Just because it never grows old and the winters here in northern China shall always remain cold. So how does one battle the Beijing winter in new plush, then? In the spirit of the season, I give you a Wild Wednesday reprise of my very own (very moral-less) Christmas carol: The Ugly Sweater Phenomenon.
Beijing winter shows its stone-cold face again. Hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, ear warmers, the whole shebang is being pulled out of the closet for the sake of just keeping a little warm when the wind starts blowing you (or better hitting you) in the face the moment you flash one chunky bootstrap outside. Sure, a trip to H&M or Zara is easily made here nowadays; however, scouting the general Chinese markets and stores for cheaper/runway knock-off winter clothing often results in disappointment. But have I got news for you: it doesn’t have to since the fashion industry is throwing us a bone this season.
Usually the sight of Minnie Mouse lookalikes and swanky pompoms make me turn and run faster than a taxi driver saying he doesn’t know how to get to Tiananmen Square. Of course after exercising the necessary patience, you may find some nice glitterless scarf and gloves that actually match (your taste). And if you’re lucky, maybe even a nice matching hat. But behold! Now enters the wonderful and rather innovative part. A/W 2011-2012 catwalks were packed to the rafters with knitwear. Wool has made its comeback into the most knitpicky (oh yea, I went there) design lover´s walk-in closet, or in my case onto my IKEA clothing rack.
Personally I have always been a fan of wearing wool, especially in the Beijing cold or on the slopes, as long as it doesn’t make me look like The Friendly Giant. Having said that though, I must admit that my number one favorite fabric during these tough times, the one I just cannot pass by without trying to bargain it down, would have to be Fake Fur. The mere sight of it makes me dream of the glamorous studio times where flawless Ava Gardners, Hayworths and my grandmother would swoon into Bogart or Gable´s arms (or, as Santa never granted her that wish, my grandfather’s), wearing fabulously tailored fur coats with perfectly harmonizing accessories, down to their hatpins. Ah, those were the days… Fast forwarding to the 2010s, there is a sparkle of hope for diva-wannabes like me as you can find plenty of (somewhat) politically correct faux fur for all in this city. Though I’m still afraid it might actually be cat…
Beijing clothing markets allow you to create your individual Moss look to casually browse around the latest galleries at 798 (best before they get shut down for being too provocative), watch the up-and comers on the city’s rockscene at Mao Live or just tumble out of Migas (okay, in summertime) in style. One example of a dear fuzzy item on my clothing rack is still a short furry gilet I got from the Old News Vintage Boutique (you owe me for all the promo, dudes) in Wudaoying Hutong, Plenty of similar shops around nowadays and a new one seemingly opening up every week; the latest one being Station; its collections offering a mixture of young new designers and upscale vintage. Two other vests, knitted with fake fur lining, I dug up from a basket over there. Second hand gems I call them. Well, “called” actually; my cat got to them. Plenty around, but you need just plenty of patience to spot them.
Moving back to wool on the other hand; there is one item I have never been able to wrap my former Yaxiu (the infamous Beijing knock-off market that alas is no more) wig around: the Ugly Sweaters. Itchy wool, warm to hot, shapeless… They´re considered all that and more. There´s just something about them that doesn´t want me to wear Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer or the Leader of the Pack – Santa Clause himself – on her chest. Let alone a snowman, which actually give me nightmares. Until now that is; because according to the grapevine I should change my mind. Rykiel, Mccartney, Jacobs and trailblazing Holdhus in 21012 decided that grandmother´s Christmas present is now hot and happening instead of just boiling hot and rash inducing. Frosty is back with a vengeance: it is The Ugly Sweater Phenomenon. And it’s here to stay. Now, where else do you have easier access to these gems and a wider variety of them than in this nation’s capital?!
It´s almost like the question of the chicken and the egg all over again. Who came up with the idea to put Christmas decorations on people first? Was it this city’s vendors or the top designers? Or maybe it was just Coca Cola. But all skepticism aside, it seems we have a new way to look in vogue for next to nada AND be warm .Normally I would say ‘hot’, but I haven´t had a chance to take my snowman out on the town for a spin in men´s land yet. The glass should be half full though as it has been scientifically proven that men like to touch or get closer to women, in a NICE way I might add, who wear soft fabrics. Even the inscrutable Don Draper shouldn’t be able to resist. So if you go for the non-prickly wool, you should be set until Chinese New year’s date-wise methinks. Go prickly and you´ll just end up literally shocking people every time your feet touch a carpet – speaking from personal experience here.
All that remains now is the vital question: How to wear the Ugly Sweater and take its rating from granny convalescent to convincingly GILF hot? It is a large burden upon our shoulder pads (can’t believe those are still around, let alone that I’m wearing them, but that is a whole different topic). In other words, putting on a wool item can end up being like opening Pandora´s Box… The only way you should be able to pull it off would be to pair it with skinny jeans or vein-crushingly tight leather pants, 5plus inch heels and a first-rate sense of humor lined with self-confidence/mock. Some may need to ask Kriss Kringle for some help. It is warm though; and fun. And fun is something that has been absent from the general fashion scene for a while.
‘Tis the season, so join in and stay hotter than mulled wine (or gluehwein, or the Swedish version – whatever that’s called, etc.) I say! Besides, should people laugh at you, just shock´em.
You got the power.
PS: The proof I’m not making this up: