Fashion Industry “Waiting For China’s Karl Lagerfeld”

Fashion Insiders Foresee Chinese Designers Influencing Global Trends In Coming Years

Shanghai Tang has gone global, but its designs have yet to make a splash in Western markets

Shanghai Tang has gone global, but its designs have yet to make a splash in Western markets

We’ve covered the gradual appearance of Chinese design cues in recent collections by top Western fashion and luxury houses, but what’s the status of China’s home-grown designers? When will we see them on the global stage?

Though top fashion schools in New York and London are churning out design graduates in ever-greater numbers, and Chinese fashion brands like Shanghai Tang and JNBY are expanding into more international markets, as Jill Spalding of Vogue Living told Forbes editor Russell Flannery in an interview last week in Shanghai, the fashion world is still waiting for “China’s Karl Lagerfeld” to emerge and take Chinese fashion global.

From the interview (emphasis ours):

Q. What strikes you [in China] about fashion and the fashion industry?

A. With regard to fashion, it’s so interesting because in America we look to the streets for fashion. In fact, even the French designers come to America to look to the streets for fashion, so of course what I was doing was to look to the streets for fashion. I think the American idea of China is of uniforms — that all of them will be in t-shirts.

But not at all! I’ve been looking at the streets and the farmers, such as in Xian, and everybody is different. We went to a Muslim market, and anybody could have been in Vogue. The way they put their scarves together with skirts with maybe a piece of cloth around one arm… I was blown away actually by the fashion.

Of course, one goes to the gallerias. You see labels, labels. But that didn’t interest me as much as what I saw on the streets. I think there is going to be something coming from Chinese people fashion-wise very soon. It’s going to be very interesting.

Q. Do you see much potential for American fashion designers to expand their business in China?

A. No question. It’s just beginning. What I am hoping to see is that American designers will not bring over the only the image of high label, which is a little rigid. I’d like to see more of the younger American designers coming over with their ideas — very free free fashion like we see in small boutiques in New York. Unfortunately, I think what’s being sent to China is a little boring. We have seen it before. There’s not much imagination.

Q. Do you see any influence yet from China in U.S. fashion?

A. Honestly, not yet. I think it’s only a year or two away. It’d be good to have a Chinese fashion brand and a designer – a sort of Chinese Karl Lagerfeld — because that would suddenly take off and be hip and hot. And everybody would want it. And then we will see a lot of imitators and it would go into the general fashion across the nation. I think it’s a few years away — not very many years away – two, three, maybe four on the outside.


Fashion, Market Analysis