WORDS: Miss Cassidy
British by birth and Beijinger by choice is successful entrepreneur and creative director of Plastered 8 T-shirts Dominic Johnson-Hill whom I had the great pleasure of meeting on a recent visit to China.
Clothes maketh this man and Johnson-Hill the man who maketh the clothes is certainly an entrepreneur with an edge.
Having arrived in Beijing in 1993 as a backpacker with no way to make ends meet, Dominic Johnson-Hill, after 3 years of travelling the world and a string of unsuccessful, uninspiring jobs in Beijing, started his company in 2005 with little support other than that of his wife, Laura Hutchinson.
From its humble beginnings as a “little shop 13sqm big in a quiet hutong (alleyway)” Plastered 8 has since flourished into the internationally accredited Chinese street brand we’ve come to know today.
Plastered T-shirts are uniquely Beijing and speak to the heart of the every-day Beijinger. Johnson-Hill’s concept was to take pictures of overlooked, uniquely Chinese-every-day items and “plaster” them onto his t-shirts to “create a clothing brand China could call its own” and of course, one foreigners would find interesting too.
He says, “I was taking (pictures of) old food tickets that people used to use in the 1960’s and 70’s, iconic things that Chinese people took for granted but from a Westerner’s perspective it was really interesting.”
Also interesting is the family-man behind the brand and as fascinating as his success-story is, to me, the most appealing thing about the Plastered 8 family is the candour and openness of their founder and proud father-of-four, Dominic.
In addressing us Johnson-Hill gave a presentation unlike any I have ever seen before. Accompanied by a PowerPoint of colourful, upbeat and almost childlike slides, Dominic Johnson-Hill spoke openly about his childhood as a boy with ADHD as well as his zeal to know more about the world and his own unique wanderlust which first brought him to Beijing (after travelling to India, South America and even South Africa).
In November 2008 he won the British Entrepreneur of the Year in China award presented by Prince Andrew and is proud of the fact that the newspaper clipping is now stuck in the toilet of his mother’s house – also the place a letter of complaint from a teacher was displayed in his childhood.
As you can imagine nothing about the man who maketh the clothes, nor the clothes themselves, is/are ever conventional.
Showcasing “beds of roses juxtaposed against construction cranes (and) Chairman Mao’s face stencilled on a t-shirt with a cell phone number spray-painted below with the message: “To Serve the People” it is clear that Plastered 8 are masters when it comes to exposing China’s “frenetic present, revolutionary past and burgeoning future”.
As a brand their shirts are each one of a kind and the company continues to do the unthinkable; showcasing in equal measure both the weird and wonderful about China.
In 2006 Plastered 8 opened their flagship store in Beijing and in that same year hosted China’s first ever hutong-runway-show in which models strutted their stuff on a cobblestone alleyway against the backdrop of traditional Chinese-courtyard-homes and “lanterns intermixed with disco balls” served as lighting.
Dominic was subsequently arrested for this show as it is illegal in China to host a gathering of more than three people without government permission (LOL) – but whatever, because the show truly did catapult the brand to unprecedented heights of success as they gained the attention of Vogue, Elle, City Pictorial and of course plenty television features.
In terms of marketing I would run out of paper writing about how innovative Plastered 8 is but I’ll try and keep this as short and sweet as possible : When it comes to marketing Plastered 8 are simple – They ask local dancers in their community to wear their shirts whilst performing, they allow up and coming Chinese bands to play live gigs in their shop windows, they send pizza to the media inviting them to their fashion shows…
Basically, Plastered 8 never overlook an opportunity and with a staff of not more than 10 people, a dedication to a high-quality, innovative brand and product and a leader as outrageously fearless as he is creative, they are a winning team like no other.
The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square are the mainstream “must see, must visits” when in Beijing, but for an out-of-this-world shopping experience and for a truly meaningful and authentic gift from Beijing/China, a visit to a Plastered 8 store is truly everything you need and MORE, trust me.
61 S Luogu Alley, Dongcheng, Beijing, China, 100009
T: +86 136 8339 4452