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Factory turns out tunes, food, wine, art, fashion and ideas

HOW to chill out: Lounge on the sofa for a while, sip a drink and surf the Net. Why not record your own song? Get a cool T-shirt or sew your own. Check out interesting paintings and photos. Then play the song you recorded to everyone in the restaurant where you're eating fresh, California-style supper. After dinner you can attend a workshop, a screening or other artsy event. Or just continue to hang out.

All of this is possible all under one roof and on one floor, not in Greenwich Village or East London, but in the comprehensive creative space Factory, which opened in April.

It's across the street from the slaughter-house-turned-art hub 1933 in Hongkou District.

It is difficult to categorize the place, except as "creative space" because all kinds of things are happening - food, drinks, music, fashion, design, video, all kinds of art. Like many creative zones in Shanghai, the Factory is in a former factory, though the space itself isn't sprawling but quite compact.

At a first glance, the place looks rather fancy with comfortable leather coaches and stylishly dressed waiters. But the ceiling pipes, ducts and raw cement remain, a contrast with the floor area.

"A lot of inspirations for this place, from my side, came from New York, because I'm a New Yorker," says musician Sean Dinsmore, creative director and one of the masterminds of the Factory.

"But it would cost millions to do a space like this in New York or in London, and it makes more sense to do it in Shanghai as the whole world is looking at Shanghai now for a lot of reasons," he says.

The other mastermind is Profero Group, a small advertising company. In the past few years, many Shanghai creative zones have opened, modelled after the famous 798 creative hub in Beijing. But the Beijing space is huge with dozens of studios, galleries and cafes of all kinds. It's smaller and more focused in Shanghai.

For example, M50 (50 Moganshan Road) was famous for low-rent housing for struggling young artists but it's now filled with tourists and galleries. The creative space on Damuqiao Road is more for innovative design brains, and there's a cartoon/animation-focused zone in the Wujiaochang area.

Though the Factory is smaller than these others, that's part of the charm, and it provides several inter-connected creative sections.

The lounge and restaurant are in front, serving as the reception area during exhibitions and workshops. Two screens play footage of past Factory events. The Factory has already held dozens of events - fashion shows, art exhibitions, lectures and film screenings.

The sound recording room, with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, is also in front. It's free for young musicians to make their first recording in the room; they pay for later records.

Dinsmore and Profero Group will also help sell recordings to the group's international clients.

"The common marking model for international brands in China uses a pop star to appeal to the local market or international stars," says Dinsmore. "But that's not working as well as before and they are increasingly interested in reaching out to young local artists to enhance the local market."

He hopes to fit and match the artists with the brands.

The Factory posts many promotions for events and exhibitions on online forums like Douban or Neocha, popular among young Chinese born after the 1980s and 1990s.

With active and continuous exhibitions and workshops, Dinsmore has met a lot of young Chinese artists during the past three months. He is already getting calls every day from young local artists who want to hold art exhibitions or record and play their music.

"We are working hard to sell their works to international brands and I plan to make a single for a young local singer, maybe followed by an album," says Dinsmore.

The music recorded in the studio are played in the lounge and bar if the artists want an audience.

There's a similar model for the visual arts section in the Factory, containing a glassed-in computer room, a fashion and crafts pod with sewing machines, an art pod and the retail section where artists sell their crafts, installations, paintings, photos and other creations.

Most of the Factory's earnings come from the restaurant, which has a California chef and a diverse and changing menu, but Dinsmore hopes the creative sections will eventually become the major source of income.

If this model is successful, Dinsmore and Profero aim to expand to Beijing and other cities, like Bangkok.

"This idea really fits in emerging markets like Beijing and Bangkok," says Dinsmore. "They are still fresh and maturing quickly."

Opening hours: 11am-11pm

Address: Bldg 4, 29 Shajing Rd

Tel: 6563-3393


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