Nelson Ng reports from a new magazine shop in Shanghai.
Living in Shanghai for the past 7 years, I had to either buy magazines online or make the occasional ‘magazine run’ to Hong Kong or Singapore. But not anymore. Since late last year, a new bookstore, called The Mix Place, opened in Shanghai, featuring an international collection of books, visual editions of art and design, and most of all, a magazine selection — an entire floor dedicated to just magazines.
‘Finally, a real bookstore in Shanghai.’ That’s what Silvia Ponzoni, Editor-in-chief of Genda, said when we first met at The Mix Place.
The entire bookstore has three floors. Upon entering the front door on the first floor (above), you will be greeted by a café and a film-themed space (below). Other than books, you will also see designed objects or even collector’s toys on display and the occasional inspiring quote from famous people (such as David Bowie) written in chalk on the wall.
On the second floor, you will find visual editions of art, architecture, photography, illustration, fashion and interior design (below). This floor also includes a pop-up exhibition space, which exhibits interesting projects curated by their creative team.
On the way to the third floor, you will see shelves of featured magazines and publications (below). They have absolutely not wasted a single inch of space to ensure the complete bookstore experience, no matter where you are inside it. They have even placed chairs and sofas beside some shelves so that readers can get comfortable with any book they fancy.
The third floor is where the real action begins for us magazine lovers. The climb up serves as a good warm up but once you reach the third floor, you’re presented with a 12 metre-long wall of magazines. Most people stand there for a second to admire the vast magazine landscape and just take it all in.
We caught up with Rocky Liang, creative director of The Mix Place, and also a veteran in the Chinese magazine industry, to find out more about setting up such a bookstore in Shanghai.
What was the motivation behind setting up The Mix Place?
China had always lacked an international magazine store, and being a magazine person, I’ve always felt that that was regretable. This needed someone who had a vision and love for magazines, and at the same time with the financial power to undertake this challenge. Mao Jihong, the founder of Fang Suo (a bookstore in Guangzhou), approached me to help him build and run a magazine museum. He was one of China’s first batch of contemporary fashion designers. He said, ‘Designers from our generation who wanted to understand the world did so by looking at international fashion magazines.’ For many creatives in China, magazines are a form of obsession. Through the magazine, creatives are able to connect with one another.
How do you think The Mix Place is different from other bookstores or magazine stores in China?
Very few bookstores in China have a section on international magazines. A magazine store like London’s magCulture shop, Magma, Berlin’s do you read me?!, or Australia’s Mag Nation were non-existent in China before. Now, with the appearance of The Mix Place, we have filled this blank space, with our collection focused mainly on international magazines (Europe, USA, Australia, Japan), and also Chinese magazines.
How are magazines laid out in the shop, especially on the third floor in the ‘Magazine Museum’?
The categories are divided by shelf cabinets, with each cabinet holding a single category — New Arrivals, Fashion magazines (men’s & women’s), Travel, Food, Art and Culture, Japanese magazines (men’s & women’s), Architecture and Design, Independent magazines. Every cabinet has 6 shelves, which holds up to 25-40 different magazines. Well-known magazines such as Fantastic Man, The Gentlewoman, Monocle and Garage are usually placed at more visible locations.
Tell us a little bit about the 12-metre magazine wall. Why did you build it and why is it 12 metres long?
12 metres is a rough number, it is actually longer in reality. This number has a symbolic meaning. It is 12 metres, and also 12 months. To build this completely continuous magazine wall, we had to seal three windows. There was a beautiful view of sycamore trees outside the window.
Who are the customers who come into The Mix Place?
Fashionistas who love books, lovers of movie literature, creatives with complicated identities, and traditional cultural workers (authors, intellectuals, designers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, fashion designers, photographers), and also people with multiple mixed identities residing in this contemporary Chinese city. We hope this bookstore can give them inspiration for creativity.
What are some of the more popular magazines that sell well at The Mix Place so far?
System, Kinfolk, Cereal, Monocle, Holiday, 032c, and your magazine Lost. We also carry Plethora, the limited edition magazine from Denmark, priced at RMB1200 (about £130), but still highly sought-after.
What is your personal favourite magazine at The Mix Place? Why?
I personally like The Gourmand, System, Du Magazine, Polka, Little White Lies, The White Review, and the magazines Switch and Pen from Japan. These magazines move people with the power of culture, and at the same time they are also very fashionable.
What are you thoughts on the magazine scene in China at the moment?
A lot of people working in China’s magazine industry are moving to new(digital) media, to work on websites or mobile apps for online retail. Many veterans are leaving the magazine platform. Although this might be a growing problem for magazine businesses, perhaps it is also a chance for the new generation. I am glad to see to many young people using their own methods to create magazines that belong to the new generation. Just like Kinfolk and Cereal.
What do you hope to achieve or change by setting up The Mix Place in Shanghai?
What we are proposing is the concept of an experimental space that embodies a mixed lifestyle in the city. For a long time, magazine lovers in China never had a chance to view the entire spectrum of magazines at a glance, not like people in Tokyo, Paris or London, who had stores that could allow them to understand quickly the current status of the magazine world. So most of the time, we were working behind closed doors, each doing our own thing, or looking at the advertisements next door to see what sold well, without a global perspective. This is also the tragedy of magazine people from my generation. I hope the next generation of magazine or creative people will have a better vision than us.
The Mix Place
880 Hengshan Road, Shanghai
Nelson Ng is editor of Lost magazine.