Q&A: Qiu Hao’s Martin Siaw on Luxury and Building the Independent Fashion Brand

on May 2 2013 | in Fashion | by | with No Comments

Qiu Hao, with his dramatic dimensions and minimalism, has been praised by the international fashion industry as the hottest independent designer out of China.  He is also the only Chinese winner of the Woolmark Prize, joining previous recipient such as Karl Lagerfeld, Donna Karan, and Giorgio Armani.

As the centerpiece of the recent Shanghai Spring 2013 Fashion Week, this season’s collection shared similarities with previous collections in terms of the interplay of shapes and subdued colors. The simple, geometric lines are perfectly executed.

Red Luxury had an opportunity to sit down with Martin Siaw, Qiu Hao’s director to discuss their ideals of luxury, clients, and expansion.

What does luxury mean to Qiu Hao?

For us luxury means that we are in a continuous state of improving ourselves.  Qiu Hao has come so far, and put out absolutely incredible collections so you think he’s finished but there’s always more to do.  If he could, he would do every thing 3 or 4 times over, just going over the details and elevating the product.  We have some really exemplary details– for example, we treat the leather on the inside of the coats as well as the outside, a last minute touch that’s virtually unseen anywhere else.

Our brand of luxury also compels the imagination.  Yes, we are runway, but we’re actually not a niche brand.  This collection in particular is not so avant-garde that you can’t wear it every day.  We have some very basic satin skirts, jackets and boots.  They’re all very accessible but what sets Qiu Hao apart is our styling.  This encourages our clients to be creative themselves as well!

But often times people say Chinese consumers are considered “nouveau riche” and don’t appreciate such details or can’t be creative themselves–

Critics might say that the Chinese are unsophisticated consumers, but that’s simply not true.  They have a deep, rich long history of being very educated and very appreciative in their behaviors.  Take the food from the Eastern China, such as Yangzhou.  The food is an art.  In the past, the very wealthy classes would create food that was beautiful to view but also delectable to eat. Chinese consumers are once again recognizing this type of art and creation in fashion.  They are discovering that brands such as Qiu Hao are comprised of beautiful pieces, and just as good, if not better than the multinationals they’re used to.

Can you tell us a bit more about your clients?

We have very different client profiles for different shops.  For the our boutique in the French Concession, we get more foot traffic, tourists, and others who are just walking around, then see all the interesting pieces at Qiu Hao.  However, with our studio in Xintiandi, our clients tend to the be more fashion focused.  We are also very lucky to have a core group of loyal clientele that keep visiting every season, or even multiple times a season.  Allowing our pieces to be shown with a couple of other designers has proved to be very beneficial for us.  The modern woman knows how to mix and match, so the concept store gives her an opportunity to discover a range of many beautiful things.

What challenges do you encounter when competing with multinational brands?

At the end of the day, we are a fashion house, a creative entity, not a commercial giant.  Our focus is very clear– we are a Chinese independent brand and we sell products to people who love what we do and share our vision.  This is always what we will pursue.

A lot of Chinese designers intentionally only choose Caucasian models; but we’ve seen that your Lookbooks all use Chinese models. Is this a deliberate choice?

For this show alone, we saw over 600 models across China, of all ethnicities.  We don’t go a specific ethnicitybut we do go for a very specific look.  Our women must exude strength and independence, yet still have a delicate lightness about her. This is the profile we set, but unfortunately some Chinese models we chose were unavailable. For this show, we had four Chinese models for the runway. We’ve used one recurrently, who basically signifies the the ideal proportion for Qiu Hao. She’s from Anhui, and actually only 176 cm, but has incredible presence. Presence is very important for us, as our models carry the clothes, not the other way around.  Our clients are every day women who carry the clothes as well, so it’s very important that the models set the example.

While the entire collection took about one and a half months to create, we particularly like the purses.  A very versatile piece, it comes in a range of colors for Spring and sizes. Qiu Hao started with about $100,000 worth of fabric from Italy, and after playing with many different reincarnations of the bag, they decided to use treated silk, baby calf and lamb. While it looks very delicate and feel very light, it’s actually very durable, since this fabric has also been used for vehicle interiors.


As a more established fashion house, Qiu Hao, himself, provides a simple advice to the younger generation: “Continue to work very hard.  I know it’s a tough journey, but if you perservere, it will be a fruitful and joyous journey as well. Do not lose sight of what you want and stay true to your vision regardless of the market may demand otherwise.”

Despite the brand’s creative and financial success, Qiu Hao continues to strive to discover new ways to manifest his vision and ultimately share his joy of creation.


By Stephany Zoo, cofounder and marketing director of Bundshop.

photo credit: qiu hao

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