Ning Yuan, founder of the luxury streetwear label Ning Dynasty, is the next to be welcomed into the Jing Daily community of individuals shaping China’s booming luxury fashion industry. These profiles highlight industry leaders who contribute to the national and global fashion communities, from creatives and influencers to business executives and entrepreneurs.
Even through Zoom, there’s an effortless swag that Ning Yuan exudes. Perhaps that comes with the title of being the young founder of an “imperial party streetwear luxury brand,” as she describes it.
Born in Guangzhou, the 28-year-old knew early on that she wanted to represent her Chinese heritage on a global stage. Growing up, Ning Yuan had heard stories of how her ancestors used to be master silk manufacturers, crafting goods fine enough for the emperors. At the same time, she had witnessed first-hand the surge of foreign brands entering the market in the ‘90s and 2000s, and questioned the stir they caused among Chinese consumers.
So, following her love of American hip-hop, she moved to the US to build the skills she would eventually need to start her own brand. After studying strategic communications and working in marketing, PR, and data strategy, she launched her eponymous label Ning Dynasty out of London last year. A nod to her global background, the brand playfully infuses streetwear staples with traditional Chinese iconography and pop culture elements.
With her first collection — consisting of Italian jersey T-shirts, hoodies, tracksuits, and silk separates — Ning Yuan presents a luxury streetwear option that celebrates the opulence of Chinese youth culture. Here, Jing Daily chats to the founder about her silk heritage, streetwear love, and why the middle of a pandemic was the “perfect time” to start a brand.
Jing Daily: How did you decide fashion was your path?
Ning Yuan: I’ve always heard stories that generationally [my family] did the Silk Road and that we procured and had a connection to the Forbidden City Palace. For me, it was really important to showcase the best thing China can make, which is silk. At that point, I was like, one, I love streetwear. Two, I love to party. And three, let’s combine it all into something luxurious. Casablanca has been a huge inspiration of mine. All the things that we’ve made came from designs from imperial motifs to have that flare. Because the streetwear market is so saturated — it’s all one color! Maybe it’s the Yeezy palette.
Or Supreme red. Tell me more about how you got into the streetwear category.
I remember when I was in the mainland, I would always have to go to Hong Kong to buy CDs. And I would always be lining up for the adidas. My dad bought me FUBU — he was the best person ever — and he always bought me limited-edition adidas. That was when I was really young, I started queuing up for all these limited-edition drops.
You were a little hypebeast.
I was a little hypebeast! Before “hypebeast” was “hypebeast,” we had that culture already in China. You want to wear things that are accessible, comfortable, and I couldn’t resonate with any of the Lanvin — the old, traditional luxury houses. When I went into Chanel, I thought, “It really looks like yarn!” I love Chanel, but I feel like I have to be someone else.
But in streetwear, it’s democratizing. I can be myself. Me in a hoodie? I feel amazing. Me in sneakers? I feel amazing. And as soon as I saw Riccardo Tisci and Givenchy stocking in Lane Crawford, I was so happy I could wear a T-shirt that is designer but is also adjustable.
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Why was 2021, the middle of a pandemic, the time to start your streetwear brand?
It was absolutely the perfect time. Number one, you have talent. You can poach talent. And you have the time on your hands to slowly do everything to your perfection. So I was working 24/7, stitching together all the production, fleshing out everything from the bomber jacket details to the [shrinkage]. And it gave me an amazing time to bond with my team.
What has been the most exciting part of the process so far?
Just to realize the vision of what I wanted to do. The silk shirts are my pride because we went again and again to make sure the quality is beautiful. One of the things I wanted to say is that the silk is from the only silk producer bearing the Forbidden City Palace seal by the committee. So, the silk is Palace verified. And we have exclusivity with them. It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek in the new way of selling a really quality product to younger people.
On that note, how would you describe your demographic?
It is the modern affluent younger generation. The people who are paying for experiences. The people who have invested in NFTs. They care about shared ownership. They care about the world. They care about silk fashion. They love music. They love finding niche brands, and they are brand fatigued.
And finally, what’s in store for Ning Dynasty?
We’re definitely going to be on more platforms such as Tmall, Little Red Book, and TikTok and just really capturing that Gen-Z youth, because you always need to have the zeitgeist. You have to make sure you allow for other people to take your products on board and make it their own vision as well.
There’s a lot to do in our [next] drop, too. It’s a more mature, more beautiful collection. We have a lot of cool silhouettes that are coming, whether it’s the jackets that are made in Puglia [Italy] that are beautiful from the old Moncler factories to more silk that tells a techno story but also has a folklore background.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.