Fashion in Hong Kong and China

More young Chinese designers make their mark at London Fashion Week

Huishan Zhang, Haizhen Wang, Xiao Li, Ryan Lo and others are part of a new generation of Chinese designers who are bringing fresh ideas to the table

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 9:38pm

Only five years since launching his first collection, Huishan Zhang has opened his first store in the heart of Mayfair, one of the most exclusive addresses in London. His Mount Street jewellery box of pretty dresses nestles between Nicholas Kirkwood and Christopher Kane just a few steps from the Connaught. “It’s always been my dream, I am here in a place that really feels home,” says Zhang.

When he heard the space was available it took him less than a week to make the decision.

The store will provide a platform to expand his range and develop his bespoke sector, which currently makes up 15 per cent of his business. “The collection has done so well with retailers it has encouraged us to do more, and the new store says (to them) we are really serious about fashion.”

On the rails was a preview of the new spring-summer 2018 collection of trench coats, ruffled and scalloped sportswear jackets, mid-length dresses and ’60s shifts decorated with large paillettes and feathers.

One of his neighbours is Irish-Hong Kong designer Simone Rocha, who showed a collection inspired by the Victorian dolls she played with as a child, with dresses that were frilled, with puff sleeves and layered with Victorian prettiness.

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Ryan Lo’s invitation was to a wedding, but this collection was about the guests, and the dress code was black or white. Cue little black dresses sprouting feathers and tiny tulle ruffles, and white and silver bridesmaid dresses with frilly details and draped with large twisted garlands of pearls. There was a wannabe bride in a mini dress with a veil and boaters and plenty of stovepipe hats. The concept was inspired by the early wardrobe of Princess Diana, but being London the whole look was grounded with Doc Martens.

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London Fashion Week was a bit of a history lesson at times, with ideas running the gamut of Victoriana, to the queen in the 1950s and past members of the royal family. Haizhen Wang’s collection referenced 17th-century Dutch paintings and the big white cotton ruff collars and voluminous sleeves from the period and corsetry updated with denim, all deconstructed by shredding and slashing fabrics and appliquéd tulle, lace and crystals.

Wang has been based in London for 20 years after being discovered by the former Fashion Fringe platform for young designers. He recently opened a studio in Shanghai where he produces his collections and will be showing this season at Shanghai Fashion Week for the first time. “Doing this is all part of my journey,” says Wang, “London is where the international buyers come, but as Shanghai Fashion Week has grown, there are more buyers there, too.”

Also showing in both London and Shanghai is Xiao Li, whose message was about the current state of the fashion business and the relentless pace and pressure on designers to churn out new ideas. Li’s “I Am Not a Robot” theme showcased handwoven fabrics. She used cotton shirting, silk and organza for fresh looking dresses, tunics, shirts, and added playful elements, such as her signature 3D silicon printed graphics and Robot slogans.

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“There is so much showing off in fashion these days,” says Xiao Li, in perhaps a subtle dig at the street-style photography that envelops fashion weeks, “that I wanted to develop a collection around the idea of wanting to feel more ‘invisible’.” That may have been her desire, but some of these designs were clearly making a statement.

London Fashion Week featured a showcase for the fashion platform Couturissimo to launch in the UK with a glamorous black tie event at Kensington Palace. Couturissimo, created by the Asian Couture Federation, offers couture glamour and craftsmanship without the couture prices. Each season will be designed by four guest designers, which this time included Sebastian Gunawan from Indonesia and the Dubai-based Filipino designer Michael Cinco (whose clothes have been worn by Rihanna and Lady Gaga).