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China Designers You Need to Know: Ming Ma

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China Designers is a biweekly series that showcases the wide spectrum of creativity in Chinese fashion design. From small designers to big brands, these names are changing the connotations of “Made in China,” one collection at a time. Write to us if you have a suggestion or submission.

With only two collections under his belt since graduating, womenswear designer Ma Ming is one of the fastest-rising stars in Chinese independent fashion.

The Wuhan-born designer founded his eponymous label, Ming Ma, two years after studying under professor par excellence Louise Wilson at Central St. Martin’s. It wasn’t long after Labelhood — a shop-slash-platform for some of China’s more interesting design talents — took notice of it that things began to snowball for him.

“It’s all because of Labelhood,” Ma told Vogue earlier this year. “They presented me as a new designer to know, and they gave me the platform.” Labelhood now sells his first collection at their Shanghai store.

Ming Ma SS2019

Ma’s first collection for SS19

While at Central St. Martin’s, Lane Crawford also awarded Ma a scholarship that gave him a full ride through his MA program. After Ming Ma’s much-lauded debut at Shanghai Fashion Week in 2018, the department store swept up pieces from the label’s first collection, which Ma says is quite rare for them. “For me, it’s a huge honor. It boosts my confidence and really encourages me to deliver the best we can. It’s also extremely meaningful for a such prestigious department store to be nurturing young graduates.”

In each of his collections, Ma uses voluminous, feminine silhouettes to play with what it means to be a modern woman. “I have three cousins, and grew up observing the women surrounding me,” he says. “Looking at how they dressed from an early age was probably the catalyst for me designing womenswear.”

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Playing to Ma’s design strengths of 3-D cutting and draping, Ming Ma the label plumbs the depths of his aesthetic influences, spanning photography archives to oil paintings and cinema. “Modern women are multi-faceted and versatile,” Ma says. “I really want to underscore this about contemporary women, and about how they express their femininity — an infusion of strength and elegance.” The results are indeed elegant, but even more importantly, they’re instantly recognizable — again impressive for someone with only two collections to his label’s name.

Looks from Ming Ma AW19

His standout pieces reinterpret Chinese jacquard — the embroidery method popularized in clothing like the qipao — in refreshingly contemporary ways. Think cropped bodices, swinging oversized blazers, and puffed sleeve trenchcoats. Ma’s second collection, which debuted last spring, took his ideas a step further by injecting familiar silhouettes with a jolt of color.

This blend of European technique with Chinese sensibility is something Ma believes many of his colleagues who’ve studied abroad have absorbed into their practice. “I feel China has a subtler way of expression,” he remarks.

“People have an impression of Chinese being more implicit than explicit with their artistic expression. I think that part is still within me.”

He adds however that he feels China’s new wave of fashion designers are demonstrating never-before-seen dynamism and confidence, and that has had an impact on him too.

Models backstage at Ming Ma AW19

Beyond Shanghai Fashion Week, expect to see Ming Ma this fall in Milan at a showcase for emerging Chinese designers, and then in Paris showrooms with the aim of taking the label global. Ma says he’s also collaborating with a “Japanese textile tycoon” to explore new materials in future collections.

Follow Ming Ma on Instagram.

Header image: Looks from Ming Ma AW19
All images courtesy Ming Ma

Mayura Jain
    Mayura Jain is a Shanghai-based writer, editor, illustrator and designer originally from Los Angeles. Before joining RADII as Life Editor, she worked for City Weekend Shanghai and Sixth Tone as both an editor and graphic designer. In her spare time she frequents art exhibitions, fosters cats, and chows on unhealthy vegetarian food.