South African Grant Horsfield, the founder of naked Retreats, came to China in 2005. He wanted to identify a product that he could import and sell to the infamous ‘China market’, the untapped maker of fortunes that has attracted so many speculators for so many years.
Six years later Grant is selling an idea, and he has found a vast market for it. While he was working in the bustling city of Shanghai, Grant missed the open spaces of his home country. He was brought up on a farm, the Veldt and mountains were his playground. Much like anyone, he found the pace of city life, the pollution, the stress, debilitating. He started looking for an escape, a rural retreat.
After several scouting trips by car and bicycle into the hinterland west of Shanghai, Grant came upon Moganshan, a bamboo clad mountain that was a popular heat retreat in the days of Shanghai’s foreign concessions. Just below the mountain’s peak and its surviving foreign-built villas, he discovered a farming hamlet called Shanjiuwu, also known as ‘395’. The houses were old, rundown, and mostly abandoned. A small, aging community grew tea and vegetables on smallholdings and harvested bamboo.
Grant had found his idea. With immense difficulty he tracked down the owners of the neglected farmhouses, he roused the village chief and approached the local township authorities. His proposal was equally difficult for them to understand, let alone approve and enact. Grant wanted to rent some underused farmhouses and convert them into guesthouses. He prevailed, and naked Retreats Home Village was born. The year was 2007. The eight guesthouses have been all but fully booked ever since.
Grant, with partners Gabriela Lo and Evan Lai, and his wife Delphine Yip, has built naked Retreats into a well known, successful company and brand. In October 2011 they opened naked Stables Private Reserve, a purpose built collection of Tree Top Villas and Earth Huts at the foot of the valley below 395. naked Retreats are now looking further afield, yet always within a few hours of a major city, for places to create their unique retreats for the vast, untapped market of urban China.