Chinese fashionistas are making room in their wardrobes for high-end designers based close to home, fueling the progress of local talents like Beijing-based Vega Zaishi Wang in the domestic market. The womenswear designer, who just debuted her 11th season, has made her collections available across 27 boutiques in more than 15 cities across China. Three of those stores are her own. This year, her expansion continues with her first shop planned for Shanghai.
Wang is practically a household name in China’s indie style scene. The Central Saint Martins grad moved to Xiamen to create her first collection in 2008 before heading to Beijing in 2009 to start establishing her studio. Her work gained traction there, turning heads in 2012 when she collaborated with Zhang Shouwang of Chinese indie band Carsick Cars to create an eclectic collection of electroluminescent dresses for Vice China‘s The Creators Project.
Since then, her pieces have become more wearable and refined, and her collections have spread throughout the retail scene, including in big-name luxury department stores like Galeries Lafayette in Beijing. Then, last season, she caught a big break when Opening Ceremony saw her Spring/Summer 2016 collection at her show at Fashion Now, a China Fashion Week satellite event, in Beijing and decided to include her designs for their Year of China showcase. On Friday, after her Autumn/Winter 2016 show at Fashion Now, the designer revealed plans to potentially do a collaboration with Lane Crawford, and expressed the desire to soon take her show overseas, with sights set on London.
China is saturated with designers that have blown up after just a handful of seasons on the ground. But Wang, who dove straight into creating her first collection without much real-world working experience with established international fashion houses, said that she is foremost focused on building a brand.
“In China, the big problem is that we don’t really have long-term thinking,” she said. “People don’t care about the process. They only want the result. I want to have a long-term plan. I want to have a brand. A brand is like a teapot—you need to take the time to let it steep.”
This attitude has seemed to pay off for the string of emerging Chinese designers who also debuted their Autumn/Winter 2016 collections as part of Fashion Now, which kicked off Friday shortly after the conclusion of Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week in Beijing. Fashion Now, founded in 2013 by former Vogue China editors Sherry Ma and Yilan Jiang, has set itself apart from the main China Fashion Week events, whose highlight was London-based designer Mary Katrantzou, sandwiched between a string of outlandish and unusual catwalk performances.
For Ma and Jiang, though, the goal has always been composing a highly curated selection of homespun talent who have spent a significant amount of time building their brand. “We are focused on good designers who consistently have their collections at a certain level,” Ma said. “Most of them started out at least five or six years ago.”
On the roster for the two-day event in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone was Italian-educated, Guangzhou-based Rico Manchit Au of Ricostru, M Essential, whose spring collection also was picked up by Opening Ceremony, Vmajor, a 2015 Woolmark prize finalist, newcomer Annakiki, and Evening.
Wang, a devotee of menswear and whose fourth season at Fashion Now was inspired by a viral video she saw about the dapperly dressed sapeurs of the Congo, said Fashion Now offers a chance to work in a collaborative fashion environment where “everybody is open” and has “a lot of patience,” and echoed the other designers’ praise for Fashion Now’s highly-skilled team. “I love to work with people who have passion in their professions,” she said after the show.