Fashion 911

By Xu Junqian(Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2014-11-28 10:59:42

Jewelry from UK brand Momocreatura, whose latest collection, Nearly Dead, features sweet animal images like night owls and rabbits and is sold at XINLELU.COM. Photo provided to Shanghai Star

Got a late night wardrobe emergency? Who you gonna call? Why, Wu Yilei of course, who is opening the doors of her boutique till wee hours to cater for Shanghai's busy fashionistas. Xu Junqian reports.

Who shops for a floral-print strapless chiffon dress in the dead of night? Say, 2 am?

Perhaps no one is better equipped to answer that question than Shanghai native Wu Yilei.

Less than one month after the 30-year-old was hit with the inspiration for a "late night wardrobe" at her boutique XINLELU.COM, the postgraduate of London Fashion College has become the emergency fashionista physician of Shanghai. When the city's most well dressed (and well-off) women find themselves without a dress for an unexpected invitation for the next day, they pick up the phone and call Wu.

"The idea just hit me while I was running," says Wu, sitting in her cozy whitewashed studio in Jing'an Villa, that she describes as "the most creative community in Shanghai". Growing up, Wu dreamed of living in such a community, and she is thrilled to now call the space home. Within 15 minutes' walk, on a quiet phoenix-tree-lined street, is her store, which, before the introduction of the late night wardrobe, opened from 12 pm to 8 pm, four hours less than most department stores in the city.

"There is the Chinese saying that the dress every woman wants to wear the next day is always anywhere other than in her own wardrobe. Maybe because I am running a fashion boutique, I am often ‘harassed’ in the middle of night by my close friends and regular customers, asking if I have this or that for her look tomorrow," Wu says.

Wu's late night wardrobe is available for a shopping spree or simply, a look, "as late as the customer wants", but Wu says she has not "taken care of any emergency later than 3 am". Customers need to make an appointment two to three hours beforehand, via the WeChat account of the store or by phoning. The more specific the request, say a formal black dress for a meeting or a floral-print dress for a sudden beach trip to Thailand, the more likely the emergency can be solved, as Wu and her shop assistants, all of whom are from a fashion design backgrounds, can go through their stock and get everything prepared.

"I may not be the first person to have the idea (of a late night wardrobe), but the small size of our team and store makes everything more flexible and possible," she said.

"In a busy city like Shanghai, where people get off work at 8 pm and finish their dinner at 9 or 10 pm (most of the department stores in Shanghai close at 10 pm), the demand for a place to shop late at night is urgent, if not more so than buying a house," she jokes.

Wu Yilei introduces "late night wardrobe" for fashionistas to shop whenever they want. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/Shanghai Star]

XINLELU.COM, which Wu co-founded together with a British-born-Chinese friend, is named after the street where the two local independent designers they collaborated first started working. Today, the store works with about 50 local and international fashion designers, and stocks daily wear, evening dress, accessories and bags.

After finishing her studies in London, the fashion marketing major worked in both international fast fashion retail and luxury brands. She launched a women's wear brand, 1/2 Eternity, focusing exclusively on white shirts, "something that should be as important as a little black dress but greatly overlooked", and in 2011, joined XINLELU.COM, an e-commerce site and a brick-and-mortar store with a vision to "discover new designers and redefine Shanghai styles".

To be more specific, the "Shanghai styles" Wu and her partner try to redefine is the style of the hundreds of thousands of office workers in the city, who are "not fuerdai, the second generation of the rich, or the taitai, the wives of the rich, or xiaosan, the mistresses".

"They make their own money and spend their own. They don't care what celebrities wear or which piece features the latest fashion element. And they know what looks good on them for certain occasions," Wu says, describing her clientele.

Therefore, most of the offerings at her store are neither edgy nor sexy, but the kind to "make your most look appear normal, elegant and stunning".

Wu Yilei introduces "late night wardrobe" for fashionistas to shop whenever they want. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/Shanghai Star]

Jewelry from Momocreatura from the UK.

 

Jewelry from Momocreatura from the UK.

 

Rings from French brand Delytra.

 

Dresses from Singaporean brand Aijek.

 

Dresses from Singaporean brand Aijek.

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