By Sam Jacobs
Editor’s note:The writer is a partner at Jellymon, a Shanghai-based creative outfit, describing a project that he was recently involved in.
A couple of years ago Jellymon started getting into old school local Chinese brands such as Forever Bikes 1 Forever Bikes 2, Chrysanthemum Brand Tracksuits, Fei Yue (they’ve been bought by a company in Paris, but you can still buy the originals here for about 35rmb), Seagull Cameras and Hui Li sneakers. My partners-in-crime at Jellymon and I felt that there was something amazing there that people not only outside of China but also a new generation of local kids feeling nostalgic could get into.
It seems we weren’t the only ones to be thinking along these lines as about 4 months ago a Norwegian-Chinese student, YeYe put together a book about the aforementioned Hui Li (Warrior Brand) sneakers which came packaged together with a pair and retailed in Europe for over 100 euros. You can pick up a pair for yourself in Shanghai for about 30-45rmb.
About 6 months prior to this, Jellymon had started approaching a lot of these local brands to see if they fancied collaborating with us… Apparently they didn’t! Most of the brands were state run and/or had fallen on hard times. They were doing most of their business making products for foreign brands. If anyone had wanted to do a million Mickey Mouse watches, it would have been a very different story but all that Jellymon wanted to to do was to update classics and to do so in very very limited runs.
Around the same time my partners and I decided we needed a bit more fire-power so we contacted our friends at Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai to see if they would be interested in joining in on a collaboration with us. Eventually, Jellymon decided to work together to design 5 watches along with their talented art director, Wei Wei.
Finally after loads of meetings and chain smoking/tea drinking sessions with the old bosses of The Shanghai Watch Co. we got them to agree to work with us.
The factory which was set up in 1955 is located near the Bund and although in their past they have produced over 120 million watches they are definitely a bit past their prime. They hadn’t produced the model we liked for over ten years but thanks to a younger product manager of the factory they seemed to be getting the fact that people were gaining a renewed interest in Chinese brands.
After 6 months of toing-and-froing, old machines being re-built and samples being produced and rejected over and over we finally had the first ever collaboration with a Chinese state run brand. The watches are being sold in Colette in Paris, Kidrobot in New York and in Shanghai at The Source, Xinle Lu.
It was a mad experience but we are really happy with the result and are still in talks with various other of these brands to try and make more fun collaborations.
For more info check here www.wkshanghai.com/shwatch