Isn’t it Ironic? Chuggers, Health Food Shops and Homelessness

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There are many ironies in our big bad city. The Evening Standard, for example, have just run a huge campaign on tackling food waste, in a newspaper that must rack up mountains of rubbish as people flick through the news and discard of it. Or the fact that many of the adverts within the paper are promoting the organisations which the Standard are criticising, a simultaneous condemning and supporting of the offender. Of course, I am completely behind what the Evening Standard are trying to do – a thoroughly worthy cause and a no-brainer in terms of using waste products to the benefit or hundreds of people.

Recently, a number of other ironies have caught my eye whilst walking the streets of London. An employee, for instance, of a well-known and pretty pricey health food shop was at the store’s side door, obviously on a lunch break, chain smoking and drinking Red Bull. Naturally, I am not expecting everyone who works at this place to be nibbling on quinoa and sipping on a green juice before whizzing off to their lunch-time yoga session, but I did chuckle to myself at the juxtaposition of the wording on the uniform and the contents of the employee’s hands.

Perhaps, though, the most startling and disturbing ironies I witnessed last week was involving an individual known commonly, I believe, as a ‘Chugger’ – a charity mugger. These are the sort of people who hang around in the middle of the pavement with bibs blazing charities’ names, trying to get the public to sign up to regular donations to THE MOST worthy cause (much more than the guy’s on the other side of the road, they assure you). For starters, if I am going to support a charity, I am going to do it off my own back, not because some chirpy twenty-something in a sandwich board has grabbed me en route to the tube station, and won’t let me hop on the Central Line until I promise to direct debit £2 a month to change lives. Anyway, this is not a rant about the various methods that charities go to in order to obtain more donators.

This Chugger on this particular occasion was from a homeless charity, as his primary coloured bib, thrown on over the top of an expensive looking coat, informed me. ‘Can I ask you a quick question?’ he would ask passers-by. ‘Just a few pounds a month can give a homeless person a bed for the night’, he informs the incoming people. The irony here, though, was in the fact that this Chugger was completely oblivious to the homeless man sitting next to him at the side of the pavement, sleeping bag, sleeping dog, and a cardboard box to sit on.

I looked at the man, and looked at the Chugger, who was trying to get people to donate to a cause that aims to help those in need SUCH AS THIS HOMELESS MAN RIGHT BESIDE YOU. This was outside a Sainsbury’s, for goodness sake – a better way to help this cold, hungry and homeless man would be to grab him a sandwich, talk to him for a bit, and perhaps alert one of the various organisations within London, such as Street Link run by St. Mungos, who will send out someone as soon as they can to help. Rather than signing up to a charity that spends massive amounts on adverts and campaigns, the public, and the Chugger, should have opened their eyes to the problem right in front of them, which was being completely ignored.

But it was getting late – the Chugger was probably more interested in when he could go home, probably via the over-priced health food shop.

 

 

 

 

Made in China: Rethinking the Label

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With an increasing number of Asian designers taking to the catwalk at London Fashion Week, is it time we looked at the ‘Made in China’ label from a new perspective?

Seeing the familiar ‘made in China’ hallmark on something you own is not unusual. In fact, it is so commonplace that it is almost surprising if something is not made in China. However, the label hardly screams ‘artisan’, ‘unique’ or ‘fashion forward’: for a long time it has instead been eponymous with, let’s be honest, a sense of mass-produced and low quality tat. But, in 2016, should we be re-thinking this ‘Made in China’ phenomenon? Is it time to forget all that we know and relearn what actually is being made in China?

Primarily because of the lower labour costs, many fashion brands take their production to China – this is not unknown. However, what is less talked about is the fact that high-end brands are also getting on board with this; Prada, Armani and Coach are among the designers moving their production to Asia, where high-end manufacture competencies are growing. So, even more things are being made in China: the question is, whether many things actually designed in china? Shanghai, like any other capital city in any other country, is home to a large number of up and coming, innovative and quite frankly stunning designers. Arguably, though, their location is a disadvantage; the reputation of China as a source of one-off creative pieces is overshadowed by their role in the mass-production of flimsy Kinder-Egg toys.

 

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A piece from the Favotell pop- up, showcasing emerging Shanghai designers

But times are changing, and people are starting to recognise that just as your leather bag might bear a tag saying ‘Made in Italy’, clothes which proudly state they have been ‘Made in China’ could equally be a sign of a good quality, well-made and exquisitely designed item. With London Fashion Week underway, the emergence of Shanghai based and Asian inspired designs cannot be ignored. Designers such as Minki Cheng, Huishan Zhang, Ryan Lo and Tommy Zhong are proudly exhibiting the talent from China through designs inspired by the East, championed in the West. One such company that is aiming to re-educate the public on the growing number of emerging designers in China is Favotell, who aim to create a cultural bridge between Shanghai and London, exposing England to the huge talent from across the continent. London seems a sensible place to introduce these up and coming Shanghai designers to a wider audience; the huge number of art students and creatives in one place is bound to create some innovate mixes and merges. Favotell is exploring one cultural merge that has so far not been much explored – the link between Shanghai and London, and in December of last year launched a pop-up at Gallery Different near Oxford Street to showcase a selection from some of Favotell’s Shanghai designers. If other’s take Favotell’s lead, this could be the start of a ‘Made in China’ overhaul.

 

At this point, I think we should look at the ‘Made in China’ tag with fresh eyes: far from just being a means for cheap production, this could signal bespoke creation and innovative design. Watch this space.

 

NB: This blog was unashamedly made in England