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Fashion Guru Simon Collins On Why Beijing Is The World’s Most Exciting Design City

Beijing has design you’ll either love or hate, but “definitely cannot ignore,” the New School’s fashion dean says.

Welcome to Wanderlust, a weekly series on Co.Design where some of our favorite designers share their secret picks and insider tips for the best design cities on the planet. Today, Simon Collins, Dean of Fashion at Parsons New School for Design, tells us why he loves everything about Beijing but the air.

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What’s your favorite design city, and why?

Beijing. The architecture there is either brilliant, ancient, or disastrous: for example, the CCTV Headquarters, Forbidden City, or most new developments that you haven’t heard of. There is a freedom there that maybe we once had in the West but has lately deserted us. The Bird’s Nest is just the tip of the architectural iceberg. I’m not claiming it’s the worlds most original city, but for me, it’s currently the most exciting. You’ll either love or hate the CCTV Headquarters, but you definitely cannot ignore it.


Where do you like to stay when you’re there?

The Opposite House. It’s simply my favorite hotel in the world. They have the perfect balance of high-class service and a casual atmosphere. It’s not forced or pretentious, but genuine and friendly. They connected me with my current tailor, they give me a bike to explore on, and they always remember my favorite breakfast (full English). They even let me film my TV show in the lobby including a boom camera.

Where do you like to eat?

Temple Restaurant Beijing (for amazing European cuisine in a 600-year-old temple) , Capital M (for the terrace above Tianenmen Square), 1949 (get the Peking duck), and Opera Bombana (for its incredible soufflé!).


What design destinations do you visit?

798 Art District. It’s a decommissioned military industrial complex that now houses modern art galleries, bars, and coffee shops. These are buildings that you’ve never imagined housing modern art, but it still all just comes together beautifully.

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Do you have any good tips for people going there interested in design?

Watch the season, you want to do a lot of walking so avoid winter and summer. Learn a bit of Chinese. It’s really not that hard. Don’t do anything that you could do elsewhere (like buy European brands, etc.). Take the subway, because traffic is a nightmare. Oh, and don’t breathe the air.

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