新乐路是上海一条有名的时尚小店聚集地，但在这里我们提到的XINLELU.COM并非所指那条“新乐路”，而是一个创新型的时尚零售商。而我们的上海姑娘 Yilei 就是这个 “XINLELU” 的创始人与团队主导者。
Xinle Lu (Road) is a famous shopping street in Shanghai, but the “XINLELU.COM” we talk about here has nothing to do with that street, it is actually an innovative fashion retailer based in Shanghai. Yilei, a Shanghai girl with big dreams, is the founder and leader of this interesting venture.
第一次遇到Yilei还是几年前在她原先上海五原路上的 boutique, 那时就觉得自己挖到了宝，在一个不起眼的弄堂里找到了一个特别有国际范儿的服装店。如今 Yilei 已经把 boutique 搬到了车水马龙的陕西北路北京路，橱窗装饰经常被不同的艺术家精心设计。在去年的全面品牌重塑后开始传达“重新定义你心中的上海女人”的概念, 并且通过多种渠道来推广有意思有见解的独立时尚品牌设计师。
The first time I met Yilei was in her original boutique on Wuyuan Road a few years ago. I can still remember, it was such an pleasant surprise finding the store. Today “XINLELU.COM” boutique has moved to a busier street ( corner Shanxi Road & Beijing Road ) with a big window store front that often get decorated by different artists. Last year, Yilei has rebranded the XINLELU.COM with a mission of redefining Shanghai girls’ image, and she is also aiming to promote and discover more independent designers.
这个用 Yilei 自己的形容词来说是“小而美”的非传统时尚零售店，十分注重使用网络社交平台的内容建设来推广自己的品牌，微信公众平台 (微信号: xinlelu) 的内容十分优质丰富。通过活跃的线上线下活动，汇集了一批十分有意思的人群。
“Petit but pretty” – is what Yilei describes her non-traditional fashion retail business. She and her team are very good at utilising social media to promote the brand, the content on XINLELU’s WeChat account (ID: xinlelu) is very fruitful and engaging. Through its integrated online and offline campaigns and events, it has attracted a very interesting crowd.
This time I got the chance to visit Yilei in her place. Yilei told me where she is staying now is like a young rebel girl’s room, which is reflecting herself about 5 years ago. I guess for the “good kids” in China, the rebellion period comes slightly later in life to start finding out what they truly want to do.
Let’s hear more story from Yilei:
Q1: What is the best moment of the day for you?
Y: Late at night, when everything has quieted down.
( Yilei 上学的时候曾经学过一些舞蹈，以至于现在的气质有点像芭蕾舞舞者。)
( Yilei has the gestures and movements of a ballerina, and she told me she had some dance class when she was in school. )
最初其实做的是1/2 Eternity这个女装白衬衫品牌，2010年3月，回国第一天就开始跑工厂。其间也经历了很多迷惘也暂停过，但一路遇到不少前辈扶植。2011年，遇见了当时刚开始酝酿 XINLELU.COM 原型的前合伙人。结果一拍即合，几个月后就加入其中。2012 年春天，网站上线。两个月后，实体showroom开业。这一路其实浮浮沉沉，现在回想起来，因为团队都是自己喜爱的人，大家对这份事业也充满热情，也就不觉得苦。并且每一天、每一个campaign，我们都在学习。XINLELU.COM并不是个狭隘的零售商，我们在做的，是努力创建一个健康良好的“独立概念”零售大环境，不断创新。时尚零售很容易做偏，很多业内专家也只关注视觉创新，而无法跳脱出来，做真正观念上的创新。而这，渐渐成为我们的优势
Q2: What made you want to run your own business in the fashion retail industry? What path did you go through?
