Liu Ke is the owner of store M&M Vintage (Mega Mega Vintage) at East Gulou Street. He sells vintage clothes. Liu Ke used to be a member in a rock band called Linga. While playing for the band het learned, through contacts, about the vintage culture and he has been addicted to this very culture ever since.
Liu Ke opened the very first vintage shop in Beijing together with a friend. After a while they concluded that they had different view on how to run their business and Liu Ke opened his own shop. According to Liu Ke, there are six vintage stores in Beijing, and four of them are in the same street. M&M is the second vintage store in the city. Liu Ke claims that he runs this business only because of his own interest and that he doesn’t care about profits.
Goods on sale at M&M are mainly imported from America, France, and Japan. There are indigenous vintage goods in China, but Liu Ke has no interest in them. No matter the materials or designs, he finds there is nothing special about this stuff. Foreign vintage, on the other hand, usually conveys a special spirit. For example, the work wear from the 1920s to the 1940s shows the respect for workers who created the world with their bare hands.
Customers in this shop are all interested in vintage culture. Most of them have a job in art or the creative industry, such as art directors, actors and people working in the media. What these customers have in common is that they used to study abroad and know about the vintage culture; they understand how valuable these goods are. For Chinese without a background in foreign culture it is more difficult to understand. In China it is not common to sell second-hand clothes, which makes it harder for most Chinese to understand the vintage phenomenon.
When Liu Ke started the store he got a lot of advice from an American friend who runs a similar store in Hong Kong. Now, he is in touch with many vintage store owners around the world and he frequently visits stores abroad when traveling. It is during these same journeys abroad that Liu Ke collects a lot of vintage goods.
For post-1980s clothes he finds that an increasing number has been made in China and the quality is not very good. He will not include such clothes in his collection, unless the design is very special. For short term supplies Liu Ke relies on a friend in America. They make use of a good logistics company near the airport. The costs are high, but Liu Ke will be able to receive ordered goods within three or four days.
It is the story behind the clothes that interests Liu Ke most. He occasionally finds traces of previous owners such as laundry labels, shopping receipts, coins and paper money inside the pockets.
He thinks these traces are cool. Liu Ke’s favorite theme of vintage is “cowboy”, while his favorite brand is SCHOTT NYC.
There is a hand-made (American) Indian bag in Liu Ke’s store, which is one of his most precious objects. According to him, the pattern on the front of the bag is an operational war map. There are pictures of three famous Apaches on the top of the bag, and one of them is the tribe leader of Ogra, called Red Cloud. It took three months to make this bag.
Another great object for him is a leather jacket from the U.S. Air Force. He found it in Japan. It’s made of wild horse leather. Liu Ke told us that it’s not a jacket for normal pilots; only the pilots who had shot more than 5 enemy planes down were allowed to wear it.