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Gaining the love of children
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Englishman Robert Epstone, an international fashion expert, is also passionate about promoting his son's rock band and volunteering as an English teacher for the children of migrants.

A practicing Buddhist, he quotes Scottish novelist and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson about a successful life, and says he tries every day to achieve it: "A man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much ... who has looked for the best in others and gave the best he had."

"I am constantly amazed by the unparalleled positive energy of this city. And am happy to have the good fortune to live here at this very special time in Shanghai's history," he says.

Epstone, who moved to the city in 2000, says he was first drawn by curiosity and then challenge: now he finds the city "irresistible."

Having established his niche, Epstone splits his time between fashion, music - promoting his son's band - and charity, teaching English to migrants' children in Pudong.

Epstone began his career in his hometown of Leeds, England, where he studied textile management and design, then worked in his family's men's clothing manufacturing company.

Over the years, Epstone designed his own "Robert Epstone" menswear fashion brand featured in 16 Marui stores in Tokyo. He arranged licensing for UK designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Katherine Hamnett and others in Japan and sourced and produced clothing for Next and other well-known UK brands in former Yugoslavia.

Today he sources and manufactures clothing mainly for the UK and handles fashion and brand licensing in China. "What appeals to me about the fashion industry is the creativity and the challenge. There is never a dull moment. My job in Shanghai involves a lot of patience, determination and ridiculously long hours traveling around China."

Describing a typical day's work, he says: "I am up at 6am, then chant for an hour (I am a practicing Buddhist). Then office, meetings, brainstorming with colleagues, research, taking care of foreign clients and visiting our factories.

"I am amazed by the speed of the local fashion industry's expansion and the extraordinarily creative talent coming through fast."

Epstone tells aspiring designers to "research your market and discover where the niche opportunities are for your creativity. Be as individual as you can and stay as far away as possible from copying."

However, fashion isn't everything.

Epstone also spends his time as chairman of the Shanghai Leeds Alumni, doing volunteer teaching and fundraising for the Migrant Primary School in Pudong and promoting "Mishkin," his son's UK emo-metal rock band in Asia.

"With promoting my son's band, the excitement and passion is much more than I get in fashion as it is my son who I am promoting along with the rest of the band."

He also has lived a life of adventures most of us only read about.

In 1991 he was part of a charity mission ("Pachamama Society for Mother Earth") traveling in Peru with a BBC crew filming a documentary to expose the drug barons and deforestation. They were attacked by guerrillas who were powerful at the time; some of the party were killed and many were badly injured.

"I was luckier than some although it took me a full year to recover from my injuries and get my memory back," Epstone says.

Eight years later during the Kosovo conflict, when delivering a truckload of aid to refugees in Albania, he narrowly escaped an incursion of Serbs who crossed the border.

Explaining how he has been affected by these close calls, he says, "It has strengthened my belief in Buddhism (law of cause and effect). Now, it's a bit like crossing the streets in Shanghai, learning to steer clear of oncoming traffic on the roads and pavement."

His charity work continues in Pudong where Epstone teaches English to children of migrant workers.

"I love knowing we are helping to give the children a better opportunity in life by enabling them to speak English. And I love seeing their smiling faces when we sing together 'Good Morning Mr Sun, the day has just begun'."

As Epstone looks ahead, he says, "I will continue to build our business, improve our lifestyle, promote my son's band, always try to help others less fortunate and enjoy life to the full."

Quite a bit like the words of Stevenson who also said a man could be termed a success in life if he "gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children."

Robert Epstone

Nationality: British

Age: If I told you, I'd have to kill you!

Profession: Entrepreneur


Three words to describe yourself?

Determined, passionate and charming.

Favorite place in Shanghai: Our home as it is so tranquil and provides an oasis for us in this frenetic city. Also Cotton's bar and restaurant, so close and so friendly especially when Cotton is there.

Strangest sight: It used to be people wearing pajamas in the street. Now just the behavior of so many drivers, also people spitting in the street, Ugh! And some of the strange so-called "delicacies" at banquets.

Worst experience: Ongoing as a pedestrian and a passenger in a taxi.

Ideal weekend: Teaching my class at the migrant primary school in Pudong then coming home to relax, or a weekend at the lodge in Moganshan.

What can be done to improve Shanghai: Stricter controls of pollution levels. Higher standard of teaching of English in local schools. More control of safety on the roads and a crack down on so many of the undisciplined drivers.

Advice to newcomers: All is not as it seems.

(Shanghai Daily October 24, 2007)

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