Whether it is quality they crave or status that they seek, Chinese consumers are known to be drawn to Western labels and styles. However, some local Chinese brands are on the fast track to compete with the big names from the West. Here are five Chinese designers who have been gaining international attention.
Accredited as “China’s hottest emerging designer”, Uma Wang launched her eponymous label in 2005 in London. Before designing for Chinese labels for a decade, where she honed her sophisticated knitting techniques and defined her own taste for aesthetics, Wang studied at China Textile University and Central Saint Martins.
Uma Wang is celebrated for her ability to balance fashion and functionality. Her designs feature layered minimalism, the mix and match of rich fabrics, and sculptural-shaped strong garments with subtle detailing. Based in Shanghai, Wang has featured her designs in Shanghai, London, Paris, and Milan. She has been profiled by Italian Vogue and Another Magazine and her work is sold everywhere from Moscow to London. Recently, Wang also collaborated with Swatch.
Huishan Zhang left China when he was 17 and has lived in New Zealand, Paris, and London, where he is now based. He was handpicked to spend a year at Dior Couture’s Paris Atelier before even graduating from Central Saint Martins. Zhang’s designs are inspired by his Eastern heritage and Western influence. His style is feminine, romantic, polished, and often features embroidered Chinese tropes such as pagodas.
Huishan Zhang achieved Armani’s star prize of showing in a mainstream fashion city when he debuted in London in September. His show was sponsored by Newgen and Luxup, a members-only luxury site aimed at the Chinese market. Among other publications, Zhang has been featured in Vogue UK, WWD, and The Business of Fashion.
Liang Zi graduated from the Northwestern College of Texiles in 1990. Just four years later, she established her apparel brand Tangy. Zi is known for her use of gambiered Canton silk, a traditional, hand-dyed material with a 500-year history and eco-friendly credentials. Her glamorous works have caught the eyes of Swedish royals, and her signature runway trick is the use of barefoot models.
Liang Zi has shown at Beijing International Fashion Week since 2001 and was also part of the China Image Festival Fashion Show.
Bao Bao Wan
Granddaughter of Wan Li, who was once the chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, Bao Bao Wan lived a prestigious life growing up in Beijing’s Presidential Compound. At age 15, Wan’s adventurous side took her abroad to study in New York and Paris, where she earned the title as “China’s First Socialite”. In 2007, Bao Bao Wan Fine Jewelry was launched. Inspired by her oriental roots, Wan describes her own jewelry as “feminine, impossible, and loud”.
Bao Bao Wan’s designs are stocked by Matches in London. In 2010, her collaboration with EnlightenedTM by Swarovski led to her showcase in Gemvisions 2012, the publication widely regarded in the industry as the ultimate fine jewelry resource. Wan also has been featured in the US and British Vogue.
A veteran in the Chinese modern fashion scene, Basic has been in China since the mid-90s. It now has various high-end labels including Basic Editions, Basic Anywear and Be Prive, a favorite among local pop stars. All Basic brands originate from one concept – the combination of the long history of Chinese civilization and Western fashion elements. The brand is geared towards foreign market expansion under the leadership of French designer Anne-Valerie Hash.
photo credit: uma wang, tangy, bao bao wan