China’s Emerging Fashion Design Powerhouses

Last month, Reuters quoted fashion executives and designers as saying that Chinese designers “will drive catwalk trends more than deep-pocketed Asian buyers as China’s creativity becomes fashions’ next big thing.” While China’s money has been an economic driver, and Chinese design cues have been picked up by some designers, the next part of fashion’s eastward tilt may be the rise of Chinese creativity.

As designer and retailer Elio Fiorucci told Reuters, “the next big issue for fashion is not China’s economic boom but Chinese creativity,” adding that while the Western world knows little about China’s aesthetic sensibility, China’s emerging designers may surprise us, since they have the talent and a deep knowledge of the Western fashion world. Gianluca Brozetti, Chief Executive of Roberto Cavalli, qualified these sentiments by saying that while the culture and creativity of Chinese designers will certainly be appreciated in the West, it will take time to make a major impact due to the lack of economic power.

Editor, blogger, journalist and media figure Hong Huang believes that China’s fashion climate needs additional confidence, since Hong sees the fact that the Chinese market constantly looks for Western confirmation before being ready to buy. With Shanghai Fashion Week about to kick off, and Beijing Fashion Week just around the corner, Jing Daily is looking forward to the newest collections by some of the top emerging designers in China. Some we’re watching closely:


La Vie

A look from Jenny Ji's October runway show (Photo Courtesy of Shanghaiist)

Designer Jenny Ji is a very strong proponent of “East meets West,” with modern collections that draw on cultural cues; For example, her 2010 “Blue Tiger Porcelain” collection, which took inspiration from Chinese porcelain. The classic style of “Old Shanghai” is a key element of all of her designs and a style guide that Jenny Ji constantly re-invents.

Shanghaiist described her as a “soft-handed Vivienne Tam” and with a focus on being an ethical and eco-friendly designer, Jenny Ji is looking towards the future.

Uma Wang
A look from Uma Wang's Fall Winter 2010 Collection (Photo Courtesy of Uma Wang)

A look from Uma Wang's Fall Winter 2010 Collection (Photo Courtesy of Uma Wang)

While Jenny Ji looks back at the style of Old Shanghai, designer Uma Wang is inspired more by “international vintage,” with a particular interest in materials, shapes and fabrics.Rather than mining China’s cultural history in her deconstructed, edgy collections, Uma Wang’s designs seems to reference the more avant-garde style pioneered by Comme des Garçons and others.

Recently profiled by Vogue Italia, Uma Wang proves to have more of an international profile and appeal than many of her contemporaries.

Qiu Hao
A look from Qiu Hao's Fall Winter 2010 Collection

A look from Qiu Hao's Fall Winter 2010 Collection

Qiu Hao is another designer who doesn’t take Chinese references literally, instead choosing to underline his designs with a subtle Chinese design philosophy.

A Woolmark Prize winner (previous winners include Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent), Qiu Hao presents Chinese individuality in his collections, most of which feature his signature knots and fluid draping.

An image from the Na(too) Fall Winter 2010 lookbook

An image from the Na(too) Fall Winter 2010 lookbook

While many of the designers on this list were educated overseas at institutions like Central Saint Martin’s in London, designer Zhang Na is a truly home-grown product of the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts.

Zhang’s personal brand, Na(too), regularly creates wearable yet quirky designs, which explore the connections between people, fashion and the environment though unique cutting and use of fabric.


Vega Zaishi Wang
Vega Zaishi Wang

A Vega Zaishi Wang design

Naming designers Yohji Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester as influences, Vega Zaishi Wang creates design concepts for each of her collections, the latest being a “Cape” series, with each look individualized with personal touches like irregular hand-stitching. As Wang recently said, her latest series is designed “to encourage Chinese girls to become stronger, more confident, and independent,” and we hope that her future collections express equally strong viewpoints.

Xander Zhou
Xander Zhou's First Menswear Collection in 2007

Xander Zhou's First Menswear Collection in 2007

Menswear designer Xander Zhou has become a designer-personality in his own right, something of a poster boy for the emerging Chinese designer. Upon the invitation of Hong Huang, Zhou has been a guest editor for iLook magazine, and has been interviewed for Britain’s Dazed Digital, reiterating in each his position as a designer who puts nationality on the back burner. At the same time, Xander Zhou’s career trajectory goes to show that China presents unique opportunities for young designers.

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