Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Beijing in Pictures

Two weeks ago I got the kind of phonecall we all dream about: Kris Van Assche's Dior office was calling, they were organizing a menswear show in China and would I be free to go to Beijing in 5 days. Well, would I! a very busy week ensued, which was spent basically doing paperwork and worrying that I wouldn't get my visa (let's just say journalists, even the ones who work in fashion, are not exactly the darlings of the Chinese Communist Party). However, everything worked out in the end and I found myself flying towards a city I didn't know much about...

I'm not really sure what I was expecting from Beijing; certainly a very (very) big city where tradition meets modernity. But what is really amazing about China's capital is its energy. It's impossible to describe, it oozes old time mystery and 21st century excitement (and endless pollution. Sometimes it's even impossible to see 100 metres ahead of you because of that). In the picture above is the view I got of the city from my room in the 49th floor of the Park Hyatt hotel. 

Traditional China is still there, though, sometimes so idyllic it feels like a Hollywood setting. These pictures were taken around the Summer Palace a bit outside the city, where the Qing emperors used to spend their summers (and which was massacred by the "very civilized" English and French during the XIXth century and rebuilt later). Just taking a walk there makes you feel so zen and grounded - and the experience is enhanced by the fact that there are hardly any obnoxious Western tourists dressed in shorts and crocs. Seriously, that makes Beijing the perfect destination.

 Posing in the Forbidden city with the lovely NoĆ©mie from the Dior team. We learned the most impressive stories about concubines and eunuchs there.

Some charmingly decadent traditional neighbourhoods still exist in the city, although most of them are being destroyed in order to build yet more huge towers to house banks and financial institutions while people are being relocated. It just doesn't make much sense to me how any self-respecting Communist party would do that kind of thing, but oh well. I think as a matter of fact one of the things that fascinates me about China so far is its political and socio-economic situation. Being able to talk to real people and see how they live was, for me, the most priceless thing about my trip. As was seeing senior citizens still dress as they did during the Cultural Revolution, wearing blue worker jackets and caps with red stars embroidered on them.

 Yes, I did have the time to take a walk on the Great Wall. And there were no tourists!

The Forbidden City was really impressive and made me think of Ryuichi Sakamoto's music for The Last Emperor. Most of the pavillions in it are being restored, but there are still some decadent bits like this one, which made me ecstatic with aesthetic joy, much to the confusion of Chinese people who couldn't understand how a decaying wall could make me so happy.

 Dior Homme's amazing show. More on that tomorrow, as it deserves a post on its own.

And of course we partied like crazy fashion people after the show, dancing to Hurts's live gig with Chinese celebrities (I admit I didn't know who anyone was, but they were all lovely and fun!). Here I am towards the end of the night, after too much champagne and too much jet lag, with Julien from Dior. For some reason at this point I was wearing Julien's Dior Homme outfit and he was wearing my Carolina Herrera leopard coat, which prompted our motto for the night (and our whole stay in China): what happens in Beijing stays in Beijing.

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