Shanghai's reigning designer royalty meet the young upstarts
You may be familiar with the big fashion names in town, but they're not the only ones worth watching. We've paired up some established fashion designers in town with one younger fashion face with a similar style. Take a look to see who could be ruling the runways tomorrow.
Match no. 1: Modern take on retro
Established Shanghai designer: Helen Lee.
Label: insh, Li Hongyan.
The look: “insh” t-shirts and bags.
Shop: Shop 11A, 210 Taikang Lu 泰康路210弄11A商铺, +86 21 6415 7866, www.insh.com.cn.
Helen Lee’s brand insh does much more than just t-shirts, but the “insh” t-shirts and bags are her most iconic pieces and are on every Shanghai fashionista’s wish list. Her iconic designs pass on the core message of Lee’s motivation for founding her brand: to present the best of Shanghai style to the rest of the world.
Offering both casualwear with insh and high-end female couture at Li Hongyan, Helen Lee draws inspiration from the city’s long history of innovation and cultural fusion. Lee’s designs for insh dig up the traditional, sometimes long-forgotten Shanghai silhouettes and fabrics and fit them into modern everyday life.
“Shanghai is the city we grew up and live in. Why don’t we use it as a theme and make a flag fashion brand of China? It occurred to me when I first started the brand insh,” says Lee in one of her interviews with sohu.com. “insh stands for a time, a city and a lifestyle.”
Shanghai design newbie to know: Nio.
Label: Miss Mean.
The look: A modern Marie Antoinette.
Shop: Miss Mean, 1462 Fuxing Zhong Lu 复兴中路1462号, +86 21 6433 2230, missmean.cn.
Growing up in Shanghai and educated in Paris, Nio is the best young face to present nostalgic French style. Similar to Helen Lee, Nio displays her absolute love of culture in her designs, combined with a touch of modern functionality.
Nio’s three-year course at Studio Bercot, one of Pari’s best design schools, has given her the power to mix French femininity and Shanghainese artistry.
“I love the former French Concession in Shanghai. That’s one of the reasons why I have my studio here,” says Nio. “But whenever I need to find inspiration, I will go find the traditional Shanghainese art forms.”
In this year’s Shanghai Fashion Week(SFW), we saw Nio’s 2010 Spring/Summer collection Goldfish, which showcases a selection of sheer dresses in different shades of beige and red. It’s very French and extravagant, but sexy and modern.
Match no. 2: Modern Chinese
Like her brand name La Vie claims, Jenny Ji’s design has become more than just a fashion icon -- it represents a lifestyle pursuit for many modern Chinese women. This pursuit is heavily influenced by Chinese ethnical traditions, and presented with a modern twist.
“Every time we recreate our design concepts, our inspiration comes from a piece of Chinese culture,” the Italian-educated designer shared with us last time when we met up. From peacock feathers to the double-happiness sign and Peking Opera masks, Chinese symbols can set Ji’s inspiration on fire, but she doesn’t stop there.
Ji launched her custom-made bridal dress brand The Wedding in last October’s Shanghai Fashion Week. Its first line mixed China’s wedding ceremony concept with Swarovski elements. Ji also plans to release a homeware line very soon.
Shanghai design newbie to know: Xie Hui.
The look: Little black dresses with Yunnan totems.
Shop: +86 21 6124 9697, www.vacio-x.com.
The 29-year-old Jiangxi native, Shanghai-based designer is one to note. When asked about her design style, she says: “I don’t want to define myself. I’d rather leave it to those who see and wear my clothes.”
Judging from her latest collection, called Travel Day and Night, Xie has a deeply rooted Chinese connection in her work and the vision to push traditional design limits. In this collection she combines exaggerated Yunnan totems with the classic little black dress. We also love the selection of awe-inspiring Yunnan-style necklaces she has created.
“I like experiments and trying different possibilities. Maybe next time you’ll see a complete different styling from me.” Although we can't wait to see what she comes up with, we hope there are more modern-traditional pairings in the pipeline.
Match no. 3: Pure elegance
Established Shanghai designer: Judy Hua.
