The first wave of American coffee culture, best way to describe it is probably Folgers on every table. And the second wave starting in the 1960s at Peet’s and moving through Starbucks baristas. Now, the third wave of coffee connoisseurship, where the focus is on achieving the highest form of culinary appreciation of coffee. The beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure.
It has been almost a year since I moved out of LA, being back this time around I keep whining about how boring it is in LA and Shanghai is so much cooler with new restaurants and shops. But I guess things are just different in the US, changes and developments happen slower in the land of freedom but you can’t underestimate their design and innovation. Like this “cool” cafe in Silver Lake that my friend, who is taking care of my car, “Bubble” introduced me to.
Just taking a look at their tools and facilitates, you know they take their coffee seriously. Owner is a Korean couple, Craig Min has been in the family business selling beans wholesale since 1997 in Alhambra (my hood).
LAMILL Coffee Boutique, as a perfect example of the third wave coffee is not a place for a cup of coffee to-go. What LAMILL offers is the coffee experience, with several brew methods to choose from; Clover machine, Siphon Brew (picture below), etc.
Aside from the coffee, they are just as particular about their food. Everything on our table looked so well-prepared. I had the doughnut holes with their ultra-fresh vanilla cream but I thought the doughnuts were too salty. The velvet cupcakes, which was only a weekend thing was deli-sh not the super moist ones but still soft and flavorful.
According to wikipedia, “In a “soft opening,” the establishment begins to operate without a lot of attention. This allows the organization to become more organized the first few weeks or months before the more publicized Grand Opening, and gives the management and staff a chance to become familiar with the daily operations of their inventory, accounting, and customer service requirements.” Personally, I think it’s retarded. Who wants to waste their time and pay full price to be a guinea pig. Especially in luxury. Listen to my man Mr. Em “you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow”. First impression is your best shot to succeed, so do it right the first time.
What is Asia’s version of Italian luxury mall look like? Take a look at Taipei’s new luxury mall “Bellavita”, near Taipei 101 Shopping Mall, Shin Kong MItsukoshi Xinji Department Stores and the New York New York Shopping Center. The brand new shopping mall, which was nicknamed rich tai-tai (wives) mall, held a soft opening September 21 and received so much attention that security backup was called to maintain order among all the reporters and cameramen. And watching the news report, customers that drove all the way north to Taipei was disappointed to find that only 1 or 2 stores out of the 8 luxury brands including Bvlgari, Christofle, Hermes, Hermes 3-in-1 (La Table Hermes, Puiforcat, Saint Louis), John Lobb, Roger Vivier, Tod’s, Van Cleef & Arpels were opened.
I also went to check out BellaVita hoping most of the stores should be opened by now (a month later). But another disappointed customer…okay its not like I was going to drop a $10K on a Birkin but it was the chance to make an impression so I can spread the word about this “beautiful” vita. However, Hermes is a company that knows what they want and has a plan to get there. They had the entire grand floor occupied for this temporary “Hermes Silk Scarf Exhibition”.
Hermes is Hermes. Their obsession to control is apparent in their exhibition. Its no wonder they are the King of luxury, even Bernard Arnault of LVMH is rumored to place a bid for Hermes.
Okay, I know this is a blog about fashion and retail, but people in fashion gotta eat right? Or at least admire others who can. But I think in any business you can always learn from others despite the industry and to analyze what makes them successful. Come on… look at that line!
This is it…毫大大鸡排 (XXL Chicken Steak). Lesson 1: The name says it all. When you’re in line, someone will come around and pass you a plastic bag. So when you’re up, all you gotta do is open your bag and they stuff all that chick inside. It makes for a very efficient assembly line chick purchase. Lesson 2: Efficiency. Not only does the bag increase efficiency, studies have shown that 75% of people who took a bag at a store will buy something. Now you know why the sales stand at the door to offer you a bag at Victoria Secret. Okay, back to the chick. I’m sure its a mental thing as well, but people standing is that huge line would tend to keep waiting if they are already holding a bag ready for chick dumping. Lesson 3: Get your customers involve in the process.
I know it is only a tiny stand among many other food stands. But these people take their chicken very seriously. As you can tell by this guy in the picture, aiming that white pepper for an even spread. Lesson 4: Passion + Dedication.
When they say XXL, they really mean it. Look at the size of that thing. It’s like a half chicken for only 50 yuan (under 2$). That’s definitely bang for your bucks. Lesson 5: If you offer value and great products people will come.
I guess it’s not so unusual to find a store in Shanghai without a name. But we never really know why these clothing shops exist without a name.
