China’s Original TǔKù (土酷) Culture — Touristy Vibes At Tiananmen

MARRKNULL SS19 -- Too Cool

The VFiles

The New York Fashion Week V-Files platform in September 2018 featured Beijing-born MARRKNULL, a brand whose SS19 collection found itself heavily inspired by China’s original TǔKù culture.

MARRKNULL is good at using innovative deconstruction to integrate multiculturalism into clothing, paying attention to the deconstructive changes in clothing and using special tailoring and silhouettes to express the unique perspectives of the Middle Kingdom’s younger generation on social culture.
The youth power(ed) brand breaks through the boundaries of tradition and gender and show off China’s new youth culture through the expression of conflicting feelings in clothing.

Question beckons: Is it really too cool for school?

MARKKNULL SS19 -- Too Cool

土 [tǔ]酷 [kù]

First things first: A little NCIKU knowledge for those in need:

  • 土 [tǔ]: 1. soil; 2. local (emphasis on the phonetics, “TOO”);
  • 酷 [kù]: 1. cruel; 2. extremely; or just plain “cool”.

The “Tu Cool” trend represents a subcultural form of dressing among  millennials (to be discussed at length in the next articles to come) and, more importantly in the here and now, photography in China. The trend showcases a more of a sense of humor and sincerity in the face of fashion. One such example in the photographic field is the controversial 2017 Dolce&Gabbana shoot set in Beijing. Many urban residents upon seeing the final images complained the shoot only reinforced the downsides of the city and failed to include its more glamorous features. Fast forward to 2018, then: Enter MARRKNULL SS19.

The brand’s seasonal lookbook currently boasts some heavy original “Tu Cool” inspo, showing off a picturesque series of (in)famous scenic views. The photographic case in point is more direct and literal.

Models pose against the backdrop of Beijing’s touristic finest hotspots such as Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, Shichahai, and so the list rambles on.

The aim here is to imitate the look of tourists taking pictures or striking park wedding photography poses in high fashion gear — passers-by welcomed into the frame.

Even in fashion, the flawed truth has become the new fab cool.

MARRKNULL SS19 -- Too Cool

 Fashion’s Phantastic Ego

Art operates on three levels: Spirit, activity and result.

The overall “Tu Cool” concept and spirit is a thought-provoked and -provoking one, presenting itself in the form of leisure activities. The people, aka the stars of the final result, are more than mere teasers in the frame; they are the embodiment of a increasingly large-scale subculture in Chinese art.

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that people need to pass and morph through three stages in life, i.e. those of camels, lions and babies. As camels, they must bear the burden of humiliation, live for others before slowly transitioning into the lion(ess).

The roving eye of this predator knows how to pursue what it wants and how to be brave enough to be its own animal — instincts welcomed into the game.

When all is said and done and every vintage pose has been struck, we all circle back — in true Benjamin Button style — to the cradle. Or pre-school.

Perhaps in that fashion,  China’s “Tu Cool” spirit too returns to the truth — with the imitation of life culminating in the epitome of fashion.

And fashion stops feeling itself as this phantastic ego. 




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This piece was originally written by Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine
Copyright@China Under The Radar, 2018. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce China Under The Radar content without consent -– you can contact us at

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