Three brands raised my brows during the past several weeks: Live in You (aka LIY on eBay), Hero and Wing Sung (by Green Stationery). They may be able to represent the pivoting moment of these pen makers.
First, Live in You debuted two new models
Beginning with the oversize Shiyou (十又) Series, Eason’s fountain pen brand blew my mind with their new directions of design and business model. I have got the full line of Shiyou Series in my collection now, and my full review is on the way. Roughly at the same time as the Shiyou’s launch, Live in You also revealed the looks Hill Series on its refreshed Taobao storefront as well, without giving out a full-fledged landing page. An unexpected CustomSeries tab was also added without further words.
Keywords for the Shiyou Series: 514.8 RMB(USD), Oversize, and Delicate.
There are only three models in the Shiyou line: Shiyi, Shier, and Shisan. All made out of sturdy and beautiful acrylic or resin bars and packed along with a corresponding resin pen rest, and a handmade pen pouch with a soft inner pocket in the box. A massive #6 Schmidt unit is set securely inside the nib section with the help of Live in You’s iconic metal sleeve. The moderator of the Live in You Taobao group revealed that a premium option with Bock 18K nib unit is also in planning.
Due to its large form factor, the Shiyou Series may seem to be too bold in the first glimpse, but the truth is that it still holds the company’s high quality score: the medallion fitted on the top of the cap was colored and polished with high precision and clarity, and the inner structures of the cap was executed in a way so extreme that if you forgot to screw the nib unit back tightly the cap would just not fit.
Someone from the Big Apple Pen Club pointed to me that the Shiyou Series really resembles the designs from Kanilea Pen Co., an argument which we could not testify by that moment since we didn’t have any Kanilea pen on site. The reaction from Eason Ji, the owner, revealed the origin of the Shiyou series: some hardcore users of Live in You products, leading by Jansin Chang, asked him to produce an oversized cylinder shape model earlier this year, then the Shiyou project was kicked off with that clear target. If that’s the case, the original scope of the design was demanded by the market, interesting.
Keywords for the Hill Series: Specs Unknown.
The official Live in You Taobao site is still showing the Hill Series without giving out detailed information. Judging from the picture from the main page, it seems to be a pen similar to the Kaweco Dia series: resin/acrylic-based body, classic pen clip, and cap band, and a #5 German nib. However, according to a teasing Instagram post from Jansin, there is a high probability that the Hill Series would also contain a full metal variant that is well-lacquered, which is really a rarity in today’s pen landscape. But it still shares the same basic designs and cap band pattern, a mini landscape painting, as the one on display on their website.
Let’s wait and see how many lovely variants Eason has got for us for the Hill Series this time.
Then, the Green launched the Wing Sung 627, code name FuYao
A little literature background before uncapping this one. The word FuYao(扶摇), in Chinese classics, was first invented to denote the giant creatures in the Taoism. In the opening chapter of the Taoism classic Zhuangzi, the chapter whose name is Free and Easy Wandering, Fuyao was the word used to describe the way a Leviathan-like creature flies after it changes itself into a giant bird. For details about this part, get yourself a cup of green tea and read this.
But if you want to skip that review of literature, I can simply tell you that the word FuYao now is an old-fashion word for you to wish the best for the ambitious working adults in today’s China, which explains why the Green Stationery backed Taobao store Junlai decided to name the Wing Sung 627 Fuyao, according to the listing.
First impression? The Fuyao is substantially divergent from the other Wing Sung 6xx pens we have been enjoying during the past months. It features a chunky style with its flat top and end, thick body diameter and an executive style chromed nib section. I am not sure whether that metal nib section would turn out to be a slippery fingerprint collector yet. What set it further apart from other 6xx pens are the traditional bodywork and the cartridge/converter filler.
Judging from the picture, the wood and resin material seems to have been applied to a plastic base material after heating. The wood variants offered here are similar to the ones we have seen from the Moonman brand. However the plastic options look incredibly nostalgic—the way different colors were mixed strikes a high similarity to the design of the Chinese pen decades ago. The business end of the Fuyao is basically the same as the 622. The company would give away a free replacement M-nib and section unit per pen, which is quite generals. To me, it seems that after the controversial Sheaffer Balance replica, the 627 Fuyao is Green stationery’s attempt to showcase its expertise in the original design and traditional taste.
Last but not least, two good news for Hero-100: the return of two exotic colors and the release of an Innovation Edition
I have been talking about these two models for a long time, but when they finally got landed, my level of curiosity became higher than ever before.
On 21st, June, a well-established Hero retailer on Tmall.com released the Innovation Edition (鼎新款) of Hero-100, an upgraded Flighter 100 with a full-length brushed steel body and hood. This improvisation definitely declares the end of the biggest bummer for anyone who wants to try this iconic Chinese pen, which is its plastic hood which is really prone to crack. This revamped hood not only keeps the same sleek brushed texture as the rest of the body (which is already astonishing), but also resurrect two of the old-day symbols of Hero-100—the Sputnik-like “100 logo” and the arrow-like badge in the front end of the hood, which sometimes called by some American pen collectors as the signal of one of the “Star Trek Hero pens”.
Underneath the body, a C/C system replaced the dated Aeromatic mechanism, making the whole package more persuasive to the younger generation. The end result from an aesthetic perspective could only be summarized as revolutionary—it is an upgrade significant enough to set it apart from other updated version we have seen in the past months. Mysteriously, so far there is only one retailer selling the Innovation Edition (鼎新款).
Roughly at the same time, two of my favorite Hero-100 colors were restored and became to be a regular production line, beginning with Junlai, then Jingdian, then other resellers. These two color, called 湖蓝 and 米灰 in Chinese, called be directly translated like Lake-blue and Rice-grey, but in reality I’d call them pale turquoise and cleveland green respectively, and their modesty coupled with the hooded design of the pen itself makes them an easy item to carry in your EDC, even for a hectic office settings. If you buy this re-launched Hero-100 from certain resellers at Taboo, you can ask for further customization like the StarTrek arrow mentioned above or Japanese Make-e works.
An interesting story here: Mr. Zhang, the owner and the prime engineer of the Green Stationery (the company behind the Junlai store) told me that even the Hero pen factory itself was unable to re-generate these two colors in the first place without Green’s expertise in plastic coloring.
Although the main product line of the Hero brand as a whole is still a hot mess, and their lousy track records in duplicating other 1st tier brands really prevent me from really buying their integrity, I am still feeling necessary to recommend these relaunched Hero-100 pens to anyone who is interested in this part of Chinese stationery history.
I bought one pale turquoise Hero-100 and a Wing Sung FuYao to my father, who writes a lot during his engineering meetings, at the beginning of July (without telling my mom since he also has many pens…), and he was impressed once again by them. Below are the unboxing pictures he sent to me with some sweet words about the product and his son. Write on, dads!