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Reason To Visit China: Increased Environmental-Friendly Awareness Through Fashion

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Reason To Visit China: Increased Environmental-Friendly Awareness Through Fashion

Joan Suh Interview with Pawnstar

In China, reducing our carbon footprint through environmental initiatives are paramount.

As a center of production, businesses are pushing the envelope in terms of providing sustainably resourced goods and services. These are seen through the influx and recent interest in marketing up-cycled goods and green initiatives. According to the compilation of data from the projected trends for 2017 from The State of Fashion 2017,consumers are becoming more tech-savvy. Therefore, they are more aware of how their products are sourced. It is with the introduction of a shrewder customer clientele that an environmentally friendly take towards fashion becomes more accepted.

In the recent years, consignment shops have been gaining more popularity in China. To be able to reuse a previously owned garment not only extends its use, it creates less waste.

Pawnstar, proprietor of consigned goods is a premier example of progressive businesses providing Eco-friendly alternative without compromising quality or style.

As their brick-and-mortar headquarters is located in Shanghai, when they come for conventions in Beijing, it is a real treat. As they have their online store on Taobao and Wechat featuring men's, women's, and accessories (bags, jewelry, belts, etc.), they are experiencing much success in Beijing as well.

In this piece, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jane the owner/operator of the vintage paradise that is Pawnstar. 

What inspired you/shaped your initial decision to up-cycle /go into green initiatives? Was it difficult starting out?

 I've always been bothered by waste, whether it is of food, electricity, or clothing.  The proliferation of cheap products in people's homes and in their wardrobes from toys to fast fashion have concerned me for quite a while.

When living in a place as polluted and crowded as China, it is not difficult to make the connection between environmental degradation and unnecessary production and consumption.  I wanted to do something that would make a small contribution to solving some of these problems but that also could be a viable, portable, business.  

I think it's still quite challenging as any business tends to be at most points in its development.  Of course getting things started always does take a special kind of a drive but the difficulties of scaling up can be even greater

What goes through your mind when selecting your materials that you use to create your end product ( material sourcing/items that can be up-cycled)?

First of all, I'm not the designer but the business owner and operator.

Pawnstar works with a talented designer named Nisa who creates the up-cycled items that we sell. In general, I believe that she tries to find materials that are higher quality and that have an interesting style that can be incorporated into a larger whole.  At the same time, we don't want to take apart an item that can still be sold and worn so we also look for items that have some kind of flaw that makes it difficult to use in its existing form.

Where do you source your materials?

Before being an up-cycling business, we are a consignment shop.  We get all of the items that we sell directly from our users who bring their old items to us.

 Who are your target customers?

I would say that in the medium to long term, our customers are all fashion consumers (men and women) in China.  We carry a complete range of fashion items and believe that just about anyone can find styles that are to their taste at Pawnstar.  At present, most of our customers are mostly ladies in their 20s and 30s and 40s living in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities throughout China.

Obviously, they have to be open to shopping secondhand, which was not traditionally deemed acceptable by Chinese customers. But, I believe that our customers tend to have a comparatively evolved sense of style and taste than most people. 

This group of customers is ever expanding as more and more people travel and also start to experience the feeling of having way too much in their wardrobe.  Many people also do not want to repeat the same outfits and this leads them to consign their old items with us and buy new ones.

How does your business affect your customers? ( do you think they are now more aware of their carbon footprint and the effects of making healthy life choices?  Is it a long or slow process?

We try not to make reducing the carbon footprint or sustainability too big a part of our marketing. We believe that, in the end, most people respond best to feeling they got a good deal, finding styles they want to wear and having a good time shopping.  While we would like to build up more Eco-awareness, we believe that emphasizing that side of things does not necessarily work as a marketing strategy.  Of course, this might change over time, but we believe that people will shop because they want good value and to look good.

Has your work created any extra insights or changed your perspective at work?