Label: Judy Hua.
The look: Streamlined cocktail dresses.
Shop: 1/F, Bldg 7, No. 50 Moganshan Lu 莫干山路50号7号楼1楼, +86 21 6266 3449, www.judyhua.com.
With her boutiques spreading around Shanghai’s most iconic shopping venues from the Bund to Moganshan Lu, Judy Hua is definitely a forerunner of Shanghai’s independent design scene. Her haute couture dresses have wooed the hearts of Shanghai socialites and the ready-to-wear line is often the highlight of local parties and fashion magazines.
As a fan of Valentino cocktail dresses, Hua pursues a sense of inner power and elegance in her designs. Her dresses are not loud, but they do make clear statements with unique cuts and curves that are unmistakably Judy Hua.
Hua is currently working on her 2010 A/W collection, called Li, and tailored for “independent and intelligent urban women,” says Hua. “I’m very inspired by the French writer and existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir for the collection. It shows the process of a woman from young to mature.”
Shanghai design newbie to know: Zhou Liang.
Label: Vincent Zhou.
The look: Romantic chiffon skirts.
Eight years ago, Zhou Liang ended his relationship with his ex, leaving him with two things: a beautiful daughter and a brand-new career. The former visual-designer was among the first students of the International Fashion Academy in Shanghai, and he topped everyone in that year’s graduation runway show.
“My inspiration mainly comes from my daughter. I always have a princess image when I design. That’s probably why I focus on pure, romantic and elegant dresses and skirts,” Vincent says while flipping through the photos of his 2010 A/W collection called Flower Girl. This is his first independent line, and it presents a selection of graceful white chiffon skirts accessorized with lots of blooms.
“I like flowing and light fabrics on a streamlined structure. That probably has something to do with my visual design experience. I think I’ll stick with it in the future.” Contact Zhou Liang to view his collections.
Match no. 4: Playful
Established Shanghai designer: Han Feng.
Label: Han Feng.
The look: Indefinable, constantly changing.
Shop: Suite 3EF, Grosvenor House, Jinjiang Hotel, 59 Maoming Nan Lu 茂名南路59号老锦江饭店贵宾楼3EF室, +86 21 6472 7202, www.hanfeng.com.
Dramatic, playful and bright. That’s most people’s feeling when they see Han Feng’s designs. She tells us design should be fun and playful, and she wants people to gain confidence wearing her clothes.
Gaining fame in New York for her costume designs for the high-profile operas, including Anthony Minghella's "Madama Butterfly" and Handel’s "Semele", Han is one of the few fashion and accessory designers from this region who can infuse a global perspective into her collections that is recognized on international runways.
The Nanjing-born designer (pictured below) draws inspiration from the local cultures of Shanghai. “I enjoy talking to the Shanghainese taxi drivers. I like the city’s traditional life ambiance, such as the street breakfast stalls.” This also explains her 2010 Spring/Summer collection. The Indian-inspired jackets, pants and accessories are made of thin wool, cotton and linen, fine fabrics Han brought back from her trip to India earlier this year.
Make an appointment to view her pieces in her studio store.
Shanghai design newbie to know: Coko Wan.
The look: Funny and functional bags and hats.
Shop: 1-4/F, Boutique China Shanghai, 1728 Nanjing Xi Lu 南京西路1728号1-4, www.chictalk.com.cn.
If you're looking for an 'Alice in Wonderland' kind of naughty wardrobe, Coko Wan is your go-to designer in Shanghai.
Founding her own brand just over than a year ago, the London College of Fashion graduate has already been picked up by Shanghai Fashion Week thanks to the bright colors, whimsical geometrical patterns and eye-catching details in her pieces.
“I love nature. I want my brand to be humorous, playful and full of energy,” Wan says. Her pieces will fit a natural-loving Lolita perfectly, but will also be the best of friends with any grown-up Alices among us. You will see colorful birds attached to her scarves, fabric flowers stitched to handbags and candy-colored wool balls dangling down the shawl in her 2010 A/W collection Naughty Knots.