For years, Shanghai Fashion Week’s Labelhood has highlighted young and independent Chinese designers, elevating China’s fashion scene.
The leading fashion platform, which began life as ‘Dongliang,’ was founded in 2009 as a boutique store in Beijing with a prominent focus on Chinese designers. Later, in 2015, it launched the Dongliang One Day show during Shanghai Fashion Week for the first time.
Just one year after the debut of Dongliang One Day, the session turned into a satellite event within Shanghai Fashion Week and changed its name to Labelhood.
Since then, Labelhood has helped several emerging designer brands to grow significantly, including established brand Angel Chen, founded by young designer Chen Anqi, who came to the spotlight under Labelhood’s guidance, as well as designer brands like Yirantian, Chen Peng, and Ming Ma.
Labelhood has released its promotional poster for the upcoming 12th season. Image via Labelhood
On September 24, Labelhood released this season’s lineup and theme, ‘ROMANTIC,’ and announced that the spring-summer session will be from October 9-13 at China SSC Pavilion. Below, we share five things we expect to see during the celebrated fashion showcase’s upcoming session:
When we speak of Labelhood, we think of young, fresh, and creative designers. As founder Tasha Liu once said in an interview, Labelhood gets more than 100 applications from young designers worldwide each season.
We witnessed several newcomers make their debut at Labelhood last season, including Ponder.er, Louis Shengtao Chen, fabric qorn, and Peng Tai. Among them, the model-turned-designer Chen Shengtao’s namesake brand won Shanghai Fashion Week’s best presentation award.
A look from Louis Shengtao Chen’s 2021 autumn-winter collection. Image via Weibo
We’re in for more exciting looks this season, though, with dozens of newcomers bringing fresh energy to Labelhood. Some brands will have their debut shows here in Shanghai as part of the event, including Sultry Virgin, 022397BLUFF, Nan Knits, and Linlin Chasse.
Meanwhile, some of the other brands included in this year’s event have previously hit the runway in cities worldwide: Central Saint Martins graduate Zhong Zixin’s namesake brand has taken the stage in London, Refuse Club showed in New York and London, and J. E. CAI was featured in London.
As part of an initiative by Labelhood to attract young designers, the platform launched an incubation project dubbed ‘Youtopia’ in 2019, bringing school kids — many of them still in high school — together to get a taste of the ins and outs of fashion design.
Five brands that took part in the Youtopia project presented as aspiring talents last season, including Anno Mundi, Fivekoh, Momonary, Sorgenti, and Toile. This season, the Youtopia sector will work with international brand CONVERSE and the sustainable fashion lab R.I.S.E.
Earlier this year, Labelhood and R.I.S.E initiated a competition to solicit brands to create a sustainable fashion collection — with the winning works set to debut during this season’s event. We’re excited to see these new collections from the winning young fashionistas.
Newcomers enter the scene while old friends bid farewell to the stage.
Last season, some fashion fans were disappointed after a slew of renowned brands dropped out of the fashion event’s official schedule. Vogue Business China reported that some of Labelhood’s old partners, like Susan Fang, Ximon Lee, and Shuting Qiu, decided to stage their own shows instead of appearing at the prestigious fashion week.
Susan Fang’s presentation for the 2019 spring-summer season at Labelhood in 2018. Image via Susan Fang
These days, many coming-of-age designers are more eager to present their new collections independently.
Prior to this season’s Labelhood, the womenswear brand Ming Ma hosted a pre-fashion week show on September 26, with the designer confirming this sentiment to RADII, explaining that they “want to have their own space.”
But there is some good news: Shanghai-based brand Deepmoss returns to Labelhood after its absence from the previous two seasons.
Another returnee is Labelhood’s long-time guest Shushu/Tong, founded in 2015 by design duo Liushu Lei and Yutong Jiang, who met in high school and graduated from London College of Fashion. Also, other acclaimed brands such as Private Policy, Jacques Wei, Oude Waag, and Yirantian are all set to participate in this year’s Labelhood show.
For a long time, Chinese designers have striven to redefine and reshape what is expected from the country’s design industry.
