London Fashion Week: Chinese Designer Highlights

London Fashion Week’s Fall/Winter 2017 presentations and runway shows saw the largest bursts yet of China’s boldest and brightest fashion designers and brands. They featured both on and off schedule, as well as in the showrooms. Below is a rundown of the Chinese designer highlights during the week, which concluded on February 26.

The opening day saw the return of London-based fashion fringe-winner Haizhen Wang. His energetic presentation played on ideas of transit—models moved boxes in repetitions, and slogans like ‘fragile’ and ‘priority’ made their mark stamped on garments and shoes. This statement, which carried through to the stickered invite, worked surprisingly well with Wang’s personal take on femininity. Oversized boxy silhouettes and utility pockets were punctuated with draped flourishes and the occasional cinched waist.

Steven Tai’s current mood of loungy procrastination was informed by sleeping sloths from the mind of an 8-year-old artist. Listless models yawned from behind nerdy glasses, wearing pillow-leg trousers and cocoon coats in muted tones. With soft, luxurious fabrics, it seems his muse is more duvet and less placard.

Taiwanese designer Angus Chiang, who is on the shortlist for the 2017 LVMH Prize, opened Fashion Scout, which remains a vital platform for Chinese talent. Chiang’s sherbet collection infused with love-heart motifs and graffiti scrawls took viewers back to the classroom. Schoolboy shorts paired with ill-fitting blazers and headbands were exercises in color and personalization.

Looks from Harry Xu at London Fashion Week. (Courtesy Photos)

Looks from Harry Xu at London Fashion Week. (Courtesy Photos)

Other highlights from Fashion Scout included Ru, winner of the Ones to Watch award for 2017, and the return of Han Wen’s elaborate ensembles. On its closing day a refined menswear collection from Harry Xu was injected with femininity through unexpected floral prints and whimsical embroidery. The resulting unconventional exploration of gender hints at promising things to come. According to Fashion Scout’s founder and creative director Martyn Roberts, the platform has been “showcasing and supporting Chinese designers longer than anyone else.”

“We launched Masha Ma, for example, and we’ve had a great selection of Chinese designers, including Xiao Li, Renli Su, Min Wu, and Momo Wang,” Roberts said.

Former Fashion Scout winner Leaf Xia presented her SS17 collection in the British Fashion Council designer showrooms. “The entire collection is available now,” she said. “I know Chinese buyers want to buy right now, and so do private individual buyers. I see this as a marketplace, an experiment to see people’s reactions to the pieces.” She chose instead to present her Fall/Winter 2017 collection at Shanghai Fashion Week this April.

Design duo Tommy Zhong’s exploration of texture included silhouette this season, and the showroom is the perfect setting to see the result in detail. Pinch pleats transform draped lines to reveal hourglass shapes and unravelled woven textiles create statement outerwear.

“Being based in the UK helps us a lot—it sets us apart in China,” the brand’s co-owner Jenny Nelson said. “London has a reputation we can use to build a brand, which is a creative business rather than purely commercial. … It is a showing place. It’s good to be in the showrooms to meet people, but there is a next step we need to take, and we hope to do a presentation here next season.”

In the Fashion East program, Asai, the new South-London based brand from Central Saint Martin’s graduate A Sai Ta, explored stereotypes, using a Chinese takeaway menu as his press release. Despite the humor, however, he is serious about material. Shredded, distressed, bleached and crocheted manipulations all featured on the runway.

The closing show from Royal College of Art graduate Xiao Li created a frosty finish to events. The Scandi-feel of the presentation was centered around what looked like white garments suspended in ice sculptures, an attempt to set-dress a rather dour showspace. Oversized chunky knitwear looks alongside gathered tailoring redesigned proportions in her signature, sculptural aesthetic.

London Fashion Week continues to trade off the positioning of London as a leading hub of creativity. “London is a great platform for new designers to build their brands and get awareness,” Roberts said. “London is the most open to new talent. … If you are looking to sell internationally, you are going to have to come here.”

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