Putting Pandatown on the map

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A group of young Chinese designers are mixing and matching Barbie's dresses, shoes and handbags with one of China's most popular icons, the panda.

"Unlike the unwrinkled, sexy, 50-year-old Barbie, our pandas are chubby and cute," says Li Wei, one of the six founders of Pandatown, a local label created two years ago.

The 30.5 cm tall panda has many clothes to choose from and can dress up, for example, as a pumpkin at a Halloween party, a beauty in a bikini, a Venice carnival masquerade clown and Harry Porter. There are also traditional qipao, Chinese green army uniforms and kungfu suits. There are two pandas, a boy with a cross "x" on his eyeball, and a girl with long eyelashes.

"The idea derived from a true story involving our two designers," Li says. "Both of them are fashion designers. One day when they were studying in the library, they drew two pandas symbolizing themselves. That was the beginning of Pandatown."

Because of their sense of fashion and love for the panda, they linked the Chinese icon with the game of dressing and changing clothes. There is a little secret behind the panda, a small pocket where you can put your greetings or love cards.

"Nowadays, young people pursue self-expression and individuality in different ways. The panda can be the message carrier," Li says.

Soon, their idea was shared by friends and gave birth to a company. Now, there are two stores open in Beijing. Prices range from 200 to 300 yuan for each doll and clothes are priced at 100 yuan or so.

"The target customers are between 25 and 35 years old. We also make some special pandas for students," says Li. "Our plan is to build up the panda image in the same way as Transformers, which is the toy comes first and then the animation and films," adds Li. "Now, we are making the first comic book which will be published soon."

Glory Mall. Line 5, Chongwenmen Subway Station. Chongwen district. 6711-1666


Maison Mode. Gemdale Plaza, 91 Jianguo Lu, Chaoyang district. 8571-2662


Story by Chen Nan, photo by Guo Yingguang

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