‘Beijing Air’ is the latest tongue-in-cheek product from the oft audacious and imaginative Beijing based brand, Plastered 8. In case you hadn't heard, the T-shirt brand is offering cans of the famously 'refreshing' smog for RMB28, and sales are doing surprisingly well.
We got in touch with Plastered's British founder Dominic Johnson-Hill to ask about the product, his business and China.
How is it that you came to be in China and what led to you creating Plastered 8?
I came here in 1993 to visit a relative and settled down and became an entrepreneur by mistake. I couldn't get a good job, so started businesses instead.
READ MORE: Plastered 8 Turns 10 - The Greatest Hits
I started Plastered 10 years ago ‘cause no one was making any good t-shirts in Beijing. We opened the first store on a quiet hutong where my home was, called Nanluoguxiang. That hutong is now one of the busiest retail streets in Beijing. It’s been a fun journey, and it’s great to have a platform to create and flog my ideas.
Your brand demonstrates a great passion for Beijing. What is it about the city that makes it so great and do you think creative businesses like Plastered 8 are changing the city and people's perceptions of it around the globe?
When I see Baker and Spice, Element Fresh and Wagas in Beijing I'm always blown away by how brilliantly commercially minded the Shanghai brands are. You don't see so many Beijing brands heading down there. However I think Beijing can take pride in the fact that we are now floggin' our Air all over the country (and a few to the UK I saw this morning).
On the can it reads "May have come into contact with nuts" just below the choking hazard. I could have gone on to say that it may have come into contact with countless brilliant people that helped shape this country but that would have been showing off.
Tell us about your creative process and what inspired you to bring out Beijing Air. Was there a serious message you were trying to convey about maybe China's pollution or consumerism?
Plastered has always been about celebrating Beijing for all that it is. I think the creative process is to avoid any process, ideas are a plenty especially in such a fast changing place. I've been in Beijing for 23 years so I'm lucky to have witnessed so much.
I love Beijing despite some of the shit parts, it can be a bit of a phycotic relationship but that really helps nurture the creative ideas. I've done a comic book series on Beijing, worked with North Korean artists to bring their vision of Beijing to life so canned Beijing Air seemed like the next obvious idea.
To be frank, I couldn't believe I was the first to do it, I'd seen Canadian air for sale so I thought it was worth a shot. As the winter approaches here it all in the back of our minds, here it comes. And sure enough, today I'm in office with an air filter pumping and its 260 outside and I've got 150 cans of Beijing air waiting to be delivered all over China.
If there’s a serious message it’s not coming from me, not my style, I got so many complaints already, one came from someone in Beijing via WeChat, he had watched my ridiculous promotional video I made in which a Beijinger travels the world eating instant noodles at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and sniffing Beijing Air from our cans.
Watch the video below (VPN off):
He said "its insulting to see a fellow Beijinger eating instant noodles at the Effiel tower sniffing Beijing air." I wrote back, "It's a fake Effiel Tower by the 5th ring road, the actor is from Dongbei and the Beijing Air cans are made in Shenzhen."
Nothing like a good joke to clear the air. It's created conversation, which can't be bad.
A lot of people share your brand's iconoclastic humor. Are you hoping to sell a lot of cans of Beijing Air?
I was totally surprised when I saw the huge stack of cans being loaded onto the back of a kuaidi van this morning to be delivered all over China. My staff asked me two weeks ago when 1,000 cans arrived in our store room what the hell are we going to do with them all. I guess it pays to be irreverent.
[Images via Plastered 8]