Choosing whom to photograph is paradoxically easy and difficult—nearly everyone who passes by deserves a place in this book. Yet the Chinese mall cops hovered, keeping an eye on us…it was shoot-and-run photography.
Photographer, Fung Chan and Australian research fellow, Toni Johnson-Woods trawled the streets of Shanghai over a two-week period in sweltering heat to capture street style in a city where its people let their clothes do all the talking.
With a population of more than 14 million, the locals have an insatiable appetite for international high street and luxury brands, and think nothing of pairing Chanel or Prada handbags with vintage finds or the likes Zara, Topshop and H&M, all of which, have become ready fixtures in the Shanghai shopping districts.
I was excited to get my hands on this book to see whether it would ignite the kind of inspiration that hit me as a kid when I discovered Tokyo street style and Shoichi Aoki’s, ‘Fruits.’
I can tell you for a fact that there is nothing better, or more daring than a young guy (or gal) dressed to superhero proportions replete with cape, punk/ fetish accessories, layered brocade skirts, candy coloured bangles and lavender hair, or a boy in a full tartan suit with extreme-proportioned sleeves that make him look like he shrunk in his clothing overnight!
These outfits are nightmarishly genius, garish and all at once, bold and otherworldly. Fruits—now almost 16-years on, still contains plenty of outrageous gems.
While there were no startling surprises like this in Shanghai Street Style, it neither disappointed nor overly excited, but there were definitely some menswear looks that I loved.
Photographs of individuals are accompanied by a detailed list of their items of clothing and accessories, and their looks are given descriptions—these unfortunately fall flat and just feel unnecessary and awkward i.e. classic urban chic paired with city slick, laid-back informal and breezy with new romantic influences (the latter, describes a guy wearing a white singlet and striped knickerbockers with the Crocs, pictured below).
Half way through, the book is broken up into sections: shoes, bags and accessories.
Fuller written segments also provide an interesting insight into the history of the city and growth of the textile industry; the influences that inform the mass market with a foreword noting the obvious: China is the location of mass production for international brands, many of which, eventually appear on the streets of Shanghai.
Some of my favourite images aren’t of street style photography, but of everyday life—dumplings being made by hand, or and a man carting large containers of filtered water on the back of a motorbike. These pictures do so much to tell the story of the city and provide greater context to the people who live in it.
The book does what it should—portray a variety of street style looks and I would be curious to see the photos that didn’t make the cut. After all, style is subjective and the choice of images feels a little too safe.
I’m also currently reading Gemma A. Williams ‘Fashion China’ a book consisting of short interviews with established and emerging Chinese fashion designers at the cutting edge of cool…
Shanghai Street Style was published in 2013, by Intellect Books and retails for US$23.00