Top-shelf goods

Top-shelf goods

A Frenchman is determined to show the best of high-quality Chinese products and services

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Lionel Derimais profiles well-made products and services from china.
Lionel Derimais profiles well-made products and services from china.
Photo courtesy of Lionel Derimais
Lionel Derimais is a man with a mission. In the face of high-profile scandals involving low-quality Chinese products, many people think "Made in China" is rubbish and things are getting worse each year, he says.

But "this is not the reality we are feeling on the ground", the French-born photographer, who moved to Beijing five years ago, says. Good-quality things made in China can be found, although "they're not easy to find", Derimais says. The aim of his website, www.nicelymadeinchina.com, which has posts in English, Chinese and French, is to show that "there is quality in China ... and it's getting better and better".

The trend can be linked to rising affluence on the mainland. "People have more money, they travel, they see what's done abroad, and they think, 'Why not make this very nicely, so I can charge more'?" Derimais says.

Since launching the site in April, he has introduced a new product or service each Saturday. They include products as diverse as yachts, surfboards, handbags, equestrian goods and yak shawls.

Some of the most interesting goods are ones that people may not normally associate with China.

Beijing-based cheese maker Liu Yang was featured in June. Yang discovered cheese when he was studying management in France in 2001. His university organised a cheese buffet to welcome new students to the school. "That's how my love story with cheese began," Yang told Derimais. Yang later did a cheese-making course in Corsica, France, and started to make cheese in China in 2008. He buys milk from an American company and is planning to buy goats to make goat's cheese.

Last month, Derimais launched a new category called Initiatives, which covers non-profit, environmental and socially beneficial projects.

The first such featured initiative is a Hong Kong-based NGO called Sure. Sure is an acronym for "Sustainable Renewable Energy" and its first project is a wind farm on Hong Kong's Po Toi island. Its four co-founders want to install 5,000 small turbines to produce enough clean electricity to meet the island's needs. The island is not on the power grid so generators burn about 200 litres of fuel every day to provide power for the island's 30 or so residents, according co-founder Lucien Gambarota.

Most shoe lovers have heard of London-based Malaysian-Chinese designer Jimmy Choo. But what about designers based in China? British-Chinese entrepreneur Alison Mary Ching Yeung created the Mary Ching brand and opened her first boutique in Shanghai in late 2008. Since then, the designer has been called the "Louboutin of Shanghai" by French fashion magazine Elle, referring to the legendary French shoe designer.

Mary Ching shoes are sold in stores in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and London and have been worn by stars such as Zhang Ziyi, Cameron Diaz and Carla Bruni.

It's ground-breaking products and unique stories such as Mary Ching's that Derimais loves to showcase.

"I enjoy it very much," he says. "Perception is very difficult to beat ... [but] there are many people who are doing and trying to do good stuff" in China. Derimais, who plans to move to Hong Kong soon, says he does not have any favourites. The people he has met while developing his site are like his extended family, he says.

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