By Chiewling Tan
Fashion Friday is a brand new weekly column that will appear on Shanghaiist every Friday, 9am on the dot. Here’s where you’ll find the latest on what’s hot, what’s not, meet designers, and get your fix on fashion events going about in town.
Over the last 7 years, we’ve seen many boutiques opened and shut after a span of one year. It made us sad to see nice boutiques disappearing or not able to sustain themselves in this glamorous city of change.
So we were glad to meet up with Cairn Wu Reppun, the owner of William the Beekeeper, for a nice afternoon tea and and to hear that her store is turning five next year. It all goes to show that with the right mix of brands and a perseverance attitude to do what’s right for your boutique, you can still have a place in this city.
See what Cairn has to say about her store, her wonderful product mix and also her grand plans to grow William the Beekeeper!
Shanghaiist: Tell us more about William the Beekeeper – a little bit background information about your store and yourself.
C: William the Beekeeper is a concept store that revolves around sustainability and a green way of living. We carry a variety of things from our in-house Kaileeni to other green friendly indie designers such as Snoozer Loser and Finch. Alongside indie designers we have a variety of vintage clothing from around the world, handmade crafts, consignment books and of course honey. Our organic honey when in stock is shipped from our Reppun Family farm in Waihole, Hawaii.
Organic honey from Reppun Family farm in Waihole, Hawaii.
Tell us a little more about your store name – why William the Beekeeper?
C: It’s many folds. The store is named after the honey that we import from our family farm. Specifically, William is the love of my life, my husband. My roots are from Southern California and my background is Taiwanese and my mother is Chinese Malaysian/Thai (Penang) and my husband is from Hawaii so island/ocean life is deeply rooted in me. Thus, the name gives a feeling of ease, unpretentiousness, sustainability that is comparable to coastal life.
What made you want to set up a store in Shanghai 5 years ago?
C: Shanghai has so many possibilities and why wouldn’t someone like me want to be the new face of what is possible here. The opportunities are abundant and being here, where different styles of fashion are new to the people, we have a huge influence and it’s an honor to be part of that evolution. It’s history in the making and how great is it to say people like us are part of that.
What is the shopping experience you like to give to your consumers who walk into your store?
C: It’s all that the name represents. But also, on top of comfort, an escape from the hustle and bustle of noisy shanghai and reminder of life outside of shanghai. We think customers see it as visually stimulating in a calm manner, it reminds a lot of people of home.
What brand do you stock in your store? Can you tell us a few brands and what are they like and where are they from?
C: Kaileeni, our house brand is a vintage inspired contemporary line that is constantly referred to as a very Californian line.
Sonia Tay’s Snoozer Loser is an environmentally friendly line with natural dyes fibers and, in addition to that, they hand screen print their garments, which make them unique.
Finch is also green with similar natural dyes and natural fibers. They also create their own prints. The two designers Heather and Itee are also amazing people and it shows in their work. You can feel the love in their clothes.
Cukimber, created by Kim, is hand made jewelry that is made of sometimes unconventional materials from all over the world. It is a hint of african/asian influence in the lines.
A chest full of goodies!
What is the style of your products – is there a particular style that you stick to for your store or you carry a range of different styles?
C: Yes, definitely vintage inspired pieces we love to carry and quite urban/contemporary lines that fall under classic and instead of trendy. We try to pick out pieces that are unique to the Shanghai market since there is abundance of stores carrying the same copied or under the table designer lines. We try to carry real indie designers and customers appreciate that.
What’s your clientele like?
C: Definitely there are two types. One is the fashionable one that can spot a great garment right when she sees it. They come in often because they know that we also carefully curate the store for the fashionable. Nothing in here is ugly. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but we can definitely style it correctly and show how it can be worn properly.
The other type of customer is the girl that wants to learn more about fashion and is completely open to it. She wants to wear everything in the store but knows that she cant, but the possibility that she may in the future after more and more exposure to it.
How’s your store doing so far? Any highlights to share with our readers?
C: We are doing well. We are going into our 5th year in Shanghai this next year so it’s a great accomplishment for us. We have the best loyal customers who never waiver. We are looking to open another shop sometime next year if we can find the ideal spot.
Vintage style but with a glamorous twist!
How do you envision William the Beekeeper to be doing in the next couple of years?
C: At least one more store in shanghai and possibly another in Beijing, and Hangzhou.
Do you have plans to expand outside of China?
C: William the Beekeeper is a concept for the Asian market so yes we plan on expanding in the Asian market.
For those who have not been to William the Beekeeper, do so now. You will be amazed and charmed by their lovely Californian style.
For more information, check out their website www.williamthebeekeeper.com
Chiew Ling Tan is Shanghaiist’s resident fashion columnist and purveyor of all things beautiful. The creative services director at advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty by day, she’s also the co-owner of a multi-label fashion boutique nana & bird and an accomplished jewellery designer. Reach her at [email protected] with your story ideas.