My day: Fashion designer Nathan Jiang


Fashion designer Nathan Jiang sells patchwork clothes made from second-hand fabric from his boutique in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

I wake up every day around 05:00 and I get dressed. I wear anything that makes me happy. I like a lot of bright colours. Dots are totally my thing.

Then I make coffee for my wife and breakfast for the kids. My kids like really weird things for breakfast. They want a tuna sandwich for breakfast. Or they want a curry. Totally fine with me!

Then we ride bicycles together. I ride my bicycle with my daughter and my son rides his own bike to school now.

After that, at 08:30, I walk my wife to work with her bike. Then I take the bus or I ride my bike from my home in the Wudaokou area to Wudaoying.

Wudaoying is where my store is. It's become a young people's place. If you want to be cool in Beijing, you have to walk through the Wudaoying area.

There are a lot of cheesy girls and boys who carry cameras and take pictures and things. They're really annoying. They see a three-wheeled bike and take a photo, see a cat and take a photo. But, still, if you're in Beijing, you have to know Wudaoying.

I typically stop by my store once a day. I need to check that the layout is correct because my shop girl is not really good with presentation.

Then every day, I go to different places. My schedule is really crazy. Last Wednesday, I got up, got the kids ready, sent my wife to work.

By 09:00, I was waiting for my designer. We took a long-distance bus for an hour and a half to Jinzhaixiang to visit my patchwork project benefitting migrant women.

Originally, I planned to sell second-hand clothes and give the money to rural women's projects. But when I donated the clothes to the migrant workers, they could only resell about 30% of them.

So, I thought: "Well, maybe I can use them to make some new fashions." Then I thought: "Oh, maybe we can use the migrant women for this!"

But they can only sew in a straight lines, so that's why I thought of patchwork. When they finish the patchwork, I give that to the designers. We use all the best Chinese designers and they do whatever they want.

So it's a big circle, from picking through the garbage [to get materials] and cleaning them and ironing them and sewing the patchwork. Then, it's redesigned and everything becomes new.

We walked to the main centre where I'm working. There's a huge, huge pile of clothes and I work with a designer, a fabric designer, we pile the clothes together according to their colour, according to their structure.

A lot of the fabric is really old. I love the stories behind it. I found 100 pounds of clothes to take back.

Then we stopped for lunch. We always go to the same restaurant. Their kitchen is spotless and the food is so cheap.

'Modern beats'

That Wednesday, I had to rush back to Beijing because I'm starting to work with a Chinese singer, Dadawa. At 14:30, we had a meeting and we talked about design.

I really like working with Dadawa. She really inspires me because she's an artist. Her music is great. Really modern beats with a Chinese traditional background.

My job is pretty much: "Wear your hair down, you shouldn't wear those boots, that editing cut is wrong you shouldn't have that flashing thing on the screen…". I'm a consultant, telling everyone what to do.

Originally, I'm from the northeast. My wife and I married in Liaoning, in Jinzhou. Terry, my wife, was the only young foreigner in Jinzhou at that time and I think I was the first man who married a foreigner in the whole city.

So we moved to Shanghai because Terry's parents thought I married her just for a passport, so I said, fine! We lived in Shanghai for three and half years.

When I was 27, we finally moved to Canada because we decided we'd both go to school again. We went to Alberta for six years and I worked for Telus (a telecommunications company).

I was pretty much a clerk, doing boring data entry for two years while in university. I was very depressed because I could see what my life would be like when I was sixty. I would wear Dockers pants and say hello to everyone in the office while holding my coffee.

So I decided I wanted to do something different and I wanted to move to Beijing, and now, here I am!

On a regular day, I leave work at 16:00. I pick up my daughter from school, then we go home and I start cooking again. I cook a lot of pasta for my kids. They're Canadian so they really like pasta and burgers.

But that day, Dadawa wanted me to meet the rest of her team. We had Vietnamese food. I had pho and two bottles of Yanjing beer.

After dinner, I met with another designer at the Drum Tower. We did the list for a photo shoot the next day, sorting out what her job is and what my job is.

Then I had to go to the Xidan subway station to meet my tailor. We were supposed to meet at 21:30 but she didn't make it until 22:30. So, for an hour, I had to sit outside the subway, smoking and doing emails on my iPhone.

While I was waiting outside, the police stopped me. Remember I still had the suitcases full of clothes from the morning?

So they asked me what I was doing with the suitcases and I told them I'm a designer. Then they asked where my ID was and I told them I didn't have any ID.

Then they got really nervous and I told them I'm Canadian because I'm married to a Canadian. They looked at me as if I was bragging and asked to see my business card.

It took about half an hour, they looked at me and asked questions. I get stopped by policemen quite often. I don't know why.

Finally, I met my tailor. I finally made it back on the subway probably around 23:00. When I got home, my wife was still working. She's finishing her PhD.

Finally we both went to sleep. No time for anything else - haha!

Nathan Jiang was talking to the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing