The Chinese designers making waves at Milan Fashion Week

    Jing Daily spotlights four Chinese designers — Hui, Annakiki, Sara Wong, and Jarel Zhang — who showcased this season in Milan.
    Image: Weibo
      Published   in Fashion

    This season, four Chinese designers made their mark at Milan Fashion Week, showcasing their unique creativity and style: Hui, founded by designer Zhao Huizhou, Annakiki by Anna Yang, Sara Wong by Wang Siyuan, and Jarel Zhang by Zhang Chenxuan.

    Shenzhen-based Hui curated and hosted an engaging offline fashion show, while Annakiki opted for a digital presentation. Sara Wong and Jarel Zhang, on the other hand, unveiled their collections in a presentation setting.

    Amid Milan Fashion Week's usual focus on major luxury players like Prada, Bottega Veneta, and Gucci, these emerging Chinese talents brought a fresh perspective to the forefront. Often overshadowed by larger brands, smaller designers struggle to capture the attention of media and attendees in Italy’s fashion capital.

    In contrast, London Fashion Week serves as a breeding ground for emerging talents, where scouting for new and original designs takes precedence. But as these four designers show, there’s also an opportunity to shine in Milan.


    Hui showcasing at Milan Fashion Week Fall Winter 24/25. Image: Hui's Weibo
    Hui showcasing at Milan Fashion Week Fall Winter 24/25. Image: Hui's Weibo

    Established in 2016, Zhao Huizhou, the visionary behind the Chinese label Hui, stands as a trailblazer in the dedicated pursuit of preserving and promoting Chinese intangible cultural heritage and craftsmanship. Additionally, Zhao contributes to enhancing the well-being of ethnic minorities and rural communities grappling with extreme poverty.

    A familiar presence at Milan Fashion Week, this is the 14th time Hui has been on schedule. This season, Hui artfully blends China's ethnic and cultural traditions, showcasing a fusion of techniques to craft a cosmopolitan and sophisticated image reflecting the modern Chinese woman. These women, well-versed in global experiences through education, work, and travel, possess profound knowledge of cutting-edge technologies. The collection, named Testa Alta Gao Ji (Testa Alta高·髻), conveys the message “hold your head high” to women.

    Despite having modest followings of 7,037 on Weibo and 8,100 on Instagram, Hui has garnered increased attention, aligning with the growing importance of national pride as a determinant of consumer choices. Homegrown brands that celebrate Chinese culture and craftsmanship are finding favor among consumers and influencers alike. Notably, the brand has been worn by local singer Zhou Shen, and the designer's presence on the reality show Surprise Knock on the Door further amplifies the brand's visibility.


    Jarel Zhang Fall Winter 24/25 presentation at Milan Fashion Week
    Jarel Zhang Fall Winter 24/25 presentation at Milan Fashion Week

    Zhang Chenxuan, also known as Jarel, the founder of Jarel Zhang, boasts an impressive educational background. Having graduated from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2015, Zhang established his eponymous brand and officially unveiled his collection at New York Fashion Week in 2017.

    His accomplishments continued in 2018 when he earned a coveted spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list. In 2019, Jarel Zhang achieved another milestone by securing a place on the official schedule at Paris Fashion Week, becoming the fifth Chinese designer in history to consistently showcase collections at this prestigious event. For Fall Winter 23/24 collection, Stockholm fashion label Toteme tapped Jarel Zhang to co-create a collection.

    Zhang is dedicated to exploring the possibilities of fashion by pushing the boundaries of clothing functionality and unleashing his creative designs. For the Fall-Winter 24/25 season, Zhang picked the Circolo Filologico Milanese as the backdrop for his latest collection, seamlessly blending the worlds of fashion and dance on the runway. Drawing inspiration from the universe and the TC3 asteroid impact on Earth in 2008, the collection embodies timelessness. Zhang skillfully combines textures, shapes, and colors, introducing new silhouettes while repurposing elements from the Fall-Winter 23 collection.

    For Zhang, showcasing his designs in various cities is paramount, reflecting his belief that fashion transcends borders. He remains committed to his mission of merging Chinese and Western aesthetics.


    Annakiki's Fall Winter 24/25 Milan Fashion Week digital show. Image: Annakiki
    Annakiki's Fall Winter 24/25 Milan Fashion Week digital show. Image: Annakiki

    Heralded as the “Chinese label of the moment” by Italy’s fashion institution Camera della Moda, Annakiki has been a prominent fixture on the fashion scene since its debut in 2017. Renowned for her quirky and futuristic designs, founder Anna Yang has consistently captivated audiences. In 2022, Bosideng invited Annakiki to design two of its capsule collections — City Camping and Surrealism Fantasy.

    In a conversation with Jing Daily during the Spring/Summer 23 season, Yang shared insights into her brand's growth, its venture into the realm of NFTs. She is building on that engagement with tech this season.

    For the Fall/Winter 24/25 digital showcase, Annakiki unveiled a series of show photos generated by artificial intelligence, juxtaposed with tangible fashion pieces. The AI-generated elements, including models and shows, were created in one minute based on keywords input by Yang.

    In a remarkable feat, the entire fashion collection took AI only one week to complete, a task that typically takes six months for humans. Despite the novelty of AI-generated fashion, it often lacks the emotional connections that resonate with people and doesn't seamlessly translate into physical objects. Yang emphasizes that, at this stage, AI is not capable of fully substituting human creativity and aesthetic abilities.


    Sara Wong's Fall Winter 24/25 Presentation at Milan Fashion Week. Image: Sara Wong
    Sara Wong's Fall Winter 24/25 Presentation at Milan Fashion Week. Image: Sara Wong

    After years working in accounting, and with a master’s degree in finance under her belt, Wang Siyuan (or Sara Wong) realized she wanted to pursue something else, a career as a fashion designer.

    In 2010, she joined Chinese label Maxrieny as creative director, developing the brand’s collection and reinventing its retail stores. She went on to start her own namesake label Sara Wong, in 2019, focusing on the combination of the retro and romantic, and featuring traditional feminine forms with a contemporary twist.

    This season, the designer was inspired by William Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence and the cultural richness of the Silk Road. The designer immersed the fabrics, details, and prints of the collection in the microcosmos of nature, while the textures and patterns evoked a profound connection with the earth and the sky, translating Blake’s poem into vibrant garments.

    Notably, the floral prints were inspired by the four flowers found on the Dunhuang cave murals, a site of 500 rock-cut temples in Gansu province, situated along the Silk Road.

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