Designer Yang Li Heats Up the Global Film Series China Wave

By now, it’s no secret that young Chinese designers are getting international attention. Thanks to events like Tmall China Day at New York Fashion Week and the JD.com-backed runway shows in London, both emerging and established names in the China fashion scene have been the subject of well-attended catwalks and have their fashions have even been featured in major department stores. The latest initiative by global video channel Nowness takes this a step further, highlighting a new breed of creative talent from China’s millennials and Gen-Z’s that’s setting the stage for the market’s youth culture and entertainment.

“In China — and across the world — a new generation of Chinese creative talent is emerging from the underground and onto the global stage,” says Bunny Kinney, the creative director of Nowness in a statement. “Progressive, transgressive, equal parts punk and avant-garde, these young, multidisciplinary artists and filmmakers blend past and future, tradition and technology, to tell stories that conjure a new kind of present, so wholly their own. This is the China Wave.”

China Wave is a month-long film series by Nowness, “profiling a new era of Chinese creative expression that is rewriting the rules on conventional art, filmmaking, music and performance.” Nowness first alluded to creating China-focused content in 2017, when Modern Dazed, a joint venture between Modern Media and Dazed Media, took a majority stake in the multimedia platform and named K11 founder Adrian Cheng its creative advisor and vice chairman.

The series spotlights China’s “rising stars and underground icons” both in mainland China and abroad, including filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang, directors Roni Shao from Shanghai and Xinyuan Zheng Lu of Hangzhou, Shenyang-born photographer Luo Yang, Beijing-born artist Tian Xiaolei, video artist Cheng Ran from Inner Mongolia, and more.

The latest installment of the series features London-based Chinese fashion designer Yang Li, who curates a series of films, “Notes from the Underground,” showcasing the figureheads in China’s underground creative scene that have inspired the latest generation of Chinese youth. Yang Li himself could be said to be among the first of the young dreamers who sparked a boom in “Made in China” fashion talent. When he started his own line in London in 2010, he was just 22 years old.

Nine years later, and Yang Li is releasing his Spring/Summer 2020 menswear collection, titled “Greatest Hits” to showcase some of his best pieces so far, coupled with collaborations from the underground and noise music scene. Li has come a long way since the Beijing-born, Australian educated talent interned with the likes of Gareth Pugh and Raf Simmons, and so have his fellow millennial and Gen Z creatives.

“China has leaped from an agricultural country to an economic powerhouse in 30 years, and this transition has produced a unique, multilayered creative ecosystem,” Li said in a press statement on his film series. “This trilogy shines a light on the powerful forms of self-expression and untold subcultures that are present today.”

It’s likely consumers both in China and around the globe will see more where this came from. Earlier this year, Dazed Media, the independent publication known for its coverage of music, culture, and now beauty, announced it would launch Dazed China later this summer, with plans for fresh content focusing on the movers and shakers in China’s art, fashion, and culture scenes. Also returning is The Face magazine, the iconic British fashion and culture magazine that saw its heyday in the ’80s an ’90s. Although it won’t be launching in the China market, the iconic publication named Chinese-Australian photographer Margaret Zhang its Asia creative director. So far, the online magazine has profiled Shanghai’s it-club for the city’s most style-conscious, 44KW, founded by fashion photographer Charles Guo; as well as New York-based designer Sandy Liang.

And this is just the start. Which other rising Chinese start will be soon making headlines? It’s unarguable that the global culture media responsible for keeping tabs on the likes of Lil Nas X and Love Island will also continue to keep an eye on China — for what’s new, what’s next.

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