The Present and Future of Chinese Fashion
Fashion - it’s not just a trillion dollar industry, but one of the most basic ways by which humans express themselves. Our fashion choices shape how the world sees us, while couturiers show the world what they see via their art. Fashion is a global calling, with every country and culture nurturing their own fertile fashionistas: this week, on the doorstep of Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster, we’d like to highlight a few of our favorite Chinese fashion designers.
Liu Qingyang, also known as Christine Lau, is the independent and elegant creator of Chictopia, one of the most popular homegrown fashion labels in China. Born in Beijing and educated at Central State Martins College in London, Christine started her own label at just 24 years old. Over the last eight years, her general popularity and industry profile have only grown - in January 2012, she was the first Chinese designer to make the cover of Vogue China. The accolades haven’t stopped there, and she also has a very fruitful relationship with Lane Crawford, bringing her clothing to stores from Hong Kong to Chengdu and more.
Christine’s fashion sense is refreshing, proving to be elegantly modern with an energizing retro feel - not to mention her own brand of quirkiness. Since Christine has a strong background in textiles, she puts special focus on the fabrics used in her designs - striking out with innovative decisions, from digital printing and embroidery and embossing to laser cutting and composite coating. All of her printed fabrics come from her own designs, where she is inspired by her culture, by fine art (from Matisse to Frida Kahlo), by the adorable. In her latest collection (Resort 2017), you’ll find roosters honoring the beginning of the Year of the Rooster, along with a variety of enormous flowers in bright colors.
Masha Ma is the chic creator of futuristic and/or industrial femininity, redefining “made in China” while splitting time among Paris, London, and Shanghai. Masha also graduated from Central State Martins College, working with such fashion luminaries as Alexander McQueen along the way. She launched her personal label in 2011, and worked with other Chinese designers to found their own manufacturing facility in Shanghai by 2012. This way, she is able to commission small orders of quality fabrics, making “made in China” a point of pride rather than a global punchline. Over the last five years, Masha’s incredible work has been featured in Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, L'Officiel, and more.
Masha’s signature designs incorporate opulent, often shiny fabrics into silhouettes with bold edges or romantic curves. Her SS17 collection is a parade of columned femininity and color contrast - between black and bright yellow, bright yellow and silver or grey, black and white - and then color coordination in the watercolor softness of white, greys, and purples. This collection is modeled by Milla Jovovich in the most recent issue of Vogue Taiwan.
Guo Pei is arguably one of the finest haute couturière’s in China. From struggling to learn embroidery to opening her own atelier, she has been a pioneer in the Chinese fashion world. Her deep appreciation for beauty and her nation’s history are what drive her creations; she started learning to sew at 2 years old (to be useful to her mother) and her imagination fired on bedtime stories of fine imperial dress told to her by her grandmother. With the support of her husband Jack (Cao Bao Jie), who imports fine European textiles, she forged Rose Studio into one of China’s favorite houses for homegrown couture.
Guo has been creating opulent, intricate gowns for events and weddings for decades, but only recently skyrocketed into the international scene thanks to Rihanna. The glamorous singer appeared at the MET Gala in a 55-pound golden cape gown of satin and fox fur finished with a profusion of embroidery - designed, of course, by Guo Pei. Since, Guo has opened an atelier in Paris and been invited to Paris Fashion Week - she just finished her first year of seasonal collections. Her FW16 collection, Encounter, was as full of striking, sumptuous gowns inspired by her culture, and evoking fairy tale romance as we could have hoped.
Vivienne Tam is an internationally established Chinese designer. Born in Guangzhou, she studied fashion design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her fascination with fashion was born early, with Vivienne making her own clothing and dressing herself and family by the time she was 8. She ultimately settled in NYC and began her own company - originally East Wind Code, now Vivienne Tam - and she’s been a successful East-Meets-West fashion designer for decades. Beyond couture and ready to wear, Vivienne has also collaborated with jewelry and technology brands and more.
Vivienne’s early career was strongly rooted in Chinese culture, with focal points on Chinese prints and designs; in her many decades of design, she’s since expanded to truly embrace her Instagram mission statement of “The Original Authentic "East-Meets-West" Luxury Lifestyle Brand.” She often includes Chinese art and forms - from murals to the Zodiac to the cheongsam - in her designs, while also saturating herself in her latest Western inspirations. For SS17, that means Houston, TX, and the space program - her runways strut with gingham, fringe, butterflies, rodeo motifs, spacesuit silver, the NASA logo, and so much more.
There are so many more excellent Chinese fashion designers out there, but we’ll stop with these few favorites for now! In the meantime, drop into the comments and share your favorite Chinese couturiers or specific pieces with us. We can’t wait to see what you love!