Dazed Digital

Shanghai / 中文

Yilei

October 27, 2011

The fashion designer's Jing-an Villa boutique captures the new spirit of old Shanghai

  • Text by Satellite Voices

Guest Feature by Menmenmen

After returning to Shanghai after a masters course at London College of Fashion, Yilei worked in and around the industry as a creative director and showroom manager before opening her own boutique in Jing-an Villa and her own label. Inspired by Anne Fontaine in London, she crafts deceptively simple white shirts that that she feels captures the true Shanghai spirit.

Satellite Voices: Was it always yourdream to open your own boutique?
Yilei: Running my own fashion label has always been one of those childhood dreams, probably due to the family influence since both my parents worked in the fashion industry. This blood of entrepreneurship has been running in my body for so long. However, opening up this little boutique is something unexpected. It just happened that I found this retail place that was the ideal size, perfect location, with affordable rent. Even the furniture is given to me by the antique store next door.

SV:Why you only sold shirt in white?
Yilei: For me, the image of a fair lady wearing a beautiful white shirt walking gracefully out of those old-styled small lanes is my understanding of the true Shanghai spirit. I fell in love with white shirts while working for Anne Fontaine (the French brand specialising in women’s white shirts) in London. One day, I was ironing this collection piece and wondering if it would look better if the details were changed, the silhouette altered. That very moment this idea came into my mind - why not set up my own label making fine white shirts tailored for Asian women. It is a niche market neglected by the big players.

SV: Can you tell us more about your designs?
Yilei: I design these shirts for myself, friends, and other like-minded people. Sometimes I name them with friend’s names. One piece was named after my friend Sinky before her wedding day. It is a kimono-styled blouse with organza ruffles around the neck, soft and sweet, just like her personality. Although she is no longer using that nickname, it still reminds me of those great teenage years we spent together.

I am also working on this project shooting 500 young ladies wearing my shirts. Some of them are my friends, others customers. I post the photos onto Weibo [the Chinese equivalence of Twitter] regularly and am hoping to re-shoot them after 10 years. It would be interesting to exhibit them together, to see how time influences the way we look.

SV: Why did you choose the Jing-an Villa area?
Yilei: It must be destiny. I found this lovely apartment and moved into this neighbourhood in February, then gradually got to know the owners of the small cafes and stores. One is Felix, who used to be an interior designer and now runs this amazing antique furniture store, which also sells the best spicy noodles in the city. One day he decided to let this room out, so I took it.

This is an amazing place, beautiful and relaxed, where the old local people mingle with young new immigrants. People respect each other’s lifestyles and live happily together. I like walking through the lanes, greeting people I know, old and young, fashionable or not. It’s like a wonderland hidden in the city centre. Only the lucky ones got in.

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