I find new inspiration every day from the day from the work I do and my perspectives on managing people, marketing and developing a business are always evolving.  Among other things, I've learned the value of creating a vibrant and happy team in which everyone feels involved and positive.  

Does your choice to up-cycle/promote green initiatives stay as only a work mission or does it integrate into your everyday life? (Ex: social circles, places you go to in your free time, your lifestyle)

 On a day to day basis, I try to re-use packaging and use air conditioning and heating sparingly. Overall, I try to be an Eco-friendly as I possibly can without sacrificing too much comfort or efficiency. For example, I try to live in locations where it is possible to bike or walk on most days so I don't need to take taxis or own a car. I also don't travel by plane unless it really can't be avoided. I take the train if possible. As I'm sure you are aware, the carbon emissions from air travel are at times (depending on conditions) even worse than driving.

I believe we can get just as much inspiration from our daily lives, work and meeting new people as we can from traveling to far-off places so I travel often.

Is there anything that you would like to say?  Would you like to provide a statement?

I believe China is in a moment where there are countless opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to create something that has an Eco-dimension to it, and I hope more and more people, young and old, go in this direction rather than simply accepting the way things are being done and only seek profit or creation of new content simply for its own sake without it having social value.

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How to Cope with Culture Shock During Your First Visit to Chinas

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How to Cope with Culture Shock During Your First Visit to Chinas

Whether you are a visitor going to China, a recent grad pursuing an internship in China, or studying abroad in China, you will get a nice dose of culture shock as soon as you land.

Long viewed by the West as a vast land of mystery, with intriguing and unique customs, China still captures our imaginations. Beginning as one of the world’s earliest civilizations, China has become the most heavily populated nation on Earth and has rapidly ascended to its position as a modern economic powerhouse. As in its earlier history, the nation remains a popular destination for game travelers.

For those unacquainted with the traditions and lifestyle in the Far East, the initial visit can provide somewhat of a culture shock, particular if making the journey from a Western nation. We’ve put together a few relevant issues to consider in preparing yourself for the experience. Here are a few examples of what to expect during a visit to China

Food in China is a nice surprise. At first glance, questionable. The first bite, addicted. 

Those Chinese restaurants you frequent on a Friday night back at home? You won’t find those in China. The food in China is going to be different to what you’ll be used to in the West. Various spices, flavor combinations and even ingredients can be unique and perhaps a little daunting to the uninitiated. The best thing to do? Dive in and try everything!

People, People Everywhere

Think you know what a traffic jam is? You may be in for a wake-up call after a visit to China. I think we all know there are a few people in China; it is after all, the world’s most populous nation. Still, you may be in for a shock. Cars are EVERYWHERE and the roads can appear to be in a state of complete chaos. Despite first appearances, it is at least organized chaos and it's best to relax and go with the flow. The drivers know what they’re doing.

Be prepared for the fact that you will stand out and because of that, you’ll receive a lot of attention, wanted or not. It’s simple curiosity, not anything to be concerned about. Enjoy the momentary slice of fame!

Pollution

The problem with all that traffic is the havoc it plays on the air quality. The quality of the air around the major Chinese cities was brought to the world’s attention during the Beijing Olympics and the problem hasn’t gone away. The pollution problem is more prevalent in the winter as people still depend on burning coal for heat. Blue skies are endless in the summer! It may be advisable to travel with a face-mask around the major cities to avoid any respiratory problems the smog could create in the winter.

culture shock in china as an intern in china, tourist, or exhance student.jpg

 

Cultural Norms. What is really normal?

Personal space is an unknown concept within the borders of China. If you’re planning on taking public transport, be prepared to have people push, shove and jam you into the tiniest of spaces as they make room for themselves. If you may feel uncomfortable in such a situation, perhaps it’s wise to avoid traveling during rush hour.

Coughing up phlegm and then spitting it out in a rather noisy display can be a common occurrence among (predominantly) the older male crowd. While it may be a little disturbing at first, just ignore it as best you can and soon you won’t even notice (perhaps even taking up the habit yourself?)

Western toilets are out, squat toilets are in. No, you won’t likely be able to find a porcelain throne to sit on; you’ll have to do as the locals do and well…squat. Toilet paper may also be amiss in many places so if you find it a necessity, you may want to stock up and carry some around with you.

Communication- Adventures in Sign Language, giggles, with a sprinkle of confusion!

As you can imagine, English is not a language spoken worldwide. China is no exception. Although the levels of English spoken in the nation are on the rise, you may still encounter many individuals who speak solely in their native tongue. This is particularly relevant as you venture away from the main cities and tourist hubs. You may find yourself relying on a little sign language to get your point across! Fear not, non-verbal communication is still generally effective enough to ensure you are understood on at least the most basic of levels.

Note: Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese are ‘tonal’ languages, meaning the same word means a completely different thing based on the tone that is used. This can take some getting used to. The volume of communication can also typically be much louder than many Western Nations are used to. Don’t worry; they’re not angry, just communicating normally! 

Haven't been to Asia? Come to China to start building your cultural agility! Contact Miranda for more information at mm@mychinaopportunity.com

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8 Things I Have Learned About Living in China my First Month & Advice

Intern in China to Adventure to new places 

Intern in China to Adventure to new places 

1. Most Useful Apps For Getting Around- We found that the most useful Apps to have are Wechat (Weixin), Pleco,and Youdao on your smartphone.

Wechat - Is useful because everyone in Beijing has one, and will add you on there as a contact instead of giving a phone number. It acts as a platform for free calling, text, and video-calling internationally. You can also send someone your location with the app which is helpful since google maps does not work here without VPN(without a VPN, you cannot access many sites blocked in China like Google, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and some other sites, mainly social media platforms are blocked).   

Pleco- is an app that is the best Chinese to English dictionary I have used. For $10 US, you can upgrade (which is very extremely helpful) to get the camera option and translate right at that moment.  

Youdao- Is great if you have long paragraphs of text to translate. (Also alongside this, the way that my roommate and I get around, is that we carry notebooks in our bags with some key terms and phrases we have collected over time. While we have memorized most of these phrases and know what to say for some situations, it is nice to have something to reference.)

2. The Bathroom Situation- In China and in many other countries in Asia, the toilets are squatting toilets.

This means that instead of a toilet to sit on, there is (for lack of better descriptions), a stall with a hole that you squat over. While many of the newer buildings do have western style toilets, the less modern ones have these available. Also public bathrooms in the hutongs (the small streets/ alleys in china) will have these squatting toilets.

Also sometimes there is not any toilet paper in the bathroom at all and you are expected to bring your own personal pack of disposable tissues/ toilet paper (which most people do, so it is very important to have on hand in case) to these stalls. Sometimes there is soap but, it is highly recommended that you pack your own hand sanitizer bottle and/ or hand wipes for public restrooms. 

Parkview Green

Parkview Green

3. Language-  While I was told that I could take weekly language lessons during my co-op it is important that before you come you develop a basic understanding of Mandarin.

Not many people in Beijing speak English ( some young people can speak English, not so much the older generation). I have become comfortable with some basic questions and how to get around within a month with pinyin.

4. The People are Amazing- Within my short time here, I really have come to appreciate how kind, hardworking, and good-hearted everyone is here.

It is difficult when you first start out, without being able to express yourself to others because of the language barrier. It is sometimes a challenge to express your basic needs and wants at times, but most people in Beijing are very relaxed. They will work with you and listen when you ask for directions or have questions.

It is important stay calm when you get stuck, and if you make a mistake to take it easy on one’s self. Remain positive and take each experience as a learning experience, remember to smile and try to break down want to know in simpler terms in Mandarin. If you are corrected, simply take note of what vocabulary worked, and what didn’t prevent it from happening again.

5. Safety - If traveling through Beijing from 8am - 12pm you will be perfectly fine, it really depends where you are traveling( in my opinion).

