At a time when China is turning to its internal market, the appearance of new Chinese designers, positioned at the top of the range, is not insignificant. Especially as this young generation is challenging preconceived ideas about “made in China”, thus creating what can be called “new wave”.
The mention of Chinese brands often leads to negative perceptions, whether technical, ecological or ethical. The potential of this country, which has historic clothing traditions, has become the world’s factory (and therefore knows how to make clothes) and represents an ideal target audience for luxury brands (and therefore knows how to appreciate beautiful things) is unknown.
“The pejorative aspect of Made in China and fast fashion gradually made us forget that China is one of the first civilizations to develop a real know-how in clothes,” said Jean-Loup Rebours, a young entrepreneur who opened an agency dedicated to chinese fashion. “Faxion was born out of a passion for China and its history, which is not well known in the West for political reasons (ideological rivalry between China and the West that makes cultural exchange difficult). The idea is to offer them a platform because it is not easy to evolve alone in the Parisian scenario (language barrier, administrative obstacles, time differences, bureaucracy, etc.).
Today, Chinese designers are driven by the desire to make their voice heard in the West and to increase the value of Made in China by promoting Chinese crafts, philosophy and arts in fashion. This is achieved through incubators such as Labelhood.
Labelhood supports the development of emerging Chinese designers
According to a report by strategic consultancy Eclair, released by Jing Daily magazine, the power of luxury consumption in China increased exponentially between 2011 and 2018. By 2025, China will be responsible for about half of global luxury spending and nearly 80 % of those who spend will be from people under 40 years old, with young people being the driving force of fashion consumption. At the same time, there was an average annual increase of 30% in the number of companies in Shanghai.
It is in this context that Labelhood was built. This self-proclaimed cultural community connects designers with young Chinese consumers through events, retail experiences and brand incubation. With a staff of 70, Labelhood now has eight retail spaces, including the flagship, a VIP house and several pop-ups.
Labelhood showcases talent at Shanghai Fashion Week and Youtopia Festival, and runs Lab, a retail showroom that hosted thirty brands for the Fall/Winter 2022/2023 collections. As an incubator, the community also works with international B2B and B2C counterparts such as Pitti Uomo, Tomorrow Group and Machine-A.
Ruohan: craftsmanship at the heart of a work process based on exceptional materials
A graduate of Parsons School of Design, Ruohan Nie founded her namesake brand in March 2021, at a time when Covid restrictions were at an all-time high. “While the pandemic has been a pretty depressing time, it has been an unprecedented opportunity,” she said. “We had time to question ourselves and re-examine the production and creative processes. We are determined about the challenges we will face in the future.” Her main challenge is communication, accustomed to Chinese channels (social media such as XiaoHongShu, Wechat and Weibo), she finds it difficult to express the subtleties of her minimalist style in Western media that she is not familiar with.
For the Fall/Winter 2023 season, Ruohan Nie has created a sautéed silk fabric using a traditional Chinese silk dyeing technique. Nie said, “We manipulated the fabric to achieve a ‘contemporary mud’ feel that ties in with the collection’s theme. We value craftsmanship and strive to apply it to every detail in order to revalue and achieve a better version of craftsmanship. in our time.”
At the SS22 Shanghai Fashion Week, Ruohan received the Lane Crawford x Labelhood Scholarship and Business Performance Award. Her collection has been selected to be showcased at Harrods x Labelhood pop-ups in London and Shanghai. The brand has collaborated with more than 40 Chinese retailers and 16 boutiques in Europe, Japan and the United States. It’s also on the official calendar for Paris Fashion Week, scheduled for March 2nd.
Peng Tai: From Modern Chinese Herbal Medicine to Yin and Yang
Since its establishment in October 2016, Peng Tai has used the five elements and ideology of Huang-Lao Taoism as the core of the brand, constantly experimenting with new techniques to give different expression to clothes. Since 2017, the designer has explored Chinese herbalism and used herbal dyes such as walnut, astragalus, mugwort (which some recommend as an anti-Covid treatment), sappan wood and gardenia to give each piece its unique color and shape.
In 2019, Peng Tai launched the Medication Room project and established a traditional Chinese medicine laboratory in Pan’an, the home county of Chinese herbs, to investigate possible links between herbal dyeing, clothing making and healing. In the same year, the brand launched its first men’s collection. For his latest collection, Tai looked to the philosophy of Yin and Yang: everything has a source of its own destruction. Hence arises the source of movement and evolution.
rle: transforming textile waste into new collections
rle is a sustainable fashion brand founded in 2021 by Chinese designer Qixin (Cici) Zhang. The brand name is inspired by the word “rule” without the letter “u” (you), which stands for the brand’s message of “be yourself without limits or definition”. rle presented its AW23 collection at London Fashion Week on February 20th. The brand’s product line includes women’s fashion, accessories and handbags.
Like Tai, Cici felt the difficulty of understanding Western culture and the difference in human relationships. However, it was in Europe that she met the artists and friends whose open-mindedness inspired her to launch her brand.
For her creations, she designed a thread made with elements rejected during the manufacturing process of some pieces and her ambition is to make the brand waste-free. Currently, the designer is working on a machine that would transform any type of textile waste into a sustainable material to be used in the production of her next collections.
Weisheng Paris and the demand for new masculine codes
Taiwanese-born Weisheng Wangn, a Paris-based menswear designer, wants to “break away from traditional codes of masculinity by creating feminine-looking pieces for men.” He believes that fashion cultivates self-confidence and should encourage people to be themselves and live without prejudice or fear.
Weisheng puts European know-how at the service of his creativity: he makes his embroideries with the Parisian atelier Safrane Cortambert, his jewels with the Madrid jeweler Anton Heunis and collaborates with Italian feather makers. He also works with materials created in China, such as fiber optic fabric, which lights up with batteries and is flexible enough to make clothing or accessories. One of his dresses went viral on Twitter and TikTok.
Ruirui Deng: Debut Show to Open Paris Fashion Week in March 2023
Time spent at Central Saint Martins University in 2015 and hands-on experience gained from his internship at Burberry allowed London-based Rui Deng to found his eponymous brand in 2021, based on the mythology of alien mermaids who arrive on Earth to explore the art and life.
All materials used are produced in China (including signature lace with branded designs) and then assembled in their London workshop. Although the high level of competition between Paris and China is at a difficult stage, Deng still walked in Paris on February 26, 2023, as if to give Paris Fashion Week, which started on February 27, a taste of what luxury is all about. may be in the future. .
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