Over a month since China announced its reopening, London Fashion week (LFW) Fall 2023 arrived at a moment of growing national optimism. The record-breaking turnout of 16-plus Chinese designers on the five-day schedule reflected that mood, with the event running from February 16 to tomorrow.
Some of the most-talked-about moments so far have been courtesy of local names, including South London’s Vietnamese-Chinese talent Asai making his comeback after four years — the Central Saint Martins-trained designer is renowned for making patchwork, 3D-bordered tops a cult trend, a design later imitated by just about every fast-fashion retailer.
Ireland-born, Hong Kong-heritage Simone Rocha, one of the most established names on the schedule, served up her trademark mountains of frilled femininity. The brand invited six artists — Ana Projects, Christopher Lawson, Daniel David Freeman, Edward Quarmby, Oscar Torrans, and Toby Evans — to reimagine its logo for the collection, reflecting a “play on identity.”
Eight years on from launching her eponymous label, Feng Chen Wang presented her first London pop-up, located in the city’s Regent Street retail center. The opening night’s list of attendees showed that her bamboo bags have become a firm trademark. As well as industry guests, the event was attended by a few devoted young collectors who have been fans since her label’s debut in 2015.
The season demonstrated the longevity of independent Chinese talent. Joining the aforementioned designers as firm mainstays were the likes of Susan Fang, Chet Lo, and Yuhan Wang.
Fall 2023 saw new additions, too, such as the young cashmere brand out of Shenzhen, Chau Rising, and boundary-pushing BDSM-inspired Untitlab from Shanghai, both supported by communications agency The Lobby.
“This season has represented a real bouncing back of Chinese brands ready to show the industry they’re here and open for business,” The Lobby founder Ashley Smith tells Jing Daily.
Smith explains that independent names must have a long-term plan if they are to truly boost their brand on LFW’s valuable platform. Successful examples include Huishan Zhang, and new era leaders like Feng Chen Wang, Susan Fang and Yuhan Wang, who are all now strongly associated with the UK’s capital.
“The interest in brands from China participating in the official LFW schedule continues to increase, but there remains a degree of prioritization for locally based brands across the wider industry,” Smith explains. “Naturally this is, in large part, linked to brands which have an established community and network in the city which they can draw on to build noise around their shows.
“The key, therefore, for overseas brands showcasing in London is to commit to the city and the schedule in the long-term in order to put down roots and begin to build a community and network of their own.”
LFW might not hold the weight of Paris, but its multicultural community spirit means that it can nurture the reputation of diverse talent like no other city. It’s the ultimate location for Chinese designers to lift off into the global fashion industry.