It is fairly peaceful and not many pickpockets (especially compared to European countries I have visited). Just mind your belongings and don’t leave anything loose.

6. Cabs- Avoid black cabs (My coordinator warned me of this during orientation) because they might try to raise the price after you arrive at your destination. 

Personal Experience- About 2 weeks ago I encountered a black cab when I was trying to call a cab, the driver tried calling me over. He then show me a subway receipt in English, (he pointed to the word Taxation) and claimed it was his cab license..

Beijing Sight Seeing During your Internship 

Beijing Sight Seeing During your Internship 

7. Shopping- Large malls are usually for luxury items and have foreign imports.

Besides supermarkets or these malls it is fine to bargain if the store is outside or if you are in a touristy area. The prices are usually inflated. The only time people try to take your money (most people will not try to steal from you)is usually through inflating the price. There are many lovely streets and fun finds in China, you can find some really great finds. My favorite place so far is Qianmen.

8. Air Quality - I already knew about this one, but it is a good one to know.

 Living in the same city you become aware of the effect of air pollution and the source of the pollution becomes more noticeable.

Main reasons for pollution:

-It is densely populated.   

-The surrounding provinces manufacture and the wind brings the pollution. A lot of heavy manufacturing has been pushed out of Beijing in recent years.

-Many places use charcoal and burn firewood as both a source of warmth and to cook (the air quality drops significantly in the summer time because of this).

However, the people in Beijing are taking progressive measures to increase both awareness and improve the health of their environment through initiatives, and events found throughout the city. If you are interested in coming Beijing, bring breathing masks(I recommend 3M brand) to combat the pollution, and since the air is very dry, to bring pack or purchase (when you arrive ) lots of moisturizers (ex: lip balm, body lotion, face lotion).

Blog Post by Joan Suh- Fashion Intern from Drexel University 

 

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Wangfujing Snack Street

It’s been about a month since I’ve been in China and I can confidently say that China has one of the most diverse food landscapes in the world.

From spicy Sichuan street food to extravagant Beijing duck, the phrase “Chinese food’ doesn’t even begin to cover the vastness of what you can find here. 

Backtrack to three weeks ago, when my roommates and I decided to embrace our inner tourists and go to Wangfujing. I remember once watching Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods on the Travel Chanel and watching him eat Thousand Year Old Eggs, stinky tofu, and scorpions on a stick. “What an incredibly brave man. I’ll probably never do that in my life!” Little did I know that I would one day find myself in Beijing doing just that. 

Of course, the first thing we see when we enter the incredibly narrow and aromatic snack street was squirming scorpions on a stick, right next to the starfish, silk worms, and deep fried lizards. The scorpions were literally squirming to show how fresh they were. “NO WAY. I’M NOT ANDREW ZIMMERN.” I thought. However, one stick had three scorpions and my two roommates had already taken a scorpion for themselves, leaving the last one for me. After seeing their somehow complacent faces upon finishing their grub, I gave in. “What the heck.” I thought. “I’m in Beijing and it’s now or never.” To my relief, the scorpion tasted like very salty potato chips. I had to close my eyes, though. Would I eat it again?  Probably. Would I willingly order it? Probably not. But at least I have a cool story to tell. 

Although I forgot to take a picture that monumental moment of culinary exploration, I did manage to take a picture of myself happily scarfing down some stinky tofu. Stinky tofu was another must-try food Andrew Zimmern had the pleasure of tasting. Like durian fruit (which is one of very few foods I detest), it smelled of death and old feet but instead tasted quite savory and enjoyable. Topped with cilantro, peppers, and peanuts, the tofu was rather tasty. Immediately afterwards I downed two water bottles and five breath mints. The “stinky” part of stinky tofu is no joke. 

It seems that you can never go hungry here. There is food EVERYWHERE. If you’re hungry, the nearest restaurant is probably less than half a block away.

If you’re not in the mood for a sit-down meal, there are always smaller restaurants peddling their snack-sized wraps and kabobs. And for the truly adventurous you can try out the street food.

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