More Shanghai Shoppers Turning Away From Mass Market Labels
From Front Row to Alter, Le Lutin to THE VILLA, The Olive Shoppe to Dong Liang, Triple-Major to B.Y., in recent years Shanghai has become the epicenter of China’s growing independent multi-brand boutique scene.
Since opening its doors nearly three years ago, SPACESHIP by TIPS has staked out a sleepy corner of Nanchang Lu, led by intrepid founder Yin Jiasheng (尹佳圣) and stocking some of the most interesting and hard-to-find brands to ever hit Shanghai. Recently, Jing Daily dropped by to speak with Yin about his store, favorite designers, and plans for expansion.
Jing Daily (JD): Can you tell us a little about how you founded SPACESHIP by TIPS? Does the name have any special meaning?
Yin Jiasheng (YJS): I started this boutique because I always loved fashion. When I first started out in the fashion world, I was mostly dealing in the foreign fashion trade, but that got old quickly and I decided to go off on my own with a designer boutique. As for the name, I wanted to distinguish it from the two other TIPS stores I run. Also, it’s just such a special space, so I named it SPACESHIP by TIPS.
JD: How do you select the designers you stock here? How many labels do you have in all?
YJS: I’m mostly focused on designers who are really talented. The designers we stock right now are pretty popular ones, like Christopher Kane, Preen Line and KTZ. At first, we only had about four designer brands in stock, and now we’ve got about 20. In terms of selecting brands, I don’t really base it on what’s in fashion magazines. I mostly look at designer sites and make my decision on who to stock based on what they’re doing, but I also base my decision on what I know will sell in the Shanghai market.
JD: Right now, what proportion of what you sell is menswear versus womenswear? Which brand sells the best?
YJS: Men make up about 40 percent of our customers versus 60 percent women. What sells best is usually whatever I’m wearing at the time, because customers come in and see what I’ve got on and often try to choose those brands.
JD: Small designer boutiques generally reflect the style of their owners. How would you define the style of SPACESHIP by TIPS?
YJS: It’s pretty hard to pin down a “style” at my store. Since opening, I think I’ve built up a lot more experience and new ideas. I think a more apparent style will emerge here in the future, because I’ll spend more time on brand planning to make everything a little more uniform.
JD: How often do you update your stock? And are you the main merchandise buyer or do you have a dedicated buyer?
YJS: We usually update twice a year, seasonally. If we haven’t sold everything at the end of the quarter we’ll discount the stock, and if there’s still stuff left at the end of the year we’ll have a large-scale sale. Right now I’m the main buyer and pretty much the “face” of the company. My girlfriend handles the import and customs issues.
JD: In addition to the designers you stock here, who are some of your personal favorite designers?
YJS: There are lots. I like Rick Owens, everybody knows him, but I also like some more underground and niche designers.
JD: Which Chinese designers do you like?
YJS: KIM, Uma Wang, Qiao Qiao (翘翘), Qiu Hao, Masha Ma. I really appreciate Uma’s design and business expertise. She’s a genius. Masha is so young but very accomplished — it’s very impressive what she’s done in her career.
JD: Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a lot of new multi-brand and designer boutiques open up in Shanghai. How do you feel about this?
YJS: I think it’s a good thing. The more choices, the better for the market. For store owners, more competition means more progress. It takes two to tango, so we need competition for the market to flourish. But I hope we can be competitive in a healthy way, rather than just engaging in a price war or something like that. I started my shop from scratch with the expectation that any sort of success would take quite a lot of time and work to achieve.
My store has gradually progressed along with the shoppers here, many of whom are stepping slowly away from the mass market retailers. The Shanghai market is developing even better than I’d expected, though, so returns have been quite good.
JD: What are your future plans for SPACESHIP by TIPS?
YJS: I’m getting ready to open a location in Beijing, and hope to keep expanding from there.
JD: Are you thinking of joining the e-commerce trend and launching an online shopping platform?
YJS: We have a Taobao shop, but that’s mainly used for Shanghai-area customers. It’s just a sales channel that complements our store, rather than a major focus for us. I think for our customers, they’d prefer to come into our store to try on a 5,000 yuan outfit rather than buying it online.