What to expect from Shanghai in 2016

Here's what will be making waves in fashion, food, music, health and more


SandySandy Chu, co-founder of the Creative Collective and blogger at notesfromchina.net

‘There are three designers on my radar that very much embody what Chinese design is about today. Angel Chen, who is currently stocked by Lane Crawford, for her bright, punchy colour usage; CJ Yao, who is very much a part of China’s new wave of independent designers, for her cool, directional, geometric designs; and REBYXINZHAO for her handbags and footwear. All three designers have studied abroad and have been influenced by the West, which adds a fresh perspective to the way they approach design, but they have all maintained a culturally relevant voice that really resonates at home.

‘Trend-wise we can expect to see a backlash against vapid consumer values that celebrate generic beauty such as photo editing apps and social status motivated fashion – think China’s waning interest in luxury. Both have come under criticism on Chinese social media channels due to the country’s slowing economy which is making consumers realise their over emphasis on superficial ideals such as gao fu shuai, tall, rich and handsome men, and bai fu mei, white (pale), rich and beautiful women, are unrealistic and likely to make them a diaosi (loser) regardless of who they are or how they dress.

‘In terms of fashion this will lead people to refocus on dressing for their individual personality in a way that flatters their body type. For women I would also expect to see a small but growing movement for healthy, natural beauty to emerge since there are so many well-educated, high income earners in urban centres such as Shanghai.

'Even as these changes take place though, for men there will also be more pressure to dress well and look young.This is due to popular slanguage like xiaoxianrou – little fresh meat which has made it socially acceptable for women to date younger men. Since China has such an unbalanced gender ratio and the media is increasingly focusing on post-’90s generation male celebrity icons in TV shows and even advertising, this is likely to impact how guys dress and groom.

‘At the retail level I’ve noticed a slow down in trend-led items. Normcore is definitely influencing the way Chinese consumers shop. After their love affair with conspicuous consumption they are now more interested in being sophisticated in a subdued way. Fashion-wise this means investing in wardrobe pieces, a growing interest in items that can’t be seen like intimates and choosing to update their wardrobes in a value conscious way by buying new accessories. This also represents a return to traditional Chinese values that strongly favour modesty and have been lost over recent years.'


Yanie Durocher, founder of The Marginalist, themarginalist.com

'Wenqi Wu is a Chinese-born designer based in NYC, whose collections really give off an effortless, cool vibe; the quality and fit is also amazing for all types of figures from petite to tall. The prints are both rich but not overdone, while much of the collections can be worn day through night. CeliaB’s metallic/100 percent fun inspired new collection definitely seems promising, particularly the coats. The brand always puts a smile on your face.

'Tweed, masculine suits that create a ‘power look’ (my personal favourite), thick lace, tanned suede, fringes, over-the-knee boots, overly flared jeans and ’70s-style denim and ’60s-style tie dye. Also on the up will be knitted 1920s dresses, peasant and boho styles, denim and off-the-shoulder tops, and the street-style classics of sneakers paired with formal suits and dresses.

'If you’re going to go out, go out turning heads – heavy big bling and sparkles. Gold, silver and black metals, sky-high platform heels, velvet jackets, coloured fur. Take on the winter with heavy oversized wool knits, cool moonboots and metallic and furry winter accessories to complete a total après ski look.'



Kimberly Ashton, founder of Sprout Lifestyle

Detoxing will still be a health trend and something people are chasing. Juices and smoothies are going to grow in availability and choice – but please remember to read labels and avoid preservatives and sugar.

‘In China, the area of child nutrition and supplements will grow, and I think flaxseed could see a revival now that chia seed has been the hot topic for the past couple of years. Honey will also be increasingly popular – there are so many amazing local varieties coming up now, with great flavour, great stories, and sustainable sources.

‘Finally, coconut oil looks set to be big next year: coconut water brands have flooded the market this year and consumers are now learning about the many uses of coconut oil for cooking, desserts, skin and hair care.’

Mauricio Reyes, founder and Head Trainer at Style Fitness

‘Fitness is not seen any more as a compulsory class but as a need, so people also evaluate the way we train. Nowadays it has taken a different angle – we don’t train anymore just to be healthy or to look good or feel good. Nowadays we train with a purpose, because we have reached our own limits and we want to go beyond them, train smart and with a goal. That’s why the trend in fitness for 2016 and the coming years is performance training. We do not only want to look good but to be great in what we do.

