PUNCTUALITY, EFFICIENCY, TIMING. AND LIFESTYLE FLAIR. 守时，高效，时机。独具匠心的生活品味。
On a little street 3 minutes away from my apartment there is a little shop that has always attracted my attention. First of all the selection of goods on sale – women and menswear but also accessories and lifestyle pieces. Secondly their shop windows, always fun and engaging, with stickers and colourful props. And then the name of the shop – Sanlipop – which I simply love. There is Sanlitun, my favourite neighbourhood in town, and the pop aspect, which I find inspiring as opposed to remote, niche, polished.
But don’t get me wrong – it’s not like there is no research behind the work the 5 founders at Sanlipop do to be up to date and to select the most interesting pieces for their clientele. Quite the opposite. When I met with one of them, Han from NYC with a degree from Parsons, a master degree from London’s Saint Martins and a happy smile on his face, we drank coconut water and discussed about the challenges – so many – and the satisfaction that come together with running one of the most fun and sought-after shops in town.
You’ve been living in NY City, Tokyo, Seoul, London and now Beijing. Which one do you like better?
I would say NY, and not only because it’s my hometown, but because it’s where the quality of the products around you and the cost of living are perfectly balanced. I love Tokyo for example, but generally good things are very expensive, are they food or accessories or clothes. But when it came to open a new business, I knew I couldn’t raise funding in NY as the environment is extremely competitive and at the same time I’ve always known that China is a land of opportunities. When I met my friends – now partners – and they suggested we checked Beijing out I embraced this adventure with open heart and mindset.
Who’s the Sanlipop team?
It’s 5 of us, three guys and two girls – and this was scary at the beginning because we have completely different personalities. Now, after almost two years, I know this is in fact our biggest strength. Also, we have very varied cultural backgrounds and this help when you are trying to spread a wide message. I’m personally in charge of menswear and lifestyle buying – I get to speak with many different people. But I’m also the guy who gets to shout at people – I’m the oldest in the team so I’m kind of the old brother. The girls are the goos cops and try to calm down the ones who have been shouted at. They approach issues in a very feminine way.
我们团队由5人组成，3个男生和2个女生 – 一开始这挺让人胆战心惊的，因为我们的个性截然不同。然而经过两年的时间，现在看来，这其实是我们最大的优势。同时我们的文化背景差异也很大，这对信息的扩散很有帮助。我主要负责男装和生活方式产品，所以有机会接触到很多各式各样的人。但同时我也是冲人吼的那个啦，毕竟我是团队里最年长的，就像他们的大哥。女生就扮演唱红脸的角色啦，她们会安慰被吼的人。女性的特质使得她们在面对这样的问题时比较温柔。
Do you spend time in the shops?
Of course we have sales staff in charge, but we make turns and we all try to spend as much time as possible at the stores. It’s very important to get to know the customers better – especially for me, a foreigner. I’ve always pictured Chinese people wearing extremely bold colors and patterns and I was surprised to see that there is more than that. I’ve realised our customers have in fact tastes that are closer to western standards – maybe because most of them have international backgrounds. By being in the shop you get a feedback right away – and this is priceless.
我们有销售助理，但我们自己也轮流排班，尽量多花些时间在店里。这对了解顾客非常重要 – 尤其对我这个外国人来说。我头脑里设想的中国人都穿着特别大胆的颜色和图案，但实际上我惊奇地发现并不仅如此。我意识到其实我们顾客的品味更接近西方的审美 – 或许因为大部分人都有国际化的背景。如果你人在店里，你能获得第一手的顾客反馈 – 这是无价的。
How do you select the brands you work with?
All the brands we have at the shops are from abroad but this was not a rational choice. I was initially looking for pieces locally manufactured but the distribution for these products is extremely difficult, because these brands tend to deal only with some showrooms, and we are out of that loop. Also, we don’t mind going upstream: there is a strong trend of concept stores proudly offering Chinese products only and we decided to have imported products instead. Moreover, very often Chinese designers are not mature yet and so for now it’s easier for us to look abroad.
How was Sanlipop born?
I didn’t know Beijing that well when we decided to start this adventure but I’d researched China a lot. When we were looking for the perfect venue we had no doubts it would be Sanlitun: Guomao was a bit too glossy, the hutong area too… small. We figured our customers would drive their cars to the shop and would find it uncomfortable if they could not get close. When I visited the area for the first time, it was very obvious. Our shop was the first one to open on Sanlitun Lu – and we simply wanted to be different. We wanted to offer quality products in a non-intimidating environment. The key to our success is our sales staff – they know the story behind every single piece we have in the store and they now how to interact with customers.
How do you train them?
We all go through training regularly. It’s not about selling more, it’s about establishing a relationship with clients. We spend lot of time preparing developing programs for our team but it’s completely worth it. Our staff come from Louis Vuitton, Alexander Mc Queen and other gigantic fashion conglomerates and they are surprised buy the kind of training we offer them. It’s more than what not to say and how to address people. It’s about being able to share our passion and our love for beautiful products. And they are such fast learners!
我们会定期进行培训。关键不是卖得多，而是跟顾客建立一种关系。我们在培训项目上花费了大量的时间，但这完全是值得的。我们的销售助理来自Louis Vuitton, Alexander Mc Queen和其它巨头时尚集团，我们提供的培训仍然让他们感到意外。培训不仅仅是教你哪些话不能说，或者该怎样称呼顾客。更多的是训练你如何分享对这些美丽单品的热情和喜爱。我们的销售学得非常快！
How is it going now that you also have M Goods?
M Goods it’s a different project. It’s in 798 (arty district in Beijing) and it’s the shop of a museum. We mostly have lifestyle pieces there and the main difference is that there is lots of traffic so we get to interact with different people from different backgrounds and different standards. The focus of the shop is design – we offer quality products that age with you and that serve a precise purpose. For me – M Goods is an open window on Chinese habits and traditions.
你们还有 M Goods 这家店，跟我们说说这家店的情况吧。
Too often the fashion world is populated by people who have some talent or flair but not enough knowledge or substance. Han is different. He is a dreamer of course – we all are – and he decided to move to the opposite side of his world to follow his vision, but at the same time he is extremely down to earth and balanced. And I loved our conversation. By the way, a bigger flagship store is coming – the fab 5 are already working on it. I can’t wait – and am already saving. I bet you are the same!
Sanlipop e’ una piccola boutique nel quartiere delle ambasciate. M Goods e’ il gift shop di un museo nel quartiere art. Dietro queste due realtà il team di 5 persone più multiculturale e pop che io abbia mai conosciuto. Due ragazze e tre ragazzi provenienti da diverse parti del mondo che si sono incontrati a Londra mentre studiavano a Central Saint Martins e hanno dato corpo al loro sogno. Che sta andando alla grande.
For all the pictures, special thanks to Sanlipop.
Translation by Vivian Zhou.