Italian fashion designer builds dream life on east China island

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Of the many islands off the coast of east China's Fujian Province, the biggest is Pingtan, with its traditional stone houses sitting on the hills and wind turbines turning slowly on the sparkling sea.

Boasting a modest beauty, Pingtan is popular with tourists these days, but it has also attracted many foreigners seeking a pleasant place to settle down. Among them is Italian fashion designer Filippo Strada.

"Pingtan is much like Italy's Sardinia. The rugged landscape, the stone houses, the beaches, hospitable locals — they make me feel I'm right in Italy," said Strada, who has lived on the island for four years.

Born in Milan, one of the world's fashion capitals, Strada has a well-developed appreciation of fashion design. It is this love of fine clothing that led him to a career in the industry. Over the past decade, he has pursued his career in China, living in various cities, including Shanghai, Xiamen and Guangzhou.

However, due to his growing business and frequent travels, Strada spent a lot of time away from home. After his daughter was born, he made up his mind to settle down and spend more time with his family.

"That's why we decided to go back to my wife's hometown of Pingtan in 2018," he said.

Strada settled in Pingtan with his family, determined to build a happy home on the island. But he also had a dream of building a successful business there, making the most of the local economic boom, which draws much of its energy from tourism.

In August 2016, the State Council officially approved a plan to build Pingtan into an international tourism destination. Over the past six years, tourism on the island has boomed. Around 28.4 million-person-time tourists have visited Pingtan, which has raked in over 28.2 billion yuan (around 4.1 billion U.S. dollars) of tourism revenue.

With such bright prospects for the local economy, there was clearly plenty of scope for success, and Strada had a winning idea. He would capitalize on his heritage to provide goods and services with an authentic Italian flavor.

Starting from scratch, Strada now owns a high-end tailor shop, a cafe and an Italian restaurant in Pingtan, offering exotic experiences to both locals and tourists.

"I want every customer to experience the real Italian culture, whether in look or taste," he said. "Simply put, I want them to enjoy my service after hearing my advice on matching clothes, taking a sip of cappuccino and having authentic Italian cuisine."

People in Pingtan are pleased to see some Italian "flavor" added to their life. Strada said his neighbors often call him Laofei — or Old Filippo in English — and they have become good friends.

As for the future, Strada plans to organize Chinese and English salons in his Italian restaurant to spread more knowledge of Western culture.

"I'm very willing to do my part to make Pingtan a dynamic and diverse community that is popular around the world," he said. 

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