China is booming and so is its high street. Chinese designers are vying for a place in China’s evolving fashion landscape. Some are winning international awards in the process. Here are eight of the most influential designers in China.
1. Qiu Hao
A graduate of St. Martin’s College in London and 2008’s winner of the prestigious Woolmark Prize, low-profile Qiu Hao has solidified his reputation in the fashion world with his avant-garde women’s apparel. His designs are thought-provoking and deceptively simplistic. He has been experimenting with knitted silk for his new Spring/Summer collection.
2. Xander Zhou
The 27-year-old designer’s mission is to shape an identity for the country’s menswear scene. Zhou, who is from Jilin, understands menswear in China may be in its infancy, but sees great promise. “If you compare how people dress now to 10 years ago, the difference is huge. Men are gradually becoming more fashion conscious, which is evident in the increasing number of men’s fashion and lifestyle magazines in China. I am confident that there will be more Chinese menswear designers in the future, who will eventually become known on the international fashion scene. Before long the modern Peking Man will be roaming the earth!”
Trained in The Hague, Zhou experiments with cut, detail and textures. Inspired by elements of traditional menswear, he doesn’t play it safe. He describes the Xander Zhou man as “someone who likes to dress to impress, with an eye for detail, his aesthetic is dark, smart and seductive, with a punk gothic twist.” In 2008, Zhou was voted Designer of the Year by Esquire China.
Beijing-based Zhou’s menswear is sold in some of the most luxurious shopping malls in Europe. He has dressed many male celebs including Mika, Chen Kun and Nicholas Tse.
3. Jenny Ji
Founder of ready-to-wear line La Vie, Jenny Ji’s design is influenced by Chinese traditions with a modern twist, which represents a lifestyle pursuit of many modern Chinese women. Her clothing is for “a chic, fashion-conscious woman looking to express her individuality in a world that breeds conformity.”
The Italian-educated designer said, “Every time we recreate our design concepts, our inspiration comes from a piece of Chinese culture.” Ji launched her custom bridal dress brand The Wedding last October that mixed China’s wedding ceremony concept with Swarovski elements.
4. Guo Pei
Guo Pei is China’s doyenne of haute couture. Her work fuses Chinese and Arabic design elements and a strong sense of luxury. Her designs are bold and extravagant that contain Chinese elements of embroidery and traditional patterns blend with modern influences. They are as much art as fashion.
Her ability to make clothes that reflect individuality has made her popular among entertainers. Her evening dresses are worned by celebrities. At the annual Central China Television (CCTV) New Year’s Gala, hosts and performers wear Guo’s designs. She was also the designer behind the ceremonial dresses in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
What makes her design stand out in an industry where imagination and artistry are prevalent? Soul, according to Guo. Her best designs are an expression of her life experiences.
5. Lu Kun
Lu Kun saw his career take off after being selected the Best Young Designer of 2004 by the Shanghai Fashion Federation. Lu, on a mission to revamp the world’s misconceptions of Chinese fashion, presents a modern and fresh Chinese style that is designed for today’s trend conscious people. He is not reluctant to use traditional elements in his designs which include rich color palette of red hues, colors for luck and happiness in China, and a touch of luxurious gold. Describing his clothes as daring, figure-hugging and provocative, this 28-year-old designer has been nicknamed “China’s own Galliano.”
6. Ma Ke
The fabulous designer behind eco design label Exception, Ma Ke aims to be environmentally stylish, using natural materials such as cotton and linen. As a result of her aesthetics and philosophy, Exception is at the forefront of 21st century Chinese fashion with a look that is fresh and modern.
7. Lu Min
Chief designer for Studio P.I., which is one of the most cutting-edge independent design labels in all of China with a growing popularity abroad. The company fuses edgy urban, blurring the lines of male and female. “We design clothes with a unisex style which come across feminist,” says Lu Min, “The whole look is really something and gives a strong statement about what kind of person you are.”
Among a new breed of “revoluntionary” designers from China, Lu Min mused, “You have to spend five to 10 years before you are slightly established here. A lot of people in China are now realizing branding means less and less; but still they’re saying if I don’t own one LV bag I’m not fashionable. Yet we are creating something that most of the Chinese fashion market doesn’t offer to individuals.”
8. Judy Hua
With her boutiques in some of the most fashionable venues in Shanghai, this Chinese indie designer is a force in Shanghai’s independent design scene. Her haute couture dresses have captured the hearts of Shanghai socialites while her ready-to-wear line is often seen in fashion magazines.
Her haute couture pieces, often one of a kind, are designed for well known Chinese artists such as Yue Minjun, Ding Yi, Xue Song and Zeng Hao. Most of her clientele are women of sophisticated taste who know what they want but too busy to be concerned about the details.
A fan of Valentino, Hua’s designs ensue inner power and elegance. Her dresses are understated, but the unique cuts and curves are clearly Judy Hua.