With China’s fashion market poised to overtake the US’s in 2019, are we on the cusp of a wave of Chinese designers having a major impact overseas? China gets plenty of press for being the world’s fastest growing buyers’ market, but its design industry has historically been seen as little more than copycat. These independent designers are looking to change that.
Some brands on this list are on the brink of becoming the next big thing, while others are all-but-unknown — for now. But one thing they all have in common: these nine are shifting perceptions and giving new meaning to the phrase “Made in China.”
A crop of designers that constitute China’s indie fashion talent are graduates of famed London design school Central Saint Martins (CSM). And Shanghai-raised designer C.J. Yao is one of those talents. The angular flaps, juxtaposed materials and vibrant colors that are her label CJ Yao’s signature hang in ways that miraculously look good on ordinary people as well as models. Archimedes would certainly be proud.
Models on parade in CJ Yao SS19
Samuel Yang was already a London transplant before founding this label in 2015. His friends and contemporaries hail him as a “genius,” and it’s not hard to see why. Yang effortlessly weaves together influences from fashion, film and fine art, and demonstrates an acute attention to form and detail in his collections, deliberate down to a fold or the fall of a pleat. The Shenzhen-born designer’s most recent collection goes back to his roots, and updates classic staples like the cheongsam in clever ways.
Wong Kar Wai-worthy glamour in SS19
Beijing-born designer Zhang Na was already a veteran before she decided to kick off her second project, which reworks secondhand garments into all-new designs. With Reclothing Bank, she hopes to add a hip twist to sustainable design and make bargain-hunting consumers more aware of their… well, consumption. It’s a noble cause, and the clothes look surprisingly chic given that they’re secondhand. We’re into it.
Beijing-Born Designer Zhang Na Tackles Fashion Waste with Style
This line by Xiamen designer Xiaolu “Dido” Liu is feminine through and through. Aside from that, it’s hard to tell where deepmoss will draw inspiration from next. Last year’s fall line paid extensive homage to sculptor Louise Bourgeois with face decorations and spindly silkscreens, while her spring follow-up mashed up Kenyan Masaii culture with Elizabethan England, replete with pleats and gathers.
deepmoss models pose backstage at Shanghai Fashion Week
One of the freshest talents on this list, Ma Ming founded his very new, eponymous label only this year. His first collection, which plays to his strengths of 3-D cutting and draping, made a noteworthy debut at Shanghai Fashion Week. We’re keeping an eye out for his AW19 follow-up, which expands on what Ma calls a “blend of utilitarian wear and couture.”
Models backstage in Ming Ma SS19
Yushan “Jason” Li and Jun Zhou’s stories before joining forces in Milan are both globetrotting affairs. While at Saint Martins, Li’s MA collection was fully sponsored by the Isabella Blow Foundation, and after graduating he went on to work for YEEZY in Los Angeles. Jun meanwhile graduated from Istituto Marangoni and London College of Fashion, and in 2014 won first prize at the Audi Star Creation Awards in Singapore. Dividing itself between Shanghai and Milan, the label strives to explore a clothing concept that is both abstract and “genderless.”
Pronounce’s signature unisex attire
There is no stopping Angel Chen. The Shenzhen designer has been something of a poster child for Chinese fashion for a while now, and more boutiques across Europe and Asia stock her eye-catching garments every year. This year she was chosen as one of the three featured designers at New York Fashion Week for their China Day, organized by e-commerce platform TMall. It’s been an auspicious 2018 for Chen, and we anticipate next year will only be better.
Alibaba’s Tmall is Taking Over New York Fashion Week With a “China Day” This Week
Another CSM grad, Chen Xuzhi is already well respected in fashion circles — he’s a staple at London Fashion Week and celebrities such as Lily Allen are now wearing his garments — but it’s high time the talented designer became a household name. Shaoxing-born Chen knows when to get playful and when to exercise restraint, resulting in drop-dead gorgeous garments that we can’t get enough of, season after season.
S/S 2019 looks at London Fashion Week
Feast your eyes on the future of streetwear. Fengchen Wang has made her name on a futuristic strain of technical outerwear, pushing the larger-than-life silhouettes of her jackets to an almost cartoonish dimension. There are still hints of that in her newest collection, though the label opts more for reflective fabrics, cues from prep school, and top-to-toe gradients that positively drip with cool.
Prep school cool in Fengchen Wang S/S 2019
Cover photo: Xu Zhi
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