Anna Yang, founder of Annakiki — Milan Fashion Week’s “Chinese label of the moment” — is the next creative to be welcomed into the Jing Daily community of individuals shaping China’s booming luxury fashion industry. These profiles highlight industry leaders who contribute to the national and global fashion communities, from creatives and influencers to business executives and entrepreneurs.
In 2017, Chinese designer Anna Yang landed at Milan Fashion Week with her quirky and futuristic Gen-Z label, Annakiki. Her out-of-this-world designs broke through the Italian fashion capital’s codes dictated by the luxury behemoths. She has since showcased her collection 12 times on the official Milan Fashion Week schedule and gained recognition from Camera Della Moda as the “Chinese label of the moment.”
Throughout the years, Yang has stood at the forefront of the industry. She is the first fashion designer to present an AI-powered collection and, earlier this year, took Chinese social media by storm as the first domestic line to feature NFTs in its collection: dressing celebrities like singer Jike Junyi and many other KOLs.
During the Spring 23 season, the Shenzhen-based house delved further into the virtual space and created five new NFT-based looks.
Characterized by the brand’s three-dimensional tailoring, the virtual outfits were marked by the use of an animated shadow and light effect. It proved a hit: consumers quickly snapped up the digital collectibles sold across Opensea and other platforms.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the designer was unable to travel to Milan — but Yang managed to host an impressive show nonetheless. Jing Daily caught up with the homegrown talent over a Zoom call. Sporting electric red hair against a panoramic view of Shenzhen’s futuristic skyscrapers, Yang spoke about her brand’s growth, its foray into the world of NFTs, and her excitement for upcoming projects.
Please share your journey with us. What inspired you to start your own independent label?
I was actually born into a family of tailors. The environment I grew up in influenced my hobbies and dreams. As a child, I observed tailors sewing delightful clothes for clients. Although the customers who came to our store had very different styles, they all had happy faces when they saw their designs come to life. I started designing my own clothes when I was eight, slowly drawing closer to my dream. The year 2017 marked one of the most important milestones of my life: I was invited to the official schedule of Milan Fashion Week for the first time.
What does it mean to you to host a runway show in Milan, the Italian fashion capital?
It was a great recognition to be invited to the official schedule of Milan Fashion Week. This is where the established players gather. For me, it’s also a great honor to represent my country and show the world our Chinese designs in a fashion capital like Milan. Our main aim is to keep breaking boundaries, transmit the spirit behind our brand, and bring Chinese culture to the global stage.
Do you worry about being overshadowed by established luxury houses at the event?
Milan Fashion Week is one of the most well-known fashion weeks in the world. It is a platform that global brands look up to. But it has been a decade since I founded Annakiki in 2012: we have grown from a small independent designer brand throughout these years and formed our own stable development model. This year is the 12th time we have shown as part of the Milan Fashion Week official schedule — proof that Milan is a very suitable platform for us. And Camera Della Moda has provided precious advice and opportunities during these six years of cooperation.
As you sell to both a local and global audience, what are the main differences between the two clientele?
The main difference is that European and American shoppers are more open to accepting innovative and bold designs, while domestic customers prefer functional styles. But we see this gap gradually narrowing as China’s fashion landscape develops.
Are western shoppers ready to embrace Chinese luxury and Chinese independent designers?
Yes, Annakiki’s overseas sales are growing year by year. Most of the orders are from customers in Europe and the US. Of these, there are only a few that are overseas Chinese students. The brand has also attracted the attention of western media, celebrities, and influencers.
You are the first independent Chinese fashion brand to include NFTs in your collection, causing a stir across Chinese social media platforms. What is your NFT strategy? Why is it important for you?
The brand DNA of Annakiki is closely related to future technologies. In 2019, we cooperated with Huawei and created the first AI-powered capsule collection and for Fall 22, we released an NFT series. All these initiatives are part of our exploration of the integration of technology into fashion. We hope to stand at the forefront of this field and explore more possibilities.
Do you see any drawbacks in NFTs?
Virtual collections have high customization and personalization features, but their presentation relies intensely on social media platforms. Compared with the circulation and collectibility of traditional art, people still require time to get acquainted with it.
Would you like to share any current and forthcoming projects with us?
After Milan Fashion Week Spring 23, we released a new NFT series. The virtual clothing pieces have been upgraded; they are no longer static but offer a dynamic animated light and shadow effect. We also cooperated with Japanese virtual idol Imma and received tremendously positive social media responses.
In October 2022, we partnered with Bytedance’s virtual fashion and creative app Pheagee to launch two more affordable digital clothes suitable for daily wear so as to offer them to a broader customer base.