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This New Mall is What Happens When Old People Try to Be Young and Cool

Jan 21, 2020 | 17:29 Tue
Photos: Angela Leung
Mallcore: "Mallcore" is a series of columns in which SmSh writers explore the many gigantic and baffling shopping malls and complexes in this gigantic and baffling city, and then let us know about the fantastic, wondrous and / or shocking and terrible things in them, preferably from a Ballardian, dystopian, existentialist quagmire sort of perspective that cries out in agony about the disenfranchisement of the modern human condition.

A massive new mall has opened right in the center of Huaihai Lu, and man, what a story. The 27,000 square meter first phase of Theatre X has tentatively launched, dubbed itself a “Youth Energy Center” and is "privately working on a two-story teamLab nightclub. Spread over six floors, it’s what happens when old people property developers try to be young and relevant. There’s a DJ academy, a gigantic streetwear store from a youth celebrity, a ski shop with three full-size simulators (ok, this is actually pretty cool), a dingy basement used as a fashion “theater”, and wanghong brands galore. It’s all icing, very little cake.

So what’s in here? On the first floor, there’s a giant Innersect store, the streetwear fashion’s debut store in China, made famous by celebrity founder Edison Chen. Plus wanghong brands Machi Machi, the milk tea that Jay Chou drinks; Goyonam, known on social media for their oversized (55cm) Korean-style beef tartar; and a Corona-branded eatery that’s still under renovation.

On the second floor, a designer home décor shop called Kükü that has the ridiculous gimmick of forcing you to look through a hole cut into the wall to see what they have — because you are only allowed in if you have purchased something else from the mall and shown the receipt for it.

But there’s also a pretty cool ski shop called Snow51 SoloX with three full-size skiing simulators, a large ski shop and a bistro.

On the third floor, a group of un-heard-of niche designer shops. On the fourth floor, a vintage-themed space selling “recycled fashion” (second-hand luxury goods) and a M Stand Coffee & Bar, the only decent and staffed shop in the whole complex.

Fifth and sixth floors are unfinished, but this is supposedly where the 5,000 square meter nightclub by digital art and tech collective teamLab is going to go (this is not public info from the mall yet, but we have our sources). Sprinkled throughout this are multiple DJ booths. Because, you know, the kids, they like the DJs. Their homebase seems to be a DJ academy on the 2nd floor, a collaboration project between China’s NetEase with Point Blank Music School (not opened yet).

It’s not set up like a regular mall. Instead, everything is pop-up style, and feels temporary. It has the vibe of a gallery — and not a great one. Overall, Theatre X, or Tx as its branding goes, is overkill. It’s what happens when the decision-makers at the top of the real estate developer chain try to be young and cool, by stacking wanghong on top of gimmick on top of wanghong. "Hey boss, I hear the kids like DJ snowboarding streetculture." "Right, get me one of those then. We open in January."

Still, while you’re browsing, and no doubt you’ll get pulled into this mall at some point in the coming months, you can at least make a game of it: see how many times you can find the word “lifestyle” peppered throughout the mall. Theatre X is the ultimate cynical exercise in Moments/Instagram culture and it feels it. And maybe, just maybe, it’s exactly what Shanghai needs.

Theatre X, 523 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Yandang Lu. Click here for more details.

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