Chinese Creativity: Who Are The Emerging Designers?

Jing Daily Picks Some Of China’s Top Designers

Beijing designer Vega Wang (Image: Sina)

Beijing designer Vega Wang (Image: Sina)

Last month, Reuters quoted fashion executives and designers as saying that Chinese designers “will drive catwalk trends more than deep-pocketed Asian buyers as China’s creativity becomes fashions’ next big thing.” While China’s money has been an economic driver, and Chinese design cues have been picked up by some designers, the next part of fashion’s eastward tilt may be the rise of Chinese creativity.

As designer and retailer Elio Fiorucci told Reuters, “the next big issue for fashion is not China’s economic boom but Chinese creativity,” adding that while the Western world knows little about China’s aesthetic sensibility, China’s emerging designers may surprise us, since they have the talent and a deep knowledge of the Western fashion world. Gianluca Brozetti, Chief Executive of Roberto Cavalli, qualified these sentiments by saying that while the culture and creativity of Chinese designers will certainly be appreciated in the West, it will take time to make a major impact due to the lack of economic power.

Editor, blogger, journalist and media figure Hong Huang believes that China’s fashion climate needs additional confidence, since Hong sees the fact that the Chinese market constantly looks for Western confirmation before being ready to buy. With Shanghai Fashion Week about to kick off, and Beijing Fashion Week just around the corner, Jing Daily is looking forward to the newest collections by some of the top emerging designers in China. Some we’re watching closely:


La Vie
Designer Jenny Ji is a very strong proponent of “East meets West,” with modern collections that draw on cultural cues; For example, her 2010 “Blue Tiger Porcelain” collection, which took inspiration from Chinese porcelain. The classic style of “Old Shanghai” is a key element of all of her designs and a style guide that Jenny Ji constantly re-invents.

Shanghaiist described her as a “soft-handed Vivienne Tam” and with a focus on being an ethical and eco-friendly designer, Jenny Ji is looking towards the future.

A look from Jenny Ji's October runway show (Photo Courtesy of Shanghaiist)

A look from Jenny Ji’s October runway show (Photo Courtesy of Shanghaiist)

Uma Wang
While Jenny Ji looks back at the style of Old Shanghai, designer Uma Wang is inspired more by “international vintage,” with a particular interest in materials, shapes and fabrics.Rather than mining China’s cultural history in her deconstructed, edgy collections, Uma Wang’s designs seems to reference the more avant-garde style pioneered by Comme des Garçons and others.

Recently profiled by Vogue Italia, Uma Wang proves to have more of an international profile and appeal than many of her contemporaries.

A look from Uma Wang's Fall Winter 2010 Collection (Photo Courtesy of Uma Wang)

A look from Uma Wang’s Fall Winter 2010 Collection (Photo Courtesy of Uma Wang)

Qiu Hao
Qiu Hao is another designer who doesn’t take Chinese references literally, instead choosing to underline his designs with a subtle Chinese design philosophy.

A Woolmark Prize winner (previous winners include Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent), Qiu Hao presents Chinese individuality in his collections, most of which feature his signature knots and fluid draping.

A look from Qiu Hao's Fall Winter 2010 Collection

A look from Qiu Hao’s Fall Winter 2010 Collection

While many of the designers on this list were educated overseas at institutions like Central Saint Martin’s in London, designer Zhang Na is a truly home-grown product of the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts.

Zhang’s personal brand, Na(too), regularly creates wearable yet quirky designs, which explore the connections between people, fashion and the environment though unique cutting and use of fabric.

An image from the Na(too) Fall Winter 2010 lookbook

An image from the Na(too) Fall Winter 2010 lookbook


Vega Zaishi Wang
Naming designers Yohji Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester as influences, Vega Zaishi Wang creates design concepts for each of her collections, the latest being a “Cape” series, with each look individualized with personal touches like irregular hand-stitching. As Wang recently said, her latest series is designed “to encourage Chinese girls to become stronger, more confident, and independent,” and we hope that her future collections express equally strong viewpoints.

Vega Zaishi Wang

Vega Zaishi Wang design

Xander Zhou
Menswear designer Xander Zhou has become a designer-personality in his own right, something of a poster boy for the emerging Chinese designer. Upon the invitation of Hong Huang, Zhou has been a guest editor for iLook magazine, and has been interviewed for Britain’s Dazed Digital, reiterating in each his position as a designer who puts nationality on the back burner. At the same time, Xander Zhou’s career trajectory goes to show that China presents unique opportunities for young designers.

Xander Zhou's First Menswear Collection in 2007

Xander Zhou’s First Menswear Collection in 2007

Zhang Chi
Avant-garde menswear designer Zhang Chi is known for his meticulous tailoring and close attention to detail. His last collection was “revolution-inspired,” with designs interpreting the concept of “liberation through manual labor,” according to Yitrends. While his collections may be too edgy for most, Zhang Chi has gained a loyal following, with his creations available in the UK, Japan, and, of course, China.

Zhang Chi's Fall Winter 2010 Ad Campaign (Photo Courtesy of Zhang Chi)

Zhang Chi’s Fall Winter 2010 Ad Campaign (Photo Courtesy of Zhang Chi)

Lu Liu
Lu Liu is a womenswear designer who looks to highlight a Chinese sense of beauty, with a stated desire to dress the modern and cosmopolitan Chinese woman. Having had previous experience as a stylist in New York, Lu Liu has unique insight in what fashion is in New York as well as what it is in China, where she now designs and runs a boutique.

Lu Liu in her Beijing boutique (Photo: LumDimSum)

Lu Liu in her Beijing boutique (Photo: LumDimSum)

Jing Daily has kept an eye on NE-Tiger for some time now, as the brand has made an impact at China’s fashion shows and its iconoclastic founder Zhang Zhifeng has become an outspoken advocate for domestic Chinese luxury brands. Zhang now heads one of the fastest-growing fashion houses in China and is known for his haute couture collections, as well as his elaborate evening gowns imbued with Chinese design elements.

NE-TIGER's designs are imbued with Chinese design and cultural elements

NE-TIGER’s designs are imbued with Chinese design and cultural elements

Hong Kong

Barney Cheng
Barney Cheng is hailed as “Hong Kong’s biggest designer,” with a glam aesthetic that draws many local celebrities and socialites. His Hong Kong-based atelier, Yenrabi, produces couture, daywear and evening wear.

Barney Cheng's Spring 2011 collection (Photo: ButterBoom)

Barney Cheng’s Spring 2011 collection (Photo: ButterBoom)

Alex Wang
Not to be confused with New York’s Alexander Wang, Hong Kong designer Alex Wang’s creations echo the extravagance of his peer Barney Cheng.  Employing intricate beading and embroidery, Wang’s designs are a regular sight at red carpet events.



Chinese designers seem to be split into a few movements, informed by a handful of emerging trends. The first, which encompasses designers like Zhang Zhifeng of NE-Tiger and Jenny Ji of La Vie fall into the “East meets West” trend, following older fashion houses like Shanghai Tang or, to a lesser extent, JNBY.

Another trend is the Beijing-Shanghai split. While Shanghai fashion designers seem to prefer the deconstructed, with a particular focus on draping and quirky shapes, Beijing designers agonize over careful tailoring and severe colors. With China’s Fashion Weeks coming up and Chinese creativity now firmly in the spotlight, Chinese designers now have a platform from which to prove themselves to the international fashion world and broadcast their often uncelebrated talent.


Fashion, Market Analysis