‘The other trend I expect to emerge this year is the couple workout. People try to squeeze time out of their busy schedule in order to train, but in the meanwhile, they don’t want to neglect spending time with their other halves. Therefore, couple workouts are becoming a popular activity. Training together can help to reinforce and build a stronger relationship as well as awareness of healthy lifestyles, which is much better than bonding by spending a lazy day on the sofa eating junk food and watching movies together.’

Tella Chen, nutritionist at The Living Room by Octave

‘We foresee an increasing focus on the benefits of probiotics in food. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help us digest food and efficiently absorb nutrients. You find probiotics in healthy foods such as yoghurt, kefir and kimchi, and if you are healthy you should aim for one or two servings of probiotic rich foods every day.

‘Another growing trend rolling out this year is a realisation of the benefits of prebiotics. Prebiotics are what keep probiotics alive. Where do you find prebiotics? In healthy foods such as legumes, bananas, garlic, honey, leeks, sun choke (Jerusalem artichoke) and yams. You should strive for two or three servings of prebiotic rich foods each day.’

Food and drink


Food-1---Crystyl-MoCrystyl Mo, former Time Out food editor and recently appointed Academy Chair of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List.

‘We’re going to continue to see more pop-ups and collaborations between savvy top Shanghai chefs such as Kelley Lee, Willy Moreno, Brad Turley and Scott Melvin. Also companies that are currently just pop-ups will develop into real bricks-and-mortar or online businesses, as we’ve seen with Bad Boy Bangers, Amelia’s, Strictly Cookies, and Baoism.

‘We’ll continue to see strong growth in artisan foods from the likes of Shanghai Bakery, Pulford’s Gourmet Pickles, BYFO hot sauce, and from expatriates bringing their specialty items to the market here.

Wishbone‘Also, more and more expatriate restaurants will be serving increasingly niche home country specialties similar to the popular venues of Co Cheese grilled cheese, CinnaSwirl cinnabuns, Ruijin Cajun and Wishbone. With some of these, we’re also seeing the global trend of elevated fast food: burgers but made with better ingredients from Charlie’s; hot dogs with gourmet flavours from Dog House; and grilled cheese gone upscale fusion from Flask and Co Cheese.

Specialty cafes, such as Lanna, Griffin, AUNN, and Original Coffee will go on proliferating as the obsession with all things coffee shows no signs of waning – not just in expat circles but with plenty of local caffeine junkies as well.

Green eating, health-forward and farm-to-fork concepts like Green & Safe, WUJIE, G+, Hunter Gatherer, Lizzy’s, Sproutworks, Pure & Whole and Sprout Lifestyle will see extremely strong growth, expanding with higher sales, higher profiles and more branches. For example, the company behind Green & Safe has an ambitious development plan for three new stores for Green & Safe next year and one new Qimin hotpot.’


Jamie Barys, Chief Eating Officer of UnTour Shanghai & Glutton-in-Chief of Glutton Guides

‘In 2016, more famous chefs will come looking for a restaurant to put their name on. Rumours of the arrival of Mario Batali’s Eataly, that multistory ode to Italian cuisine in New York, are already buzzing around town. Despite the big names, lower-end restaurants will continue to dominate (like Stiller’s recently opened East in Tianzifang, an excellent, yet affordable recent addition to the scene), and dish-focused eateries (lobster rolls, sausages, grilled cheese) will continue to pop up around town.

‘Expect more cottage industries and less street food. The chengguan closed food streets and markets left and right in 2015 – RIP Fangbang Lu and Tangjiawan market – and the vultures don’t show any signs of slowing down. Where the hawkers have fallen, cottage industries will pick up. Food safety scares will fuel the trend toward transparent sourcing on menus in 2016, led by Baoism, Hunter Gatherer and Holy Cow.

‘Finally, if there is a God, the gluten-free craze will die. We feel incredibly sorry for those who actually suffer from celiac disease – that is a tough hand to be dealt, especially in China – but those who ruin dinner parties because they like the way “I don’t eat gluten” sounds, then chow down on soy-sauce laden chaomian after a few drinks… So not cool.’

J-White-photoJonathan White,Managing Editor at DRINK Magazine

‘The good news is that there will be more to drink in 2016. Starting with tequila everywhere and not just shots or margaritas. Plus there may be more mezcal if bartenders have enough room in their suitcases. Expect a move to more conceptual cocktails – breakfast-inspired, for example, and served in things that are not glasses or punchbowls – bartenders having a good time creating witty drinks that also taste good.

