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5 Fresh Talents from Shanghai Fashion Week’s Labelhood 2022SS

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Labelhood, which exhibits young and exciting Chinese voices and veteran designers, closed the curtain on its Shanghai Fashion Week showcase on October 13.

The leading fashion platform curates fashion shows, runs designer boutiques, and incubates new talents. Since 2015, Labelhood’s showcase has become a significant part of the semiannual fashion week.

This season, as usual, we saw several dynamic and creative talents debut during the showcase.

Upstart designers came into the spotlight with various viewpoints on what it takes to make a successful collection — some highlighting sustainable fashion, some plugging into vintage inspirations, and others sharing personal experiences.

Here, in no particular order, we’re excited to recap five emerging designers that came to the fore at Labelhood 2022SS.

1. Ruohan Nie

Founding her own fashion label was not part of Ruohan Nie’s plan. “I wanted to do something,” Ruohan tells RADII, “but maybe a magazine.”

She changed her mind last summer when she had the chance to join a design competition. However, back then, she was still hesitant about creating a long-term fashion label.

That is, until this February, when Tasha Liu, the founder of Labelhood, reached out to her after she won the China Institute Fashion Design competition. Ruohan then decided to come back to China and jump headfirst into the fashion business.

The Parsons School of Design-graduate founded her brand RUOHAN last year, aiming to build a timeless wardrobe for women: “If you buy something from our current season, it will match with our previous collections.” 

Ruohan also has some thoughts on sustainable fashion, which she feels is a responsibility for fashion designers.

To that end, the designer is experimenting with different methods of sustainable cutting. “We tried to reduce material waste as best we can,” she says, adding that her studio also produces its own fabric. “By doing this, we can also reduce the waste of water.” 

ruohan

RUOHAN showcased its 2022 spring-summer collection at Shanghai Fashion Week. Image courtesy of RUOHAN

On the runway, we had the opportunity to see what modern women want to wear, with Ruohan’s designs appearing exceptionally soft and clean.

The designer shared this season’s inspiration with RADII, telling us that “it came from my experience during quarantine. I spent a lot of time observing the changes of light and shadow in my room during this period.”

These observations took on life as the relaxed, almost lazy, silhouette-like garments in the brand’s 2022 spring-summer collection. “Being alone and reflecting on ourselves is something that we have to go through,” says Ruohan, adding this collection is the result of her reflection on solitude.

The pandemic affected the designer in other ways, too, as she relocated to Shanghai from New York. In the future, she has plans to launch a new content project under her fashion label.

2. Lin Zhu

Lin Zhu, who gained her bachelor’s degree at Central Saint Martins in London, founded her own label in 2019. “But then, the pandemic came,” she tells us.

As a result of the outbreak of Covid-19, the debut collection from her brand, Linlin Chasse, had to be delayed.

Lin originally hails from Jilin province in Northeast China, and she takes enormous inspiration from music — David Bowie and Prince are just two of her muses. “Glam rock inspired me a lot,” she says. 

In divulging the meaning behind the brand name, Lin explains that the word “chasse” is a move from the Cuban dance the Cha-Cha-Cha. “I love musicals, and I find that this move is very smooth and dramatic.”

linlin chasse

Linlin Chasse’s debut collection. Image courtesy of Linlin Chasse

Her debut collection, which is themed ‘Star Light Express,’ references the fiction of Japanese writer Kenji Miyazawa, best known for his novel Night on the Galactic Railroad. “I am a fan of Japanese culture,” Lin tells us, “their musicals impress me.”

We saw models dressed up in a theatrical and psychedelic style on the runway, imbued with strong and exquisite dandy tastes. 

As for the brand’s target audience, Lin has interesting thoughts, in opposition to most of the brands on show, who have a very specific demographic in mind. “I feel like everyone who comes to Linlin Chasse, they still dress in their own way, so I don’t want to set any lines there.”

3. Zhong Zixin 

Zhong Zixin, who was born in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, didn’t initially choose to study fashion. “I majored in sculpture back in college,” Zhong recalls.

“But I have always loved DIY clothes,” she says, before adding that she has “applied the methods of making sculptures to fashion design.” She began with this method in 2012, during her sophomore year at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

After finishing her studies in Guangzhou, she devoted herself to fashion, which guided her to London’s Central Saint Martins. Last year, she founded her namesake brand in Shanghai and made her debut show in April. This season was the first time for her to appear at Shanghai Fashion Week.

ZHONG ZIXIN

Zhong Zixin sets a nostalgic vibe for the show. Image courtesy of ZHONG ZIXIN

The designer took inspiration from a trip to Africa and gave her show the theme ‘One and Three Dresses,’ a tribute to Joseph Kosuth’s famous artwork “One and Three Chairs.”

Beyond taking inspiration from this trip, ‘home’ is another central theme for the brand. “Home is a destination to us, but a starting point for fashion,” she explains.

Zhong defines her label as a lifestyle rather than a fashion brand. It targets people who — as she explains — “are sophisticated and independent women.”

4. Cai Jiaen

Cai Jiaen, the designer behind the label J E CAI, believes in the ancient Chinese philosophy and religion known as Taoism.

Taoists have a famous and inspirational saying, “Dao begets One. One begets Two. Two begets Three. Three begets all things,” a philosophy that Cai believes applies to the growth of his brand.

Cai studied womenswear at London College of Fashion before gaining his master’s at Royal College of Art, also in London.

“This season is a foundation for the future,” Cai tells RADII, speaking about the pieces he has put together for his first collection, which was also featured at London Fashion Week last month.

J E CAI

J E CAI’s ‘interchangeable’ design. Image via J E CAI

In addition to taking inspiration from Chinese wisdom, the designer is influenced by architecture. He developed a system for his designs, called the ‘Algorithmic Modular System,’ which involves making every cloth part interchangeable.

He is hopeful of bringing this method to prominence in the world of high fashion. “Modular design is a commonly used approach in industrial design,” he tells us, “so I wonder, why don’t we apply it in fashion design?”

He reckons that today’s fashion industry is too intense with so many seasons every year, adding that “it’s not good for creativity, because you have to follow different trends.”

5. Chen Danqi

Designer Chen Danqi is a graduate of Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, one of the best fashion schools in China.

Her brand’s name, DONSEE10, references the Cantonese language, with DON standing for ‘east’ and SEE standing for ‘west.’ She founded her label in 2019, one year after graduation. In just two years, DONSEE10 has quickly gained recognition and a good reputation in the industry. 

DONSEE10

DONSEE10 recently staged its debut show at Shanghai Fashion Week’s Labelhood. Image via Wang Junjie

Her brand emphasizes the crucial aspects of sustainable fashion, and this year, the designer was awarded the Yu Prize (an award nurturing young Chinese fashion designers) for her sustainable approach.

She also co-launched a project called ‘Re-form’ last year, aiming to work with artists to promote sustainable fashion.

As for this season’s theme, ‘INFLATION,’ Chen explains to RADII, “we tried to decode silhouettes and colors in a way that shows more detail in terms of the fabric and design.”

Cover image via Wang Junjie

Wang Junjie
    Wang Junjie is a Shanghai-based writer and storyteller who originally hails from South-Central China’s Hunan province. He covers fashion, culture and society.
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