I stumble upon this shop on Xinle Lu near Shangxi nan Lu, across from Dashing Diva nail salon. I was with another friend, who was recognized by the shop owner since they were all IFA design students. It turns out the two young girls running this no-name shop are current IFA undergrad design students. According to them, they were bored and thought, why not open a clothing shop. The store had no name, and the only logo on the front window was left from the previous owner. When we ask what they plan on doing with the shop, they had no clue.
I’m truly amazed at how a store can be open without a name, a concept, a logo, or even a slight idea to what the point was. Okay…there was a point… “cuz we were bored”. Sometimes when I come across stories about how people started their business it seems overly simple. Of course, something like 95% of new businesses fail, but 100% of ideas fail if it never left the concept stage and make it to the start-up stage. And I think to myself…why am I still stuck at figuring out the 4Ps. Follow Nike…and “just do it”.
The store’s lack of concept, merchandising, visual focus, and more than I can even count… got me to think about retail consulting. And I think of how far Taiwan has come with their mom-and-pop shops and the well design logos, store concepts, and customer service; Shanghai has so much room to grow in this area. Any bored talents out there want to partner?
Show and Tell, located inside Grand Gateway, Xuijiahui open last Spring with a huge launch party in which they were giving out goodie-bags. A friend of mine knows the owner, who used to be the president of Gap Inc. Soucing for Asia Pacific Meanne Ho. And I went with my friend to return a 380 rmb pair of jeans she brought during the opening under peer pressure, but realized it didn’t fit and and the quality wasn’t that great. We spent 45 mins persuading the manager to let us return, if not, at least offer store credit. Our argument was the owner is American, the concept is American, shouldn’t the return policy be American? Okay…I know the logic is a little weak, but come on, at least have a sign saying “No returns”.
My overall impression of the store is like a more fashionable version of Gap, but I have to say the quality of their clothes is way worst than Gap. Everytime I see something I like, once I touch the fabric, I’m completely turned off especially knowing the price tag. But I really like the store interior, it reminds me of being back home shopping at Gap and the American lifstyle. They create this atmosphere with displays of “American Fashion” books, picture of Audrey Hepburn, vintage American record. The store is nice but I’m not exactly sure if they are making money. I did get a SMS at 2 in the morning last week notifying me they have a huge discount sale from 50-80% off. I guess opening a clothing store in Shanghai isn’t as easy as it sounds…even for an expert.
Most asian girls are probably still looking for that perfect mascara that won’t smear and turn you into 欣欣 the Olympic panda. But ever since my girlfriend convinced me she’s found the perfect mascara a year ago, I haven’t been able to try any other brand. Ladies and gentlemen…I bring you THE BEST MASCARA IN THE WORLD…SERGE LUTENS.
The secret is in theis little comb and the paste of the mascara, which only comes in black and if you look closely it has a slight bronze/purple tent. I don’t know how it works but I have to say it’s not just any waterproof, it’s everywhere-anywhere-proof. I swear I was wearing Serge Lutens mascara while snorkeling in Thailand and it lasted all day and my coconut on the beach after sunset pictures had no smear or signs of fading. It is truly magical.
Serge Lutens mascara is only available in two Barney’s locations in the states. The French brand created by Serge Lutens, known for his art and photography under Shiseido was originally only about perfume. The picture to the above is a young portrait of Serge Lutens, which I noticed looks a lot like our MarCom teacher, who used to work at Shiseido.
When I was in Paris last month I had the chance to visit the “Les Salons du Palais Royal”, (a house of perfume) in the beautiful “Jardins du Palais Royal”. The interior of the store had a slight Anna Sui feel due to the deep purple walls and this seductive ambulance with extremely dim lights, probably to emphasize the “smell” of your 5 sensory.
Okay, here’s the catch this “best mascara in the world” don’t come cheap. For $60 a pop, it is not your average makeup fix. I have to say, I normally don’t spend a lot on makeup, cosmetics, and I’m not your everyday-luxury consumer. The first few times, it hurt knowing I just spent a tank of gas (when gas prices were ridiculous) on mascara, but after a few compliments I started to appreciate the value and I’ve been one satisfied customer.
I did manage to stock up in Paris since it was only 36 Euro and they stuff all these free samples for you to take home and try. The secretive store and this very refine French saleslady (who knew nothing about their makeup line but had the names of each scent memorized by heart) helped me sample all their scent but I just couldn’t stand the smell. Their lightest scent was still too pungent for my nose. I guess it just wasn’t the time to leave my green tea scent from Elizabeth Arden, which I had since highschool prom. I guess it was my luck because if I did find a scent I love I would be $300 poorer, as their products don’t come cheap. At all.