‘Making drinking fun rather than such a serious business will be a theme, and Shanghai ought to catch the tiki bar wave. Look out for lower ABV (alchohol by volume) cocktails too, which means you can enjoy more drinks. Restaurants with proper cocktail programmes should mean more places to drink better, and might bring the current global trend for savoury cocktails along for the ride.

'There are strong rumours of a new craft beer chain coming to China and that would definitely come to Shanghai but a muchhyped and long-expected big local opening, Craft has gone conspicuously quiet of late. The year will see more collaboration across the board, within China and overseas, in beer and cocktails (guest bartenders or joint brewed beers). And someone will definitely open another speakeasy. Apparently you can’t have too many of them.’




Archie Hamilton,MD at Split Works

‘Shanghai had a lot of macho growth last year – we did more shows than ever – but I feel that the amount of content has grown a little bit too fast and there’s been a thinning out of audiences across all types of events. It’s not sustainable and in 2016 some of the less well-planned, less well-constructed companies will die a death.

‘Shanghai’s got a lot going on from an electronic standpoint, but I’m still not seeing a lot of stickability in the city. I’m not expecting a hub of Chinese creatives to come out of Shanghai any time soon; in the rest of China that’s different. Of course there’s Duck Fight Goose and there’s the noise thing with Pan Daijing etc, but a lot of the people who are innovating here in Shanghai are still foreigners.

‘I think the recorded side of things is getting interesting. There’s a lot more money going into recorded content, because there’s this idea among a lot of the big tech companies that if they can get their hands on original content they can differentiate their services. That’s a massive development that means new labels and the majors suddenly have a reason to be here – there becomes a rationale for investing more into the local market if you can sell records or make money out of the streaming services. It’s an exciting new development if they can make it sustainable.’

YanYan Wang, PR Manager at MAOLivehouse

‘I’m optimistic about music in Shanghai in 2016. More promoters will bring more varied artists to town and there’ll be more professional venues. For fans, this is good news, but for promoters and livehouses competition will be intense; discerning the popularity of bands, as well as improving overall service, will be a big challenge.

‘Along with Midi, Strawberry and Simple Life, there will be more and more music festivals this year. Audiences won’t be limited to rock kids, there’ll be an increasing number of ordinary youth and families attending. A number of foreign music festival brands will look to enter Shanghai and the music festival market will become even more fierce – if the line-ups aren’t fresh and are repeated year on year, the audience won’t buy tickets.

Video and live streaming sites, and their recent wave of investment, will have a big impact on the live music scene this year and the boundaries between livehouses, promoters and media will become increasingly blurred.’


This year will welcome a host of new gaotie routes, including one to Kunming. The metro will continue to extend its sprawl across the city, with work beginning on – give us strength – line 19, connecting Chongming Island to Pudong. Another, of course, will be the much-fabled Disney line (which testers complained ‘wasn’t Disney-ish enough’), and which reminds us…

After years of teasing us, Disneyland looks set to finally open. The park will contain six ‘themed’ lands (including the Adventure Isle and the Gardens of Imagination – wheeeeee) but with a Chinese twist. Given that it cost about 25 billion RMB we’re expecting something pretty mega. Oh, and with a mini Legoland in the works, it seems like we’re going to be spoiled in terms of amusement.

shimao-wonderland-intercontinental-quarry-hotel-shanghai-0Making a play for the swankiest quarry in the world will be one in Songjiang district; from mid-2016 home to the Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental (aka ‘that quarry hotel’). Design and architecture firm Atkins won a competition a decade ago to build this beast, which comprises 21 storeys, 17 which are below ground level, and facilities for extreme sports such as rock climbing and bungee jumping. Speaking of hotels, the highest in the world will open with the arrival of the J Hotel taking over the 84-110th floors of the new Shanghai Tower.

Also due to fling open its spangly doors this year is the first phase of the Dream Centre, near Xuhui Riverside. An entertainment and tourist complex from the people at DreamWorks Animation, the Dream Centre will incorporate cinemas, hotels, animation exhibitions, restaurants, shops and the world’s biggest IMAX screen.

Does Shanghai need any more shopping malls? Regardless of your answer to that question, they’re going to build them anyway. This year will see our city usher in no fewer than 18 new malls (that we have on record anyway) including a new edition of SML (that one above Dapuqiao metro station) in Xuhui, a BFC next to Yu Gardens, a Plaza 96 in Lujiazui, Solo Town in Hongkou, Ocean Plaza in Yangpu...