Y: It all seems meant to be by thinking of it now. The first time I tried out starting a business was back in university making an independent experimental lifestyle magazine, at the time I hadn’t even heard of the word “start-up”. Later I got the opportunity to study in London College of Fashion, and after graduation I’ve been working in fashion ever since. I worked for some big fashion brands in London, involving personal assistant, retail operations, merchandising, VM and PR. However I felt I was too “greedy” to decide which specific area I would like to develop further. Maybe it is because my undergrad was in media major, or maybe it is my freedom and curiosity driven nature. So after my considerations, I thought the big cooperations would not fulfil all my interests, and I slowly began to plan returning home to start my own thing.
Initially I started a white shirt brand for women called ‘1/2 Eternity’, the first day I returned to China in March 2010 I was already visiting factories. During that period, I’ve been through a lot of confusion and even put the business on hold, but along the way I got a lot of support from other seniors from the industry. In 2011, I met my former partner of XINLELU.COM who was making the initial plan, we hit it off immediately, and I joined her venture a few months afterwards. In spring 2012, we launched our website, and 2 months later we opened our showroom. Actually it has been up and down, but looking back now I feel everything is worth it because I love all my team members and everyone is so passionate about what we are doing. Every day, every campaign, we are learning together. XINLELU.COM is not just another retailer, we are building a good & healthy “independent concept” of retail environment, and keep innovating. Innovation in fashion retail is very easy to go partial, many industry experts are only concerning with the visual aspect but not the real core value/concept aspect. So the innovation we are working on has gradually became our advantage.
(The green wall was painted by Yilei together with her father.)
Q3: What’s your childhood dream? What about now?
Y: My childhood dream was to be a beautiful wife marrying my Mr.Right. My first career dream was to become a cool bartender in a cool bar — I was always a good student growing up in the good schools, and you know good students never go to bars, so when I finished high school I went to get my bartender license right away. Later, I wanted to be a war correspondent or other sort front-line journalist, reporting those “big event”. Basically I just wanted to do something cool.
Now my dream is to make XINLELU.COM better and slightly bigger. Size still matters when seeing it from operational or economic perspective. My vision includes two parts, “discover new designers; redefine Shanghai girls”. I hope we can help more independent designers, and make the public get to know more of the wide range of fun created in this urban consumption world. Further more, I hope me and my team can create a “new chic Shanghai girls” image together.
Y: 如果是说 XINLELU.COM 的工作室的话，大家都会有相对明确的分工，但很多时候又会需要灵活应变——举例说，负责我们微信公众号内容的 Sam，又会身兼摄影师、模特、零售店员等其他角色。和普通零售商相比，我们会将更多的时间花在社交媒体内容的撰写上。我们的团队很小，所有全职、兼职、实习生、加比较紧密的 temping staff，最多时候也就十人。产品拍摄或者网站建设这部分的工作暂时都是外包的。
Q4: Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of your studio? Who is responsible for which tasks, and how do you delegate all the tasks and spend your time?
Y: For XINLELU.COM, we have a relatively clear division of work, but a lot of times we also need to be flexible — for instance, Sam is in charge of our WeChat, at the same time she is also our photographer, model, retail sales and other roles. Comparing to the normal retailer, we will spend more time on the social media content writing. Our team is very small, all the fulltime-, parttime-, temping staff, and intern are in total 10 people tops. Product photoshoot and website building are outsourced at the moment.
I am not very good at making schedules, and I am still learning in progress. Currently I am very busy everyday, so I have to learn how to prioritise my daily tasks. Only from last year, I learnt how to use schedule journal! Because I realised my brain cannot hold all the information anymore.
