The future of fashion is Chinese …

Having spent a good deal of my fashion media career in China, I was interested to hear what Australian designer and lecturer Dr Tim Lindgren had to say about contemporary Chinese fashion designers (Lindgren 2013).

Singapore Asian Couture
Golden Bell: Chinese couture designer Guo Pei showed her collection during Singapore’s short lived Asian Couture Fashion Week in 2012. Seeing her garments up close was like looking at museum quality jewellery or sculpture. My model friend who wore this gown told me it weighed more than 30 kilos and left her bleeding on the hips despite the padding and wire frame. Fashion hurts I suppose … Image: est100 一些攝影

What stood out the most, however, was not the designers he mentioned – most of whom are relatively unknown in their own country and one of which is no longer in business – but the fact that he was interested to see what non-European based designers saw as being ‘fashionable’.

It was also obvious that Dr Lindgren was speaking about a very targeted time and place: Shanghai from around 2009 to 2012 (Lindgren 2013).

This is a time before Chinese fashion design had really made it onto the global stage; before Rhianna wore Guo Pei to the Met Gala Ball in 2015 as part of that year’s astounding China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition.

fashion-2015-05-rihanna-main
Golden Omelet: The infamous golden Guo Pei gown worn by Rihanna on the Met Gala red carpet in 2015 launched a million memes, but certainly made people remember the designer’s name. Image: WWD

Since 2013, when Dr Lindgren’s research paper was published, emerging Chinese designers have been invited to show during Paris Fashion Week, and Chinese fast fashion brands have begun taking over the mass market.

In the menswear market, designers like Brandon Sun, Angus Chiang, Shangguan Zhe (below left) and Sean Suen (below right) all showed popular and extremely strong collections at Paris Men’s 2018.

Young brands like Snow Xue Gao are being featured regularly in mainstream American fashion bibles, and a designer like Shanghai’s Grace Chen is fighting for a chance to become part of the reified Haute Couture list with a distinctly Chinese perspective.

One of my favourite designers of all time – not just within the Chinese contingent –  is Yang Li. Li’s womenswear is strong, powerful and beautifully tailored. There’s a nod to a Chinese background in the punches of colour, but the overall feel of the brand is future-forward.

Yang+Li+Spring+2018+hfMc0JDbgq6l
Colour Master: A look from Yang Li SS18 womenswear shown during Paris Fashion Week. Image: WWD

Although Dr Lindgren’s work came prior to the great explosion of Chinese talent that we’re seeing in 2018, it was interesting to see that he also felt that the country’s designers deserved more attention.

As far as I’m concerned, the future of fashion is Chinese …

References

Lindgren T 2013, ‘Fashion in Shanghai: The designers of a new economy of style’, A.R.C Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology, viewed 17 May 2018, <https://eprints.qut.edu.au/67803/2/Timothy_Lindgren_Thesis.pdf>.

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