Reunion at Harrods: Fashionable Jing'an link to 'Family Portrait Studio'
It may seem a little hard to swallow but the iconic British department store Harrods became a popular rendezvous for overseas Chinese to celebrate last month’s Spring Festival. It even drew some locals, who got a glimpse of the traditional Chinese celebration. How?
Actually, it was a pop-up event launched in partnership with Shanghai’s LABELHOOD, a leading independent platform for emerging fashion designers in China.
A small Chinese-style living room was created on the fifth floor of the London store, decorated with big red lantern, a round Chinese table and four chairs, hollowed-out lattices of windows and other traditional Chinese elements.
Called “Family Portrait Studio,” the project created an immersive space for people to take photos with friends or families as if they were spending the special reunion moment with their beloved back home. After the photo-taking, they could shop for a curated selection of clothes, in particular some with red rabbit patterns to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, designed by emerging Chinese designers.
“Here in the UK, I reminisced about how we spent the Spring Festival during my childhood,” said a woman surnamed Ji on social media platform Xiaohongshu. “It was a surprise to enjoy such an immersive experience. I was touched.”
In fact, LABELHOOD was the first Chinese designer brand platform to be invited by Harrods to appear at the department store. Seemingly, it was the beauty of traditional Chinese culture itself that instigated the collaboration.
The “Family Portrait Studio” project was launched by LABELHOOD in 2020 to encourage people to celebrate the rituals of the Spring Festival and take reunion photos. Harrods Managing Director Michael Ward was quite intrigued by the idea when he learnt about it last year, and the two sides agreed on taking it to London, according to LABELHOOD founder Tasha Liu.
“The Chinese antique furniture and ornaments were transported from China to create authentic Spring Festival flavor,” Liu said. “It allowed people to feel the Chinese beauty and charm at close quarters. It’s more than just a display for LABELHOOD.”
LABELHOOD started in the renowned “Ju Fu Chang” area, the abbreviation of Julu, Fumin and Changle roads — backstreets that feed into Nanjing Road W. in Jing’an District.
According to LABELHOOD, Jing’an has rich history and culture, providing a fertile land for fashion design.
“Here in Jing’an, we witnessed how Chinese independent designers made their name on the global stage. And from Jing’an, we’ve expanded to London. It has boosted our confidence to expand our global network,” Liu noted. “The pop-up in Harrods is just a start. We are on a development highway.”
The first LABELHOOD outlet was opened on Fumin Road in 2011. Over the past 12 years, it has opened three outlets in the “Ju Fu Chang” area, and one on Nanjing Road W. Hence, it has formed a fashion community in the area, which has become a kind of incubator of emerging Chinese designers.
In the eyes of fashion designer Chen Shengtao, the area is fashionable, young and highly inclusive. “Here, young people are free to wear what they want to wear. It amazes me,” he said.
LABELHOOD Public Relations Manager Li Jiaying told Shanghai Daily that LABELHOOD has been hailed as an archive of contemporary Chinese designers as about 95 percent of them launched their business from LABELHOOD. It has also helped to promote brands like ShuShu/Tong and Uma Wang to the world.
But at the very beginning, like any other startup, LABELHOOD also faced challenges and difficulties in business registration, site selection, intellectual property protection and more. It was local authorities who came forward and offered to address their concerns and problems.
According to Shen Hong, director of the Jing’an Commerce Commission, a set of favorable policies and measures has been launched to promote locally-developed brands such as LABELHOOD in the “Ju Fu Chang” area as a whole.
The commission helped LABELHOOD get official funds for better expansion, and in 2019, it was granted the opportunity to display Chinese designer brands, Shen added.
Besides the friendly business environment, the unique vibe and beautiful environment also makes “Ju Fu Chang” stand out among other local commercial zones.
The area is dotted with cobblestone alleyways, historic buildings, artsy boutiques and chic cafes under lines of sycamore trees. They form one of the city’s most beautiful blocks, and also the best incubators for small brands and stores.
Ding Ni, operating manager of LABELHOOD, said those trees liven up the area, and it is a pleasure to walk around the area.
Li Yi, owner of Yasi that sells China’s Ru porcelain, told Shanghai Daily that every time he drives by or to Julu Road, he is mesmerized by its beauty, especially the tall sycamore trees on two sides. It was one of the reasons why he opened a store there.