It’s notoriously tough to separate “Made in China,”—and Asia in general—from the association with cheap goods, which is why Singapore’s Tiger Beer decided to bring together product designers from all over Asia to prove Western consumers wrong.
Last month, Tiger Beer partnered with ad agency Marcel Sydney to launch Tiger Trading Co., a pop-up shop on 343 Canal Street in New York City’s Chinatown. Tiger, with the help of Australian production company Will O’Rourke and designer James Dive of The Glue Society, wanted to juxtapose well-made, innovative, and trendy goods with the typical discount market assortment commonly found in the area. It was all part of a campaign that reflects Tiger’s own role and experience in Asia—while its beer is respected for its taste and quality, it exists in a bed of negative stereotypes about Asian-born products.
“New York has the largest Asian population outside of Asia, but most people here don’t see past the cheap goods in Chinatown,” Tiger Beer’s global brand ambassador, Mie-Leng Wong told Adweek. “As the No. 1 premium beer in Asia, we wanted to give New Yorkers an unexpected way to explore what Asian quality and creativity is all about. So we invited them to explore and discover the best in contemporary Asia for themselves and reset their perceptions.”
More than 700 creatives from across Asia showcased their products in the store, and each night of the three-night pop-up, the art, design, tech, and fashion on display sold out within the first hour. Many of the designers represented were Tiger’s fellow makers from Singapore, including silkscreen printmaker Mojoko, watch label HyperGrand, and artist Kelly Lim of Kllylmrck. However, there were also plenty of brands from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, such as multi-brand boutique Goods of Desire, which featured Hong Kong-made products like a Chinese dye jacket and pottery. Shoppers could also pick up a “Kung Fu Vase Set” by Shanghai-based Spin Ceramics, paper furniture from Shenzhen Ihpaper Fashion Tech Co., and more.
The designers didn’t leave out the typical Chinatown kitsch—they reserved that for stuffing under the glass floor. Visitors to the shop literally walked on top of 118 square meters of items like paper fans, faux silk scarves, and dollar-store sunglasses.
While this campaign only lasted for a few days, Chinese designers and retailers have been vigorously working to change the perception of “Made in China” for the past several years. With support from local big-name department stores like Lane Crawford, creatives are building fashion and design brands that they hope will rival Western luxury brands in the China market. Even Western boutiques have been taking note of China’s potential on this front. Opening Ceremony is in the middle of a year dedicated to Chinese fashion designers, and has visited several Shanghai Fashion Weeks to seek out talent to showcase in their stores next to well-established Western independent labels. Other boutique retailers, like the new Chop Suey Club in Manhattan, have devoted their entire platform to Chinese brands.
Shopping malls in China have also started to answer a growing Chinese demand for brands developed at home. The recently opened Topwin Center is devoted almost entirely to local artisans as shoppers are starting to show support to their designers at home. It no doubt begins to challenge the idea that affluent Chinese can only gain status among their peers by wearing and owning Western luxury labels as more consumers view local brands as quality works of art.