasm for pressing the shutter button on my iPhone.

The same goes for Shanghai, except the weather was much nicer! ^^ 
Looking for traditional inspirations of old Shanghai? Yu Garden is the place to go, as well as the famous Shanghai City God Temple .






Source: 中国网 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

♡nina著者さんからのクリスマスのメッセージ | nina × om

twitter icon




快要圣诞节了! ^_^ ♡





Thursday, December 30, 2010

ニューヨークにサヨナラを言う日が来るから (JP|EN)

twitter icon




☆ ★英語★ ☆

Inside the airplane cabin where I was sitting, the quietness was only moderately compromised by the audible noise coming out from the aircraft's engine. We, the passengers who were leaving New York almost all with a certain purpose, like those airborne migratory birds gathering into a straight line flying in the sky, moving towards the direction pointed to Asia. 

But in my case, this was not a trip made in response to the change of seasons, for it was hardly part of a plan. Despite having only 2 days of luxury, I arrived at a rather sudden decision which sent me off heading to Beijing. Right afterwards, the images of the mountain-like belongings of mine which would be transported back to Boston by the help of my parents and the unrelenting thoughts of a figure walking on the streets of this city disappearing on the next day felt like having broken fragments surfacing up in my brain. 

On that winter day the phrase 'Time flies like an arrow' felt as heavy as those packed up luggages in my room.

Then, the day to bid farewell to New York comes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

OM! News - China and more!

twitter icon
Dear OM! Blog contributors and readers,

Thank you for always 
being an enthusiastic supporter
 of OM! Blog's posts.


In the coming months,
OM! Blog will continue to be dedicated for sharing interesting stories with the world! 

I will be in China for possibly a prolonged period
due to work and various other commitments. 

It is expected that I will still be able to update OM! Blog on a regular basis,
so please stay tuned for new actions at OM! Blog!

Thank you again, 
OM! Blog would love to see you back here soon! 


b.y.e. 4  n.o.w. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

♪ 秋天的乐趣 |「秋の楽しみ」- nina × om 中国語|日本語

twitter icon
photo credit:  nina × om





★☆・゚:*:゚ ★。、::。.::・'☆・゚:*:゚ 






我还是听李云迪(Yundi Li)的肖邦。

Yundi Li performing
ChopinPiano Concerto No.1 2nd mov. Romanze Larghetto




(o゚▽゚)o (o゚▽゚)o (o゚▽゚)o