Beijing is definitely cool. It’s violent, it’s impractical, it’s too big, I hate it – but it is cool. I spent an afternoon with Niklas around the Houhai area, a bar, restaurant and shopping district around two connected lakes. Later, Kenyen came to meet us, and we walked over to Nan Luo Gu – a small street in a hutong area with all sorts of bars and cafes, designer shops, a foot massage place, and an experimental theatre. A kind of Beijing Fitzroy, where the grey stone replaces the Victorian iron lace.
Coolness is a consumerist category. We look for it in shops. Its aura will spread from objects like this notebook.
Is that what my – very cool – Melburnian Chinese friend had in mind when he told me ‘I miss Beijing, I really miss Beijing – I love it so much – it’s the best place in the world for shopping!’
Another sure sign of Beijing cool is the full assimilation of world pop culture. You know you’ve made it to coolness when the little red soldier is interchangeable with Barack Obama, Marylin, or Che Guevara.
Final sign: the shop with a concept. Here, you can choose from hundreds of designer post-cards on the walls, sorted by style and theme, and write it in the shop – who will post it for you.
Niklas insisted they stole the idea from a shop in Suzhou. Who’s coolest? One more step, and they’ll start rating their lattes.