Apparel is a $300 billion industry in China and growing.
But it’s not just China’s blossoming middle-class, or the nouveau riche’s demand for haute couture and luxury goods driving this market. Chinese fashion designers are making their mark around the world too.
The red carpet at last week’s Met Ball, tied to the new costume exhibition “China: Through the Looking Glass,” saw many chic, Chinese-designed gowns among the predictable Versace and Valentino.
Rihanna stole the show and #broketheInternet with her fur-trimmed yellow satin gown by Chinese-born designer Guo Pei. Chinese pop icon Fan Bingbing (also seen in last year’s “X-Men” film) went with a Christopher Bu-designed gold sequined dress and elaborately embellished green floor-length cape.
But the buzz around Chinese designers and how they are pushingfashion in new and exciting directions started long before the Met Ball. Angelica Cheung, editor-in-chief of Vogue China, explained recently in the New York Times that she struggled to find local designers to fill her magazine’s pages when it launched in 2005. But that has all changed. Today, China is at the cutting edge, Cheung says. “There is a really interesting feeling of these designers working with a blank slate, and [being] much more willing to take risks with their designs.”
These risks have earned big rewards for the most forward-thinking of the bunch. Yiqinq Yin — who was born in China, but is based in Paris — won the fashion designer of the year award at last year’s Globes de Cristal in France and was recently named artistic director of Léonard. Designer Ban Xiaoxue won the Asia Final of the 2012 International Woolmark Award and started his own label in Guangzhou to create his dreamy experimental pieces.
Social media is also playing a major role in bringing Chinese designers to an international audience. Gogoboi, the pen name of style blogger Ye Si, has become a powerhouse on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media site, and Instagram. Chinese stylist turned designer Christopher Bu has specifically credited blogs and social media as the major contributors in building awareness of his new label. Similarly, Qiaoran Huang and Josh Hupper, the owners of the feminist streetwear label Babyghost (who split their time between Shanghai and New York) attribute their burgeoning success to regular blogging and Instagram. They’ve shown at the last two seasons of New York Fashion Week.
To Andrew Bolton, who curated the Met’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibit, technology is also taking a bigger role in how fashions are created. And China is the epicenter of fashiontech. “Chinese designers are well-placed to take advantage of this,” he said. They well be “opening up the market and the parameters of fashion.”
-Brad Grossman, The Zeitguide