updated 23 Feb 2011, 04:32
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Tue, Nov 23, 2010
China Daily/ANN
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Friends exchanging old clothing and love at fashionable gathering
by Wendy Qian

The Best Time Caf's biweekly clothing exchange is the place to go to find pants from Bangkok stalls, hair bands from Madrid's bazaars, tailor-made dresses or shirts from a New York shop.

Every other Saturday, stylish young Beijingers, most of them women, bring clothes they have outgrown or no longer use to Best Time, hoping to find interesting clothes without having to spend money.

The event organizer, Chen Xiaoqi, is a 31-year-old white-collar worker who does it for fun. She didn't want the event to be simply a second-hand exchange between strangers, but rather a social event.

"We're not just exchanging clothes, we're exchanging love," Chen wrote in her event commercial.

She said that most people who attend these events get along well with each other, because they have a lot in common.

They are almost all "environmentally friendly, love company, keen to save money but often shop impulsively and love to dress up," said Chen.

The third round of the biweekly event took place lately. As people bustled and laid out their clothes on the sofas of the caf, Chen started running a show-and-tell.

People presented their clothes, explaining the origin of the garments, why they bought them and the reason they were giving them away.

The only male participant brought a yukata from Japan.

"My wife visited Japan for an exchange program and her host family bought this yukata for her as a gift," he said during the show-and-tell.

The women were keen to try it on. Eventually, a girl named Xu Yi got the yukata and matched it with a pair of pink geta.

"Everyone loves it when Xu Yi comes," Chen said. "She has participated in all three events and always brings her clothes by trunks."

After the show-and-tell, the women dressed in their "new" clothes and voted on who has the best new outfit. The winner received a cocktail on the house.

Chen's partner, Deng Xiaosong, is the owner of the caf and helps her run the exchange. It fits well with the caf's second-hand theme.

"At first, I wanted to have a photography-themed caf, because I love taking pictures, but I felt that this theme is overused," Deng said.

"Most of the little decorations you see around the caf are second-hand, such as the 1980s comic books, the tin toys and that camera," Deng said.

"Every piece (of furniture) except the sofas is second-hand," he added, pointing to an exotic carpet.

The second round of the exchange had the most participants, according to Deng.

"More than 30 people brought their clothes, some of them even were dragging trunks through the hutong," Deng said. "Foreigners even joined us last time. It's great fun, really."

Deng and Chen both said they hope that the

variety of items exchanged will increase in the future to include items such as rare second-hand books and DVDs.

"That way we can attract more men," Chen said.

Chen also invited a tailor, Gan Youling, to come and cut out new clothes from some of the old dresses. In less than 45 minutes, Gan created three chic outfits and dressed up her volunteer models. They were all amazed with the new designs.

Gan learned to design clothes in college and decided to start her own business after graduation.

She owns a tailor shop called Red Pomegranate near Nanluoguxiang. She also runs sewing classes there.

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