For a brand that works out of a small studio at base of a mountain in China, ffiXXed Studios has little trouble attracting international attention. Australian founders Fiona Lau and Kain Picken drew a highly anticipatory crowd of fans, media, and buyers from across the globe at their Autumn/Winter 16 presentation for Shanghai Fashion Week at its new satellite project, Labelhood. Some had already caught wind of what the pair had to offer since they presented at Paris Fashion Week under a sponsorship by Fashion Farm Foundation. The delivery: a ready-to-wear collection featuring oversized knit coats in neutral tones, printed with scenes from the home, layered with wrap skirts and shawls, and loose-fitting turtlenecks and pants. Fabrics were used interchangeably and fluidly between men’s and women’s looks, all evoking a sense of effortlessness, comfort, and versatility.
FfiXXed started out in 2008 in Berlin as a collaborative and fashion project that revolved around unisex collections. After working in New York and Hong Kong, they decided in 2010 to move their work closer to the manufacturing process and create a studio in Shenzhen, China’s garment-making hub. Later, they transferred to the base of Shenzhen’s Wutong Mountain, where they now maintain a work and living space with their small team. Since then, ffiXXed Studios has evolved into two separate womenswear and menswear collections that have garnered attention in Asia and won numerous accolades, including the Asian edition of the Woolmark Prize for womenswear as a Hong Kong designer in 2014 and the Yoox.com Asian Sustainable Fashion Award in 2015.
While they have been operating out of China, the interest in their label from Chinese consumers didn’t come right away. They started selling their unisex collection in Triple Major, one of the country’s pioneering niche multi-brand concept stores, but most of their following was coming from outside of China. But with the growth of independent designers and a trend towards unique self-expression, ffiXXed’s local fans are multiplying. Jing Daily caught up with Picken and Lau, who replied together by email in the midst of a whirlwind schedule in the build-up to creating a new collection and the aftermath of Shanghai Fashion Week, to find out what’s next for the pair.
What have you been up to since Shanghai Fashion Week?
Directly after Shanghai, we went to Hangzhou where our agent, Coda showroom, have their headquarters. They’ve recently set up a new sample room for designers, so we worked there for a couple of weeks developing our Lane Crawford exclusive collection. After that, we took a short break in Korea and then traveled to Tokyo to do some fabric sourcing and for some meetings.
The head of Tokyo Fashion Week came to your Shanghai Fashion Week show—what does that mean to you?
It’s really great that people are traveling to Shanghai to really see what’s happening, and we feel really fortunate that someone like the head of Tokyo Fashion Week was able come and see our show.
What roles do you each have in your brand and in the process of creating collections?
We work collaboratively to develop the collections. Usually, we will start working on ideas independently before bringing them together. Then we begin a process of reworking, reinterpreting and editing each others ideas, so there is an ongoing dialogue that is at the core of how we create each season.
How have Chinese consumers reacted to your products? Has your target market been more aimed at China or is it more global?
The reaction in China has been really positive. Until recently, we only ever sold at Triple Major in China, but as the tastes and interests of Chinese consumers are developing, we have found an audience here. We have always worked with an idea of international appeal, so we’re not directing the collections towards any one market, but we do work closely with our sales agents in Tokyo and in China to understand how we fit into the market.
What are your future plans for the China market? Do you hope to be in more stores or are you mainly looking outside China?
Because China is a relatively new market, we are taking it slowly (well, as slow as things can get in China) and letting things develop organically. Although there are more and more new and interesting shops popping up all the time for us, there are still only a few that have a really strong point of view. So we are not specifically focusing on expanding our shop list in China, but it is a very important part of our market. We are always thinking within a global context and looking for stores that share our aesthetic and vision.
What are important factors in building a brand in China?
I think it’s really about a developing a balance between harnessing what China has to offer in terms of manufacturing resources together with the creative energy here, but still maintaining a more international outlook.
FfiXXed is often referenced in articles about “made in China” design and how it’s changing China’s role in the global fashion scene. What does it mean to you to be a part of this?
We’re really happy to play in some part of the China scene. It’s very fresh and new and optimistic. It’s really exciting and energizing to be part of what happening here, and we feel really fortunate to be part of a really interesting and pivotal time.
Do you have stockists you hope to work with in the near future?
For Autumn/Winter 16 we will work with Opening Ceremony, so that is a really important one for us!