How a T-shirt Transformed Beijing's Landscape
After travelling the world for three years and going through a hundred and one odd jobs, then 20 year-old Dominic Johnson-Hill, curious, young backpacker, finally hit a dead end in the form of an empty wallet. The year was 1993, the place was Beijing, China, and Dominic found himself working another temporary odd job hoping to make enough money to take him to his next destination. he bought a "I Climbed The Great Wall" tourist shirt thinking he wouldn't be staying long.
He ended up staying there for the next 23 years (and counting).
Living in China awakened Dominic's dormant entrepreneurial spirit. He realised there was a plethora of Western ideas and trends that had yet to be developed in China. In 2005, as he was walking through one of old Beijing's many hutongs (alley streets), Dominic saw someone wearing the "same ugly T-shirt" he himself had bought back in 1993. Tired of boring t-shirts and wanting to "make it more about the Beijing [he] loved," Dominic slapped a woman in a bikini on top of the original Great Wall design.
Though strange and utterly unpopular at that time, the design inspired him to tap into the market for bold and colorful tshirt brands representative of China's dynamic culture. With 40,000 RMB (then $5,000 USD) in hand, Dominic opened a small t-shirt shop in 2006 in the quiet hutong he was living in. He named his brand Plastered 8 T-shirts, taking the concept of "plastering" iconoic images on fabric and addinga cultural twist with the addition of the number 8 (a numer symbolic of good fortune, wealth and adventurous businessmen in chinese culture).
Plastered was the first clothing store in the then quaint, residential huton of Nanluoguxiang. Little did Dominic know that his store would be the beginning of a retail revolution that transformed Nanluoguxiang from a reserved alley street to a bustling, 800m long attraction for natives and tourists alike. Since then, rent for a space on the street has skyrocketed from $125 USD to over $2500 USD.
Plastered's t-shirts are everything from playful and ironic to empowering and critical. Dominic claims he and his team seek to celebrate the everyday charm of China. Though they have moved past simply copying iconic signs and brands, Dominic's original designs continue to be inspired by China's people, food, history and little quirks of life.