深圳每日时尚街拍 / fashenzhen

CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED CHINESE STYLE BLOGGER•

WHEN I MOVED TO CHINA IN 2013, I WAS OVERWHELMED BY THE FASHION I SAW AROUND TOWN. I LIVED IN SHENZHEN, A CITY ONLY 30 YEARS OLD WITH 17 MILLION PEOPLE, THEREFORE A VERITABLE MELTING POT OF LANGUAGE, CULTURE, AND STYLES FROM ALL OVER CHINA. WOMEN AND MEN WERE WEARING COLORS I HAD NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT, LAYERING IN WAYS AMERICANS MIGHT CONSIDER AWKWARD, WEIGHING THEMSELVES DOWN WITH RHINESTONES AND PATTERNS THAT I WOULD NEVER TOUCH. BUT IT ALL LOOKED FANTASTIC. THE CHINESE SENSE OF STYLE WAS SO UNIQUE THAT I WOULD GET LOST JUST WATCHING PEOPLE ON THE METRO. EVEN THOSE WHOSE OUTFITS WERE UNDERSTATED WOULD HAVE DETAILS I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT: COLLARS WITH TINY DESIGNS, PLEATS THAT FLATTERED THEIR SHOULDERS, OR ELEGANT PLATFORM SHOES THAT LOOKED LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF VOGUE.

IT WAS WHILE I WAS CRAMMED INTO ONE OF SHENZHEN’S BRIGHTLY-LIT METRO CARS THAT I STARTED THINKING ABOUT HOW I COULD DOCUMENT THESE AMAZING STYLES AND SHARE THEM WITH THE WIDER WORLD. THEN IT HIT ME: CREATE A STREET-STYLE BLOG! SOMETHING THAT TAPPED INTO THE VISUAL FLAVOR OF SHENZHEN AND COULD PERHAPS IGNITE A SENSE OF COMMUNITY AROUND THE ATMOSPHERE OF EVERYDAY STYLES.

AFTER SOME RESEARCH, I COULDN’T FIND A SINGLE STREET-STYLE BLOG IN CHINA. MOST OF THE BLOGS WERE CHINESE ARISTOCRATS DOCUMENTING THEIR DESIGNER OUTFITS AND “HIGH TEA” SPREADS. NOTHING TO BE SAID ABOUT THE EVERYDAY FASHIONISTA WHO BARGAINED AT THE BLACK MARKET FOR DARING THREADS.

SO I CREATED A DOMAIN, AN INSTAGRAM, SOME BUSINESS CARDS, AND HIT THE STREETS. FASHENZHEN WAS BORN (FASHION+SHENZHEN = GET IT?). I WAS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE REACTION I WOULD GET, HOW I COULD EVENTUALLY EXPAND TO INCLUDING STORIES AND SHORT INTERVIEWS ABOUT WHERE PEOPLE CAME FROM, OR WHAT THEY THOUGHT ABOUT ECLECTIC STYLES IN SHENZHEN. I IMAGINED FOLLOWERS WOULD SHARE THE BUSINESS CARDS AND MAIL ME THEIR OUTFIT SHOTS, SHARE WITH THEIR FRIENDS, ETC. THOUGH I SHOULD MENTION THAT MY COMPREHENSION OF MANDARIN IS MINIMAL. I HAD A PITCH MEMORIZED THAT WENT SOMETHING LIKE “I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT. I HAVE A FASHION BLOG AND WOULD LOVE TO INCLUDE YOUR PICTURE ON MY SITE. MAY I?”

TO WHICH MOST PEOPLE SAID NO.

I SHOULD ALSO MENTION: THE CULTURE OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN CHINA IS OUT OF CONTROL. PEOPLE ARE CONSTANTLY – AND I MEAN CONSTANTLY – SNAPPING PICTURES ON THEIR PHONES OR WITH THEIR GIANT CAMERAS WITHOUT RESTRAINT. AS A FOREIGNER, AND WHEN WALKING WITH OTHER EXPATS, I WAS ALWAYS BEING SNAPPED. ONCE A GUY STRAIGHT UP HELD HIS IPHONE TO MY FACE IN A CROWDED ELEVATOR. ANOTHER TIME A WOMAN GAVE ME HER BABY AND TOLD ME TO STAND THERE WHILE SHE TOOK MY PICTURE. BUT WHEN I COMPLIMENTED THESE GUYS AND GIRLS THEN ASKED TO TAKE THEIR PHOTO FOR A BLOG, THEIR SHYNESS OR RELUCTANCE WAS OVERWHELMING.

SOME JUST SAID NO AND WALKED AWAY. SOME WOULD THINK ABOUT IT FOR A SECOND AND MAKE AN EXCUSE ABOUT NOT HAVING MAKEUP OR BEING LATE. A LOT OF GIRLS WOULD BE SO ATTACHED TO THEIR PHONES, THEY DIDN’T EVEN HEAR ME. ALMOST 100% OF THE TIME, IF A GIRL WAS WITH HER BOYFRIEND, SHE OR HE WOULD SAY NO. EVEN WHEN SOMEONE SAID YES, IT TOOK A LOT OF COAXING AND THEY OFTEN TRIED TO LEAVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I WOULD GIVE THEM MY CARD AND TELL THEM TO SHARE IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS, BUT I AM NOT SURE IF THEY EVER DID.

I STARTED TO GET DISCOURAGED. ONLY ONE OUT OF EVERY TEN OR SO PEOPLE WOULD AGREE. I REALIZED I WAS BROACHING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES WITH WHICH I WASN’T VERY FAMILIAR: MODESTY, ANONYMITY, PRIVACY. I NOTICED STRANGERS RARELY INTERACT. THINGS LIKE WAITING IN LINE OR WAITING FOR THE TRAIN ARE SILENT COMPETITIONS. ALSO, IF YOU COMPLIMENT SOMEONE FOR BEING THE BEST IN THEIR CLASS OR FIELD, THEY WILL OFTEN DENY THEIR TALENT TO SAVE FACE. NOT TO MENTION THE LANGUAGE BARRIER, SINCE I COULD ONLY PERFORM THE BASICS IN MANDARIN. THEREFORE, EVEN IF THESE MEN AND WOMEN WERE DISPLAYING SOME OF THE MOST ORIGINAL FASHION I’D EVER SEEN, THEY DIDN’T WANT IT TO BE POINTED OUT BY AN AMERICAN.

SO MY DREAM OF PARTICIPATING IN A VIBRANT SENSE OF COMMUNITY AND PRIDE AROUND CHINESE STYLE FAILED. I AM A FAILED FASHION BLOGGER. BUT, ULTIMATELY, FASHENZHEN ENDED UP BEING MY GREATEST CULTURAL LESSON. IT PUSHED ME TO EXPLORE MANY NEIGHBORHOODS AND TALK WITH MANY PEOPLE I MIGHT NEVER HAVE APPROACHED. IT BECAME A COLLABORATIVE PROJECT WITH MY CHINESE FRIENDS, WHO HELPED ME BRAINSTORM AND TRANSLATE, AND WHO REVIEWED MY WORK.

I AM A BIG BELIEVER IN LEARNING FROM FAILURE, AND I HOLD ON TO THIS ONE PRETTY LOVINGLY. SO I SAY IT WITH PRIDE AND A SMILE: I USED TO BE A FASHION BLOGGER IN CHINA 🙂

CHECK OUT THE BRIEF LIFE OF FASHENZHEN AT FASHENZHEN.TUMBLR.COM OR ON INSTAGRAM @FASHENZHEN

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