While some maintain a traditional sense of Chinese fashion by using dragon graphics and traditional motifs on garments, others, who became accustomed to international style at a young age, assert their freer and more personal voices on their designs. They do this by reflecting their own stories and backgrounds to convey a new era of Chinese fashion.
As China’s economy and the middle class have grown dramatically over the past few decades, and pride in domestic brands has also risen, Chinese designer brands are going bigger, with many deciding to stay in touch with their Chinese heritage.
Last season, nearly 20% of the designer brands on show emphasized Chinese traditional culture in their designs. This season, the trend looks set to continue, with brands like DONSEE 10 and Shushu/Tong on display, each of which tends to focus on Chinese culture.
A pop-up collection from Leslie Zhang and Yirantian’s collaboration was released in July at Labelhood. Image via Weibo
Besides designers’ passion for celebrating Chinese culture and aesthetics, Labelhood will introduce a new project called ‘Romance of China’ at the beginning of their new season. The project is a unique crossover fashion collection in collaboration with Chinese photographer Leslie Zhang and four brands, Yueqi Qi, Yirantian, Shushu/Tong, and Nomanoman.
While homegrown brands have been buoyed by an increasing sense of patriotism throughout 2021, brought on by the Xinjiang cotton boycott and the Henan flood crisis, we are eager to see more brands embrace the ‘China Cool’ movement but also rethink it.
Sustainable fashion has been a global phenomenon for quite some time, but in China, the idea of integrating sustainability into designs is increasingly popular.
Shaway Yeh, the founder of sustainability consulting agency Yehyehyeh and special advisor to Copenhagen Fashion Summit, is one of the pioneers of this type of fashion. Yeh brought her self-founded forum to Shanghai Fashion Week in 2017, with her aim to create conversation and raise awareness of sustainability in fashion in China.
Yeh’s Shan Future Forum will again join this year’s Shanghai Fashion Week from October 12 to 13, with a theme of preserving biodiversity and respecting social diversity.
In China, sustainable fashion only became a trending topic after the pandemic outbreak in 2019. Earlier this year, Shanghai Fashion Week highlighted ‘green fashion’ as a key focus for the first time when its trade show Mode Shanghai launched a sustainability-focused exhibition titled ‘Fashion in Circulation.’
In addition, several designers have been using green fashion in their designs, shows, and exhibitions, including Susan Fang, Shuting Qiu, PH5, and Shie Lyu, as reported by Jing Daily.
Shie Lyu at Labelhood’s last season. Photo by Siyuan Meng
Compared to their international counterparts, however, Chinese fashion designers have a lot of ground to make up, as argued by local Chinese fashion media outlet Lady Max.
For the upcoming 2022 spring-summer season, we can expect to see sustainability-focused brands like Beijing-based DONSEE 10, which Yu Prize celebrated in the spring for its sustainable approach to fashion design. Another brand, Shie Lyu, has used recycled materials to complete almost 60 percent of its collection.
Catwalk fashion shows that last for 10 or 15 minutes still dominate the fashion week. These shows are considered the grand finale of a creative fashion collection and showcase a designer’s vision and a brand’s heritage.
However, traditional fashion shows face challenges, with innovative brands turning their attention from the runway to technology, incorporating digital elements into their promotions. For example, the luxury brand Balenciaga launched a video game alongside its 2021 fall collection.
Last year, Shanghai Fashion Week embraced digital technology amid the coronavirus outbreak, launching entertaining forms of teleshopping, livestreaming shows, short films, and online chat shows. Still, the pandemic seemingly forced these additions on organizers.
A livestream fashion show that applies AR technology. Image via OurCity
The fashion week’s bold online experiment was done in partnership with Alibaba’s online shopping platform Tmall. It provided valuable lessons for future events, as the brands featured during Shanghai Fashion Week were not targeting a mass market — which is what Tmall is all about — and the event’s innovations failed to convert viewers into customers.
What we want and expect from this upcoming fashion week is an event that breaks the boundaries between virtual reality and reality, offering the audience more sensual and emotional possibilities and experiences.
Cover image via Wang Junjie
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