Q5: 在你对 XINLELU.COM 进行了全面的品牌重塑后，品牌开始传达“重新定义你心中的上海女人”的概念。你能说说你心中的上海女人到底是怎样的？以及你是如何想到这个概念，并且为什么选择执行这个想法的？
Y: 我发现，之所以自己如此享受上海的生活，很大程度是和周围这圈时髦大气、有趣不做作的“新上海女人”有关。她们有着良好的教育背景或者学习能力，真正国际化的价值观与生活方式，决不会把自己当成小公主，而会关心时事为这个世界做贡献。另外，我是很抗拒“小资”这个词的，如果别人用这个词来形容 XINLELU.COM，我是要翻一百个白眼的。
当时，可能就是从周围朋友言谈间，发现有许多对于“上海女人”的错误或者浅层解读，作为一个“上海女人”，又是有媒体背景的人，就自然想要改变这种状况，一点点改变。又碰上 XINLELU.COM 转型的契机，也算是假公济私了一把。
Q5: After your re-branding of XINLELU.COM, the brand is focusing on spreading the message of “Redefine Shanghai Girls”. Can you tell us what does ‘Shanghai Girls’ stand for in your opinion? How did you come up this concept and why did you choose it?
Y: I found myself enjoying Shanghai so much is mostly because I am surrounded with a lot of chic, interesting, unpretentious “New Shanghai Girls”. They have good education background or learning ability, with truly internationalised values and life style, they will never see themselves as princess, but instead will be more interested in current affairs and making contributions to the world. In addition, I am very resistant to the word “Xiao Zi” (petty bourgeoisie), if someone use this word to describe XINLELU.COM, I am going to roll my eyes a hundred times at them.
At that time, probably from the conversations between friends around, I found many people have wrong or shallow impressions on the “Shanghai girls”, and as a “Shanghai girl” myself with media background, I naturally want to change this situation little by little. At the same time XINLELU.COM was undertaking a big transformation, so I took the opportunity to use this concept on my brand.
Q6: What’s the most challenging part/aspect during operating a retail brand for you?
Y: Innovation and execution. Retail industry is very complicated in details, a lot of the time it comes down to if you can make a fast decision, and enough ability to execute. When many small problems in retail do not get solved immediately, later they will become big problems. As for a small team like us, on one side dealing with trifling little problems, on another side keeping being innovative, is actually a very challenging process. Sometimes, I wish I have a switch in my head, “okay, now let’s switch to ‘the advertising agency creative team’ mode”, or, “come on, let’s switch to ‘retail operation team’ mode”.
Y: 做微信公众平台其实是无心插柳的结果。当时只是因为在准备要上线的第三版网站，其中安排了更多的编辑内容，于是希望靠微信来测试下读者的喜好。没想到抓对了时机，培养了不错的读者群。因为本身在做 XINLELU.COM 定位的时候，我们的受众就是我自己、我的朋友，所以我们的团队、设计师、顾客、朋友、其他相关合作方，身份都是重合的。通过观察这些周围的人，观察自己，我就明白，其实大家最感兴趣的，不外乎——自身、职业、感情，这几个点。所以很多主意其实是洗澡或者上厕所时候，就很 random 出来的。
Q7: WeChat is the fastest growing social media platform in China, and is already closely connected to people’s life. XINLELU.COM also has its own WeChat account and makes daily updates. How do you plan the content topic, have you encountered any difficulties or interesting story?
Y: Our WeChat account was actually made unintentionally. It was only used for reader preference testing when launching our third edition website which was planned with more editorial content. I did not expect that we caught the opportunity to cultivate a good amount of subscribers. When we were positioning XINLELU.COM, the target audience are myself and my friends, so our team, designers, customers, friends and other relevant partners, the roles/identities are overlapping. By observing those people around, and observing myself, I found that what we are most interested in are — ourselves, career and love life. I actually got a lot of ideas randomly when I was in the shower or bathroom.
Often we do cut out some columns that don’t go well. For example, not long ago we were organising “writing contest” – we asked the readers to write a 200 word shot article inspired by our selected product, can be in any kinds of writing formats, and go through a voting system to select the winner, in return the winner can get the product they write about as a prize. However this didn’t work out although there were a few “writing group” in Shanghai but mainly western people orientated. Seems it is not popular for Chinese to have writing as an initiative hobby.
