August 25, 2010

China's Burgeoning Fashion Scene

"Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world." -Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon was way ahead of his time when he stated this quote some 200 years ago as it is slowly unraveling into a reality today. Having recently passed Japan as the second largest economy in the world, China introduces itself to the world as a new economic superpower. And although the country is still far from developed, experts say that China will pass the United States as the world's biggest economy as early as 2030. 

So as more Chinese are becoming millionaires, it is only natural that there is a fast-growing demand for luxury goods and upscale fashion. And because so many Chinese went from nothing to everything, most of the wealthy are all about showing off their riches and dressing in garish head-to-toe designer looks. As
Wang Deyuan, the owner of one of the top ad agencies in southern China shares with Times, "You have to show you have money, otherwise no one believes that you're rich." 

So it is no wonder that the more discrete, sans-logo luxury items are not appealing to the Chinese market. A Louis Vuitton worker reports that the new epi leather collection lacking any obvious LV logos was not a popular purchase for the Chinese. Though these pieces all cost more than 10,000 yuan (US $1,476) and therefore considered high-end, the most popular items were rather the older designs that had a prominent LV logo. A Clerk at the Gucci store at Shanghai Times Square also explained that the "Techno Horsebit" series, which doesn't have any obvious logos, hasn't had many buyers either.

Clearly, the meaning of understated elegance has not yet infiltrated the wealthy Chinese market, leaving major fashion brands having to decide if they need to create different collections for the Chinese market, as it is apparent that most Chinese shoppers do not have the same mentality as the European or the North American.

 However, we can expect that in the next several years, there will be a growing number of the upper class that will mature in their taste level and opt for a more sophisticated, refined sense of style. And we see this already in a small, but growing number of young, fashion-forward Chinese men and women creating the future of Chinese fashion whether it is through their own clothing line, a fashion blog, or street style photography. And while we are aware that this is still a very small percentage of China, we can expect that this subculture will only expand as China continues to rise in economic wealth.

So who are these Chinese bloggers and fashion designers? Take a look of our favorite picks of established and rising talents of China today. 

photo via: Stylites

Stylites, a two year old blog by Nels Frye, is a source of information for readers across the globe on the current style and pop culture trends of China. Frye's photos have appeared in Chinese Vogue, Grazia, Beijing Walk, The Beijinger, and several other publications. He likes to describe his blog as "a document of what Beijing pedestrians wear, think, and do."

photo via: I Am Small Fry

With over 10,000 hits per post, Sammy of I Am Small Fry is one of the most popular posters on Wodeyichu, a fashion community site where young Chinese women can share their personal style and wardrobe. Her broad collection ranging everywhere from Comme des Garcon, Alaia, to vintage Celine makes her a top fashionista in the Chinese fashion blog scene.

Fossilized Seed by Erica Ji is another popular blog with an interesting feature of introducing local Chinese designers and is therefore valuable in helping domestic designers build recognition in their homeland as well as overseas. She also highlights global fashion trends and uploads her personal style for her readers.

Although European brands dominate the high fashion scene in China, there is a growing number of domestic brands names fighting to gain visibility both in their homeland as well as in the international community. While the first China Fashion Week held last fall of 2009 was not so well received in the fashion world, here are a few creative talents we spotted that have a lot of potential.

Shoes by Guo Pei, Photo via: Trend de la Creme

An acknowledged leader of haute couture in China, Guo Pei is a designer for the country's top celebrities and upper class. Her Beijing-based store, Rose Studio, opened in 1997; and since then, it boasts more than 1,000 regular customers who buy up to 30 to 40 dresses a year.

photo via: White Collar

As a pure local brand of Beijing, WHITE-COLLAR has been in the business for 12 years and is one of China's most successful domestic fashion brands, with increased profits every year. Rather than focusing so much on profit-making, Zhenyu Dong, the General Manager of WHITE-COLLAR, works on building customer loyalty, brand identity, and aiming toward building Beijing into one of the world's fashion capitals. WHITE-COLLAR was also chosen to close China's first ever Fashion Week held last November 2009.

photos via: Yatzer

Li Xiaofeng is a Beijing artist who creates sculptural clothing pieces made from traditional Chinese ceramics. His most recent collaboration is with Lacoste, featuring a limited edition polo shirt that features a fractured digital print of photographed porcelain shards. 

photo via: Not Just A Label

Famed for her innovative performance at the annual graduate CSM exhibition show showcasing white garments that illuminate in the dark, Vega Zaishi Wang, a recent graduate of Central Saint Martins, opened her first store in Jianwai Soho last week. Integrating technology into her designs, Ms. Wang brings an innovative sense of style to the Chinese fashion scene.

Whether or not Beijing or Shanghai will become one of fashion's capital, we are excited to witness the burgeoning fashion scene in a country with such rapid change and growth. Though this is all we have for you today, we will be keeping our eyes open with what's going on in the other side of the globe, and you can expect to see another update on the latest Chinese fashion news soon.


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