5 Chinese fashion designers, established and emerging, who you need to know
Alongside the likes of Guo Pei and Uma Wang are younger talents, such as Huishan Zhang, and others, such as Helen Lee, with mature lines at home but who now seek a wider market
China’s economic rise has had a huge impact on its creative industries. Fashion brands big and small are vying for a share of a lucrative market, and fashion talent is competing for attention within the country and beyond.
Legions of Chinese fashion students are graduating from universities in China and overseas institutions, such as the Parsons School of Design in New York and London’s Central Saint Martins, to join the ranks of established designers, some of them still young themselves.
With competition fierce, it can be hard to spot the ones with staying power and those destined to fall by the wayside. Still, as the fledgling Chinese fashion industry matures, there are several designers who have made a name for themselves and will last the course. Here, in no particular order, are five Chinese designers whose names you need to know.
She’s been in business for more than 20 years and, since launching her own label in 2005, has built a cult following in China and Europe. Quiet and poised, and usually dressed all in black, Wang has earned a loyal following for her designs with their long, loose silhouettes. Wang works with Italian mills to produce many of her unique textured fabrics. She is a regular at Milan Fashion Week, showing collections that are once edgy and romantic.
For more information see www.umawang.com
Masha Ma is on the up-and-up, with 10 stand-alone stores in China already and a further 80 planned for her diffusion line MA by Ma Studio in the next five years. If those plans are realised, hers will be the biggest Chinese designer fashion label. Wearing a slick of red lipstick, her black hair swept to one side, a cigarette perpetually between her fingers, Ma cuts a distinctive figure. Her designs are inspired by London’s underground culture in which where she honed her style. Ma has just launched a menswear collection in addition to her womenswear, and her shows at Paris Fashion Week attract fashion’s top critics.
For more information see: www.masha-ma.com
Definitely not accessible to all, Guo Pei’s extravagant creations, inspired by Chinese heritage, show intricate workmanship and have made her one of the top names in Chinese fashion. The regal gold gown and train she created for singer Rihanna’s appearance at the 2015 Met Gala in New York made headlines around the world, but Guo has been a fashion designer for 27 years and has also dressed stars such as Uma Thurman and Chinese celebrities including Fan Bingbing and Zhang Ziyi - work that has seen her dubbed “China’s first lady of couture”. Quietly spoken, Guo operates her company, Rose Studios, from her Beijing headquarters; she recently opened a Shanghai demi-couture bridal store to woo the upper middle classes with fashions at a more accessible price point than her couture lines.
For more information see: www.guo-pei.fr
This Qingdao native is the youngest designer among our top five. He launched his eponymous label in 2010 and quickly won hearts and minds with his attention to craft, sophisticated womenswear and artistic flair, which betrays his training in Christian Dior’s haute couture atelier. His debut collection was picked up by Browns, among others, and Zhang is now stocked by Barneys, Harvey Nichols and Joyce and is a regular at London Fashion Week. His East-meets-West designs are both cerebral and ethereal. He moves between China and London, where his studio and business is based, and has picked up a number of prizes, including the 2014 Dorchester Fashion Prize and Chinese Designer of the Year at the 2014 Elle China Style Awards.
For more information see: www.huishanzhang.com
Shanghai-based Helen Lee juggles three brands: Insh – a streetwear brand she started many years ago, the eponymous Helen Lee contemporary designer label and the Hong Kong-owned sports leisure brand Perfect Moment. Lee manages to balance fashion-forward design with the cool and colourful, playful looks young Chinese women want to wear. With a strong following in China, Lee is expanding overseas, with Lane Crawford and David Jones as stockists and having staged a recent fashion show in Los Angeles.
For more information see: www.helenleefashion.com