OCTOBER 15, 2010,
Pressing My Nose to the Glass in China
By CATHY HORYN
For the past week I’ve been in Beijing, my first trip to China. Except for the city’s famous traffic jams, the city is nothing like I had expected. And what did I expect of this remarkable, sprawling, fast-changing city? Today — Friday in Beijing — I had lunch with Angelica Cheung, the editor in chief of Vogue China, at the China Grill on the 66th floor of the Park Hyatt, and since I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early, I took a moment to press my nose to the windows. The sprawl of new buildings — skyscrapers, hotels, apartment blocks — is almost unfathomable and seemingly endless.
In front of me was the CCTV building, by Rem Koolhaas, with its twin cantilevered towers. A second building on the site caught fire during the New Year’s celebration and burned, leaving a charred hulk, and the area around the complex is still under construction. Still, the dazzling architecture reminds you that you’re looking at a new world. My eyes kept coming back to the Koolhaas building. Over the past 10 years I’ve talked to American and European executives in the fashion and beauty businesses about China, and I certainly didn’t appreciate how dramatically things have changed in just the past few years. Of course, you see virtually every big-name brand represented here — from Burberry to Bugatti — and many of the fashion and jewelry companies now have several locations in Beijing alone. And despite prices that are roughly 40 percent higher than they would be for the same handbag or dress in Paris or New York, Chinese consumers are shopping.
The other morning I went to a couple of malls, including the upscale Shin Kong Place, which has...