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Streets ahead

11-24-2010 15:32 BJT

Shanghai has long held the title of being China's premier fashion hub. And while Nanjing Road can lay claim to being the city's shopping mecca when it comes to mainstream retailers, the center of Shanghai's more cutting-edge design scene is probably harder to pinpoint.

The vacant shops on Changle Road. Photos: IC & CFp

The Global Times reporter identified the most probable candidates, three streets that in recent years have garnered a reputation for being the places to see - and be seen.

Priced out

In 2008, the International Herald Tribune predicted that Changle Road was set to become China's next big fashion center. And in the same year, a report from New York-based research and innovation company PSFK said, "Changle Road in Shanghai is known as the place to find fashionistas and young hipsters in China. And driving the new fashion trends are young, entrepreneurial Chinese design-ers who have set up boutiques or joined together into design collectives along this street in the former French Concession." And yet only two years later, the renowned fashion critic and founder of Ye Qizheng told the Global Times, "As far as I'm concened Changle Road is dying. I've got no reason to go there."

For Wu Danmin, who owns a clothes shop on Changle Road, Ye's comments paint an overly pessimistic picture. "It's too sensationalist to call it 'dying'," he said. But Wu admits that spiraling rents on Changle Road have put his, and other businesses, under intense pressure.

In 2008, her store of 20 square meters cost only 6,000 yuan ($90) a month to rent; that figure has now jumped to almost 20,000 yuan per month, not far behind the average rent per square meter on Nanjing Road. "But consumer traffic on Nanjing Road far outstrips that of Changle Road," Ye told the Global Times.

And high rents mean that this, and other production costs, are inevitably passed onto the con-sumer in the price they pay at the till. "Normally you can't get a jacket for under 1,000 yuan or a T-shirt for under 500 yuan on Changle Road," Liu Xiao, a 26-year-old shopper told the Global Times. "And even if the clothes are out of season, there are still no discounts. That's why I rarely go there now."

The result is that many designers and small businesses currently trading on Changle Road, are deciding not to commit to another 12 months when their contracts come up for renewal. At the end of 2009, ACU, the fashion brand and store founded by Edison Chen, the Hong Kong singer and movie star, decided to leave the street. "It's not just the rent; in recent years there are more and more street hawkers around and stores selling fake luxury goods. These people have ruined the street's former reputation for originality and creativity," said Rachel Lee, a public relations executive at Clot Shanghai, the company that owns ACU.


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