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Meet the people killing it in Beijing right now

Meet the young innovators making Beijing the hottest city in the world

Beijing, we love you, so we’ve made you a thing called Love Beijing. Over the next few months we’ll be celebrating various aspects of Beijing life through magazine and online features – and a series of cool events around town – with it all coming together in a bumpin’ Love Beijing Awards party later this year.

We’re kicking this thing off by celebrating the people in Beijing who shape its culture and make it the only city we choose to call home. This feature is dedicated to nine leading city denizens who are rising through the ranks and putting down their stamp on the capital. Note: there is a cubic truckpile of eligible people, we’re aware of that. The method behind our madness is simply this: we want to showcase people from a variety of industries and lifewalks coming through now. Changing the city for the better now. And while we are greatly indebted to city innovators like, say, Ai Wei Wei, his influence is one we’ve enjoyed for a while now – plus we’re pretty sure he’ll be just fine without us.

The following people have been plucked from the rest because of the direct impact their pursuits are having on the current evolution of Beijing culture. One guy is growing salad under moving trains, for example. We love Beijing hard. The following people have a lot to do with why.
Guzz, producer and co-founder of Do Hits!

Guzz, producer and co-founder of Do Hits!

Under a hoodie and cap and gazing silently at the bone-white backdrop of the studio, Guzz has an idea. 'Okay, I’m going to change into some traditional Chinese clothes.' Co-founder of Do Hits!, arguably Beijing’s most progressive music label and soundtrack for the city’s more exploratory midnight revellers, 32-year-old Guzz says success has only served to galvanize Do Hits!’ ethos. 'Promoting indigenous culture and ideas, and innovating – these are the two most conceptually important aspects of Do Hits!. We take our traditional culture and combine it with modern techniques to create something innovative – something we can then present in a way the world can understand.'

Last year was a big one for the Hainanese producer, with his atmospheric blend of minority folk samples over a foundation somewhere in the realm of future bass proving popular on the release of his debut LP, An Elephant in the Jungle. Guzz is, understandably, less keen on genre-locking his work. 'If I had to give it a definition, I would say my music is "ethnic minority club music". But I think genres aren’t very important these days. Each person’s individual style is more important.' The next few months will see the label diversify artistically – music to the ears of its growing international fan base. 'In a way we’re lucky to have been born in China, especially since, at the moment, everything happening in China is receiving worldwide attention, including us.'

Han Xia, co-director of groudbreaking trans documentary Out of Place

Han Xia, co-director of groudbreaking trans documentary Out of Place

After the success of Out of Place: Transgender Stories from Asia, Han Xia’s breakout documentary for Vice on transgender people throughout the Mainland and Hong Kong released last year, the Hebei-born director now finds herself well-positioned as an influential storyteller and voice of a complex generation. 'Being an actual adult as the only child in the family, balancing the old and new, East and West – I think people like me who are born in the late ’80s are facing a series of enormous transformations,' observes the 29-year-old, whose interest in the one-child generation and its current effect on Chinese familial dynamics has emerged as fertile thematic territory in her recent documentaries. 'We will either stick to the conventions or keep on breaking the boundaries. I choose the latter, I’d like to make something real.

Stu Oda, revolutionising urban farms

Stu Oda, revolutionising urban farms

'Whenever I walk into a new place, the first thing I want to see is its parking lot,' says Stu Oda, co-founder of Alesca Life.

Turns out, an obsession with unused urban spaces is what’s giving this modern Beijing farmer an edge. His company Alesca Life makes hydroponic, underground farming systems that can grow your lunch using no pesticides, soil or sunlight – right in the centre of Beijing. His systems are used by the team at Sureno and will soon be popping up in Shangri-La’s newest Beijing post, Hotel Jen. The control given to chefs and farmers working with hydroponic systems lends itself well to creating interesting new flavours or growing herbs and microgreens used in fine dining.

Oda admits that by selling his systems in high-end restaurants and hotels, he’s helping people that can already help themselves create and serve food sustainably. But with an international team, Alesca Life is helping to build smarter cities across the globe. Find them on WeChat (Alescalife) to keep up or book a visit to their Hujialou farm, where you can sample veggies and check out the tech in person.

Stephanie Lawson, fashionista, co-founder of designer platform Uncover Lab

Stephanie Lawson, fashionista, co-founder of designer platform Uncover Lab

As a co-founder of Uncover Lab, Stephanie Lawson provides a platform for independent local designers to promote their lines to retailers, media and consumers. Acting as a much-needed stage in Beijing’s increasingly saturated and fragmented fashion scene, Uncover is a series of talks and markets first launched last year at Beijing Design Week.

Included in the market was Lawson’s own activewear-denim line, Zodiac Active – a collection she created after realising too many activewear lines don’t look stylish outside the gym. Zodiac narrows the gap between your exercise, work and goingout clothes. Since its launch, Zodiac has received positive reviews from the Beijing community as well as parts of Europe; she’s already in talks to stock her line overseas, bringing our city’s casual coolness to the rest of the world.