Talking about fun stuff, currently we doing a “Golden Bachelor” series, which is for “spreading positive energy”, we want to tell you that there are still a lot of interesting, good looking, smart and decent bachelors out there, also we are helping to promote other independent designer brands that we are friends with. We soon got some media and brands reaching us for collaborations, they would like us to deliver “bachelors” to them, it really made us laugh so hard.
Q8: 在这个 ’互联网+’ 的时代，人们到处都在对新的商业模式讨论的乐此不疲，有人觉得你们现在并不只是在做零售，而是在做互联网，你自己是怎么认为的呢？
Y: 我觉得，我们是在做创新的零售商。“互联网+”这个词，我其实不太理解，可能恰巧我们的思路就是“互联网+”的思路？也有前辈语重心长和我说，“以后别人问你做什么的，你就说’我们是互联网公司’。”但我就特别讨厌那些飘渺虚乎的东西。比如我有点反感“平台”这个词——所以现在我们会避免用“平台”来形容 XINLELU.COM，最多用“创新型全渠道多品牌零售商”——如果要显得很大牌的话。其实 XINLELU.COM 的宗旨，就是“和好玩的人一起做好玩的事”。这样，我们的客人、设计师、团队，都会很开心。
Q8: “Internet Plus” is such a hot phrase these days in China, people are looking for new business model to better integrate online and offline channels. Some people think you are not only just running a fashion retail store but an internet company, what’s your opinion on that?
Y: I think, what we are doing is to be an innovative retailer. Actually I don’t really understand the phrase “Internet Plus”, maybe it is a coinsitant that our way of thinking is the same as the “Internet Plus”? I have been told by some seniors in the field, “when people ask you what you do, you should say ‘we are an internet company’ ”. However I really don’t like the things that sound vague, for example I find the word “platform” kind of put me off, so now we will avoid using “platform” to describe XINLELU.COM. If we have to make it sound grand, then we will rather to describe it as an “innovative omni-channel multi-brands retailer”. The fundamental principal of XINLELU.COM is actually “do fun things with fun people”, by describing this way, our clients, designers and our team will be super happy.
Q9: What are you currently fascinated by? Could be a book, movie, design, activity or anything…
Y: Recently what I am fascinated by is about my work. Oh god! In fact, I realised that I just love people, love the real emotions. Loving my work, is also because my work is about dealing with people. Lately I went to watch an equestrian competition, after that I really want to try horse riding, not sure if anyone want to join me?
Q10: 对于运营一个小企业， 有什么你现在所了解到的地方是你希望当初就能够知道的？
Q10: What do you know now about running a small business that you wish you had known when you started?
Y: Finance. So painful! I am always good at science related subjects and also not bad with numbers, but finance is such a specific professional area, I need to study it by myself and cannot count on “finding a partner with finance background”. However, I think it is not too late to learn. In fact, business operation also needs creativity, which is a very fun thing to do.
最后 Yilei 告诉我这个XINLE LU (新乐路) 其实是指 “the new happy street” 的意思。总而言之，一个产品接地气，又有追求，有故事的品牌总是能够更加打动人心。
Today in China, there is a big gap between the luxury brands and the fast-fashion brands, what we are lacking are some independent designer brands who has their own voice, with good quality products and still affordable. XINLELU.COM has positioned themselves in this gap by collaborating with mainly independent brands, among them there are many Chinese designers with global vision which are more suitable for the local market’s taste. Even more, Yilei and her team are trying to create a better environment for those Chinese independent brands to grow in China.
At last, Yilei told me her XINLE LU (road)’s actual interpretation is “the new happy street”. Anyway, a brand with good products, story, and also purpose, is easier to touch people’s heart on a deeper level.
– 微信公众号: xinlelu
– 店铺地址: 上海市陕西北路414号，靠近北京路
Visit XINLELU.COM, or:
– WeChat Public ID: xinlelu
– Boutique address: 414 North Shanxi Road, next to Beijing Road, Shanghai