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Hong Kong Pop-up Shop Showcases New and Innovative Chinese Designers

  • Kari Jensen

Modern China is bright and loud and savory and changing. It is just like the merchandise at dysemevas, a temporary installation in Hong Kong showcasing clothing, accessories, jewelry, and tableware by young Chinese and China-based designers. It closed recently and is next set to pop up in Beijing.

For six weeks dysemevas was the in place to shop for designer goods in Hong Kong. But now the storefront in an aging business district is empty.

But dysemevas, Hong Kong's first pop-up shop, was only ever meant to be temporary. It now is set to re-open again in Beijing and then later in Shanghai.

The boutique featured luxury goods from some of Hong Kong and China's cutting-edge designers. It also served as a meeting place and party venue for friends and family of Dee Poon, its founder.

Poon says with dysemevas she tried to bring together a variety of designers.

"You know, China's a really big place," Poon said. "And I think one of the things I tried to show through the store was was how different and diverse their work is. And I think, you know, I don't think there's a single blanket answer."

One week, the store was crowded with bright red painted steel bunk beds, which served as display racks for bright painted jeans and silk-screened T-shirts.

Another week, the store was more subdued, filled with glass-topped showcases featuring gold jewelry displayed next to formal designer suits.

China's artists and designers are pushing for the country to be known as a design center instead of a manufacturing hub.

Even within its borders, the well-to-do are more apt to clamor for European or American designers' goods than to embrace local talent.

That means some Chinese designers may have limited exposure. Of the designers at dysemevas, Qui Hao sells clothes in a single Shanghai store, while Hi Panda has stores in Shanghai, but not in Beijing.

Most of dysemevas' designers are Chinese, but two are Westerners based in China.

Tony Magnetic is an American designer who lives in Hong Kong. His denim brand, "The Year of", changes its theme yearly based on the animals of the traditional Chinese zodiac.

Magnetic says, like his brand, dysemevas constantly changes.

"That's why it was so unique in its presentation and the kind of the crowd that it attracted to the location," Magnetic said. "And also being one of the few unique pop-up concepts that exists in Hong Kong. So that's why it was a great fit for both of us and the other brands that were exhibited alongside."

Poon deliberately opened dysemevas away from Hong Kong's glitzy shopping districts, in a working-class area spotted with dried herb stores. It took up two, unfinished storefronts that once sold Chinese medicine.

One night, guests gathered early on the sidewalk outside. Inside, the bartender poured a steady stream of drinks and a DJ played hip-hop for the crowd of trendy young adults.

That night, few people bought anything. But other days, people did shop. Poon says the shop made its sales target.

The final day was subdued at dysemevas. Upstairs guests enjoyed Chinese tea. The crowd was older, and included not only leading Hong Kong business people, but also senior leaders.

John Tsang, financial secretary, was among the guests. He says dysemevas represents the innovative side of Hong Kong, long known as a trade and financial center.

"It's a pop-up shop so during the period that it existed it did really good business," Tsang said. "It means that there's quite a lot of demand for this type of goods. And I think the young -- as well as the young at heart -- is always looking for the stuff that is sort of on the edge."

Dysemevas is set to reopen in Beijing's 798 art district in mid-2009. From there it will move to Shanghai a few months later.

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