From the runway to exhibitions, and presentations to digital, London seems like the fashion city of choice for the China invasion. This season’s London Fashion Week S/S 16 presentations saw a strong concentration of Chinese designers utilizing the event as a platform to showcase their collections as London consistently dominates Paris, Milan, and New York when it comes to the number of Chinese designers showcasing their collections.
This season, there seemed to be a greater understanding by the designers of the importance of creating an holistic presentation, no matter the format, to communicate a clear brand vision and identity. Immersive narratives born out of a singularity of vision ensured that Chinese fashion is ready to be taken seriously, and key trends included deconstructed tailoring, androgyny, and unusual fabric combinations.
Look below for the top Chinese collections we saw at London Fashion Week this season:
Haizhen Wang from Dalian presented his collection on the third day of the Shanghai Fashion Week Organizing Committee’s Style Now Shanghai campaign at the Hospital Club. Taking place on the eve of London Fashion Week, the basement runway show was perfectly placed to highlight the unique synergy between Chinese designers and the city, particularly in light of the recently signed agreement of understanding between the British Fashion Council and Shanghai Fashion Week.
Wang consistently crafts his own uniquely tailored garments, staying true to his aesthetic, from his North-London studio base. Proportions that disturb balance were at the core of this collection, which continued his leanings towards off-kilter scales and unbalancing lengths, executed in his refined color palette. Resolutely self-assured, it is clear that Wang is entirely self-sufficient and confident in his ability, directing his focus on materiality and construction.
An exercise in alterations, by exploring the tipping point of balance in design, the designer incrementally pushed the boundaries of proportions. Color, deft lines, and fabrics created space and volumes in the collection styled by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen. Always strongly concept driven, Wang continued his collaboration with the artist Sisi Lu, who goes by the moniker North of X. Together, they directed the overall look and atmosphere of the runway, which played with spaces, reverb, and echo played out to a futurist beat. The inclusion of menswear looks in plaid attested to Wang’s brand of obtuse femininity that are so easily adapted for men’s clothing.
It was all about the counterculture and aptly titled Youthquake at Angel Chen’s Fashion Scout runway show. Opening with a finale, in typical Chen style, her diversely cast group of models overtook the runway with a childish naivety. The self-styled collection again included men’s looks, and the overall spirit celebrated gender fluidity, in a spectrum of pink tones executed in often shiny PVCs.
Her new-age worriers stepped out with open shirts and low-slung trousers, loose 90s-inspired dresses with smocking detail and light parachute coats in black, pink, and green. Chen’s attention to detail was captured in the vibrant details like laced sides, ribbons, and contrasting zips, culminating in provocative knitted headwear, which seemed to contain the pulsing lifeblood of the youthful collection.
Materiality and color lie at the core of London-based Renli Su’s SS16 collection. Using fine materials like gambiered silk, sourced in Suzhou and Shanghai, and organic cotton, she produces her muted canvases of clothing with nonchalant precision. Su states that “the designs aim to complement and reflect the character of the materials.”
Pursuing her personal narrative which is based on the importance of tradition and the rejection of meaningless design, her purity of form and shape creates garments of credibility and durability. This season Su looked at tensions, and how materials directly affect each other as illustrated in delicate gathers and surprising combinations. Opening with seven cream outfits, she then introduced color, creating garments to frame and flatter the body with a natural ease. Her aesthetic ensures she stands apart from the cyclical trends of fashion forging a more responsible and considered approach to fashion.
Her immersive presentation was produced in collaboration with set-designer Georgina Low, who comes from a fine-art background. Together, they transformed the Swiss church on Endell Street as the backdrop to an atmospheric and moving presentation.
“For the Spring/Summer 16 collection, I continue to bridge and combine cultures, ideas, theories, and lifestyles. I was inspired to see what happens when you put together ancient remedies and modern art works bringing together the collection,” said Huishan Zhang, who has risen to become one of the most popular Chinese designers based in London.
Featured in the new BoF 500, Zhang continues to incorporate his heritage into his collection, producing sumptuous ensembles of modern luxury. This season, he was inspired by the remedies from Chinese medicinal herbs used in love potions, which he rendered in materials like organza, silk, ostrich, feathers, sequins, and of course his signature, lace. Choosing to present in collaboration with Moda Operandi, the platform which allows you to order directly from the catwalk, the presentation was intimate, relaxed, and client-focused. Featuring live models as well as mannequins and garments on the rail, it cemented his reputation as a red-carpet designer with intelligence.
The dramatic color palette was inspired by Ettero Sottsass, while the application across the body echoed Irish artist Sean Scully’s graphic bold stripes. The resulting collection created a collision of themes and differing version of femininity with pearl embellishment on pleats alongside blocks of wet-look red sequins—but somehow harmony reigned.
Min Wu studied fashion and textile design at the China Academy of Art, and this season was her official on-schedule debut at London Fashion Week. Slowly forging her own path, Wu showcased at the International Fashion Showcase 2014 and now opts for the more experimental digital schedule at London Fashion Week. Her film by David Richardson Adjusting/Healing is a journey of healing and recovery, but sadly made little more than a backdrop to the models among a set of white plinths, featuring test tubes, flasks, and beakers of colored liquids.
Her presentation consisted of three stories, one in stark white with multi-colored splashes, the other in denim and the last in a range of feminine pastels. All featured clean lines, A-line shapes, jacket dresses with strapping details and disturbed proportions, cut-outs, smocking looping at the neckline, cross-over straps, and side-seams.
Lo’s runway show on the final day of London Fashion Week took place in the show space at Brewer Street car park, Soho. Styled by super stylist Lucia Liu, Hong-Kong born Lo continues to feature on the New Gen platform and presents his version of light fashion, infused with a girlish sensibility. His muse is the London girl who likes to layer, varying fabrics and textures to create a fresh femininity which appeals to a particular set. Expect to see ruffles on everything next spring—especially knee-high socks.
Gemma Williams is the author of Fashion China.