Chen Tianzhuo, artist, founder of Asian Dope Boys

Chen Tianzhuo, artist, founder of Asian Dope Boys

China’s modern art poster child Chen Tianzhuo is busy preparing to tour his psych-opera performance piece Ishvara through Europe. An alumni of London’s Central Saint Martins school for dank artistry and global influencers, Chen, 31, has spent the last few years cattlebranding the Beijing art world with his trademark unearthly flair. Ishvara, which wowed in its debut at Beijing’s Long March Space mid-last year, is inspired by Sanskrit Hindu epic The Bhagavad Gita and powered by an eclectic soundtrack of trap, classical and traditional Indian music. A decadently sensual, hypercolour nightmare, its maiden international excursion represents a cool opportunity for the West to check in with its perception of Eastern art. Outside the gallery, last year saw the softly spoken artist found Asian Dope Boys, a party crew and veritable crèche of enfants terrible, from whom we can expect all manner of mayhem later in the year.

Chairman Wow, founder of Rock Against Jams

Chairman Wow, founder of Rock Against Jams

Chairman Wow, if you’ll indulge the historical fantasy, is this man-child on the left here, the 28-year-old Chicago native helming a pretty trenchant takedown of Dongcheng’s blues-noodling jam nights. 'I’m glad that I destroyed most of the jams in Gulou, or at least mitigated the Great Jam Epidemic of Winter 2016'. So are we, Mr Wow, for from their slapdash ashes has risen a unique passion project, Rock Against Jams. Part musical incubator, part 'spectacle', new bands are given 90 minutes in a rehearsal space to spit-polish a 15-minute set of originals, performed and judged before a heaving Temple Bar – whose bookings have been under Wow’s creative jurisdiction for a year now – later that evening. Bands that catch the Chairman’s eye are then introduced to Beijing on bills that match their flavour and stage presence, progressing to higher profile shows as they develop their shtick. It’s a lot to be proud of, but Temple’s great leader is typically deflective, man of the people that he is. 'Pride isn’t really a feeling I associate with Temple. Shame maybe. I like that I can create spaces or scenarios that people use to empower themselves and develop musical ideas.'

Erica Huang, organic marketeer and global spokeswoman

Erica Huang, organic marketeer and global spokeswoman

If you’ve ever sought out organic, local produce around town, chances are you’ve heard of Erica Huang’s farmers’ market Farm to Neighbors. What started as a small hutong market in Gulou now takes places in a bustling cafe-marketplace where robots serve up ice cream. It’s growing exponentially – an average day sees more than 1,000 customers and 50 vendors – and last year Huang was the only person from a Chinese business invited to France’s World Forum for a Responsible Economy, where she spoke about China’s food industry.

Now her main goal is to make Farm to Neighbors a zero waste market, but it’s still all about the delicious ingredients. It may be the greasy noodle joints and world-class bars that keep us going in Beijing, but when it’s time to eat well, we thank Huang for making it that much easier.

Yuan Fuca, curator and founder of Salt Projects

Yuan Fuca, curator and founder of Salt Projects

Yuan Fuca is the 28-year-old owner and curator of hutong micro-gallery Salt Projects, a flourishing, multidisciplinary presence in the Beijing art world that opened last year. This year is set to be bigger again for the Changchun native, whose appetite for art in the capital will see her publish the first installment of her debut art book, Commonplace. 'It intends to present smart writing and original works. Commonplace tries to give voices to artists themselves, rather than curators or critics.' Coming off a run in Taikang Space’s new generation curator showcase Towards the Emergence of Resistance, Yuan is also looking at extending Salt Projects’ function as a gallery to include a research-based art institute. 'Art institutions in China are not really doing their job. The narratives and research of art practice need to be placed in a larger context of intellectual and cultural history. That’s what we are trying to do at Salt.'

Warren Pang, cocktail guru and nightlife visionary

Warren Pang, cocktail guru and nightlife visionary

Part of a team of ultra-creative FnB’ers, Warren Pang is involved the projects currently shaping cocktail culture in Sanlitun. Veteran cocktail bar Janes and Hooch? That’s Warren. Bringing glamour back to the cinema with Cinker Pictures? Also a project Pang consulted on. One of his latest ventures is Canvas, the minimalist space in Xingfucun’s Yu, which is designed to host a fresh pop-up bar concept every 30 days.


The list goes on as Pang rattles off ideas for upcoming concepts – 'An indoor greenhouse theme with Botanist gin? Underground gambling den with Chivas whisky? Yes please!' While our city’s full of ‘amazing venues that embrace Beijing’s culture', the contributions of Pang’s team are pushing its perception forward as a place that’s full of unique experiences.

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