Starbucks China opens third intangible cultural heritage concept store in Suzhou

Guochao is here. Brands are blending Chinese elements with some of the current trends to innovate their products. In early June, to mark Cultural Heritage Day and celebrate China’s intangible cultural heritage, Starbucks China opened its third intangible cultural heritage concept shop in Suzhou. This follows the launch of similar shops in Beijing and Shanghai in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

For the first time, this new store in Suzhou presents a striking fusion of national intangible heritage skills and local non-heritage culture. Collaborating with over ten artists and artisans, Starbucks has crafted an experience akin to a modern heritage art gallery set within a Suzhou-style garden, offering customers a unique journey through past and present.

The shop’s design is themed around ‘Gardening & Dreaming’. It features a large-scale art installation comprising 70 pieces of Su embroidery bandages and a grand mural of ink and blue, created with needle brush painting techniques. The interior layout mirrors the picturesque ambiance of a Suzhou-style garden pavilion, using window shapes and pavilion pillars to frame the space like a traditional garden. Furthermore, the colourful emblems on the shop’s R-labels and aprons are crafted from Yunnan’s Wa brocade.

Since 2020, Starbucks has actively contributed to the preservation of China’s intangible heritage by hosting 72 heritage salons in 8 cities and 17 Starbucks stores, attracting nearly 3,100 customers to experience traditional craftsmanship.

In addition, Starbucks has incorporated heritage elements into the design, product displays, and partner uniforms of its concept shops. The intangible cultural heritage concept shop in Beijing integrates traditional hutong culture and the art of batik, while the Shanghai shop features elements such as embroidered cheongsams and Yunnan’s ‘Heqing silverware’ and Honghe tinware.

Beyond Starbucks China, a growing number of coffee brands and new tea beverage companies are joining the ‘Guochao army’. Chinese coffee chain NOWWA Coffee collaborated with blue and white pottery artists to launch a dragon graphic pattern for special edition paper cups. The Canadian coffee and restaurant chain Tim Hortons partnered with the Suzhou Museum, which is dedicated to traditional Chinese arts and crafts, including painting, calligraphy, and embroidery. More recently, CHAGEE has integrated Guochao into its globalisation strategy.

Numerous brands eyeing the Chinese market are collaborating with Chinese entrepreneurs or incorporating traditional Chinese cultural elements into their products, thus creating new Guochao trends.


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