Logged Users (last hour): 121
Registered Users: 227,137

2011 Jul 12 Brand Nü Starts Anew: A Chat with Nathan Zhang

You can usually find him outside Brand Nu, sipping on a beer

For the last couple of months, the future of Brand Nu was unclear (see here and here). But with the help of the community, owner Nathan Zhang was able to raise the funds – a whopping RMB 84,000 – to ensure his charity shop’s survival. We asked Zhang about what gets him up in the morning, and where he plans to take Brand Nu from here.

Congratulations on saving Brand Nu! What’s the first thing you did when you heard the news?
I handed over the money to pay off my debts.

Is Brand Nu like Goodwill? Why or why not?
I love second-hand shops – Beijing had nothing like that when I first got here in 2008. But unlike Goodwill, Brand Nu is more of a social enterprise. We do a lot of charity activities, but we want to be self-sustainable and we want to be cool.

How have your goals shifted since you first started Brand Nu three years ago?
We’re becoming more style-focused, and we’re trying to do it in an appealing way. Right now, I’m very interested in the concept of UPCYCLE fashion – that is, working with local talents to create new designs using old materials that people didn’t want anymore. All our products are made from secondhand clothes and unused fabrics.

How do you change unwanted fabric into something desirable again?
Companies like Gap and Coach are donating fabrics. I’m working with the top designers in China, including Sarah Yun, na(too) and Zhang Da. They all love the idea of using their creativity and design skills for a good cause. So far, we’ve had really great feedback – we sold all our stuff at Wuhao right away.

What’s it like working with rural artisans?
There’s no real benefit to me, I just want to help them. I pay a moral price to contribute to the local market. In assigning them such work, I give them the confidence to achieve more. These rural women have special handicraft skills, but they need an urban designer or artist to make their products appealing to the urban markets.

What have been some of your favorite Brand Nu designer collaborations, and why?
Sarah Yun, Zhang Da – they’re really down-to-earth. They know both ends, they know the fashion and they also know the rural area. They make the projects doable.

What gets you up in the morning?
Lots of social causes. I’m currently working on a bunch of projects that promote gender equality and the fair trade model. But also, I just have to get my two kids ready for school!

When can we start getting excited about Ethical Trade Fair 2011?
I think after the scare this year, I’m too busy tying up loose ends as it is. It’ll definitely happen again in the future, and I’m looking for more help. If you want to get involved, contact me!

Anything else to add?
I want to thank all the people who have directly or indirectly supported me these last two years. Without their help – my wife, Plastered T-shirts, Gung Ho! Pizza, Argo, Saffron and the rest of the neighborhood – Brand Nu wouldn’t be here. The projects wouldn’t have lasted, and life would have been really boring.

Tue-Sun 10am-10pm. 61 Wudaoying Hutong (just west of Vineyard Cafe), Dongcheng District (150 1115 3421) 东城区东城区五道营胡同61号

You might also be interested in :

Beijing’s first charity store is presently at dire risk of losing its space.

Chances are, if you ever visit Wudaoying Hutong, you've popped by Brand Nü (Brand 女) before. The do-good shop – where you can donate old clothes, books and trinkets, and pick up accessories of like kind – first opened two years ago, just in time to help cultivate the area into what it is today.

By now you’ve probably heard that five up-and-coming Chinese designers are now having their work showcased and sold on TheCorner.com.cn, the Chinese-language version of a YOOX-owned luxury retail website. (If you haven’t, check out our 2011 Style-Phile Roundup, which will get you up to speed on all the latest developments in Beijing's shopping scene.)

The selected designers are as follows: Uma Wang (of Uma Wang, and famed recipient of the 2011 Audi Progress in Design Award), Christine Lau (of Chictopia), Riko Manchit Au (of Ricostru), Shangguan Zhe (of Sankuanz) and Zou You (of This Is You’z Clothing). Click here to access the special “Vogue Talents Corner” capsule collection.

Nicely Made in China (http://nicelymadeinchina.com), one of our favorite Beijing-based blogs, just celebrated its one-year anniversary yesterday.

The website, which seeks out quality products and services in China, was met with much skepticism at the time of its inception. With all the recent scandals to rock the nation, from melamine-tainted milk to lethal pet food, public faith in Chinese manufacturing had been thoroughly shaken.

We wrote about how Brand Nü needs our help last month. Beijing’s first charity store is committed to raising funds for migrant women in China, but operates on a tight budget. Now, with the cost of rent rising, Brand Nü is at risk of losing its current home in Wudaoying Hutong.

Of course, the community won’t let that happen without a fight. This Sunday, May 22 from 2-6pm, Sam and Sophie will be hosting a one-day-only pop-up shop at a courtyard near Yugong Yishan (directions and map below).

FEI Space just under went its latest renovation, still stocking the same range of impressive labels – from American cult favorite Alexander Wang to much-hyped Chinese designer Zhang Da – along with exclusive new additions. Starting this month, FEI can officially claim credit for guiding Topman’s (and soon Topshop’s) first entry into the Chinese mainland. Here, creative director Ray P. Lee dishes on sex saddles, wedding photos and why he thinks 798 has changed for the worse.