From ‘Made in China’ to ‘Design by China’, China’s new generation of fashion designers has gradually step into the world’s insight along with their increasingly quality and quantity. This time, Vantage talks to several Chinese fashion designers to find out their understanding of the real ‘Chinese style’.
Open any Chinese fashion magazine these days and you’ll probably come across designer Qiu Hao, the most photographed local designer right now. One of the earliest Chinese graduates from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Qiu is a rare talent with serious design flair. In 2008, he became the first Chinese fashion designer to win the International Woolmark Prize. Rooted in Shanghai, the city he calls “the future center of creativity”, his fashion show has become, arguably, the most important slot at Shanghai Fashion Week.
Qiu has an experimental approach to fashion design and views it as a way to express oneself, believing that clothes can speak for themselves. Keeping things down-to-earth, Qiu focuses only on the design: “People who use labels always fall into a routine and can’t break through. I’m willing to try more diversified styles, and hope I can break through and keep growing,” he says. Qiu Hao’s designs attract similar people to him – people who think a little different, and who are open to all kinds of possibilities.
He has his own ideas about beauty – he is deliberately ambiguous in distinguishing between genders, leaving his clothing with an androgynous appeal, and he uses a rather modern approach to the embellishments on his clothing. He believes that creativity is the most precious thing to all humans and that through fashion, people can discover, express and release themselves.
Fashion designer Simon Gao, born in 1981, studied in Singapore, Switzerland and New Zealand before graduating in brand management at Raffle Design Institute in China. This young designer has his own understanding on what is a “good designer”: “It’s hard to define what is good or bad, but the designers who can make people feel the resonance, have a certain amount of the fixed customer, that means the success of their brand, and also made them good designers,” he said.
In 2012, Gao won one of the “China Top Ten Designers” titles, the same year he established his brand SIMONGAO. Avant-garde without being alienating his audience, Gao’s designs show a mature eye for draping and texture; combining light cotton, cashmere and more exotic materials like woven feathers in designs that fit snugly between art and fashion.
As one of China’s new generation of young fashion designers, Gao’s clothing is not a haphazard melting-pot of ideas, but rather they’re carefully considered; wearable and functional but still striking nonetheless. In 2013, SIMONGAO presented his collection at Paris Fashion Week and garnered high acclaim from international media. This collection, based on the five Chinese elements of wood, fire, water, metal and earth, drew on traditional Chinese ideas but with a contemporary, even futuristic touch. That October, during Beijing Fashion Week, Gao collaborated with Chow Tai Fook to add some “wizard-like mystery” to the series Charming+Gold. This year for his spring/summer collection called “Zen Technologies’, Gao created a modern, peaceful atmosphere with muted tones and flowing lines.
Oriental, avant-garde and sharp are Simon Gao’s keywords. Both his mens and womenswear are neutral, with intricate tailoring that accentuates a more slender bodyline.
Fashion designer Christine Lau was born in Beijing and raised in Hong Kong. After graduating from Central Saint Martins College in 2009, at the age of 24, she launched herself as a fashion designer and founded the fashion label Chictopia the same year. Famous for its digital printing, embroidery and a whimsical modern-retro aesthetic, her dresses quickly sold out at Lane Crawford in China. Lau counts celebrities such as Fan Bing Bing, Joe Chen, and Baihe Bai amongst her star-studded fan base, making her a local fashion star.
Trained as a textile designer, Lau has a deep understanding of fabric: “All designs are connected. Textile design and fashion design share the same idea. Fabrics are the skin of clothing and key to a better design. This is my advantage, it’s what makes Chictopia unique,” she says. From insect patterns to symmetrical gorilla heads, kettles, elephants and abstract paintings, all of Lau’s prints reflect her bold and active personality. Ingeniously incorporating retro elements, her designs are one of a kind, setting her apart from other fashion brands.
Whilst creating clothes that are unique and elegant, Lau’s label also creates pieces that can be worn on a variety of different occaisions-from a business conference to a casual lunch with friends. She believes fabric is the key to fashion, and in that respect she has always followed her own heart. “A “Chictopia lady” should be independent, confident and elegant,” Lau says.