On March 2nd 2023 in Paris’ Pavillon Vendôme, guests filled the blue-lit space of SHANG XIA’s Fall/Winter 2023 show, welcomed by the melodies of electric guitarist David Simpson. The shaggy-haired musician played throughout the runway performance, setting an energetic backdrop for millennial creative director Yang Li’s collection.
Prior to his 2021 appointment at SHANG XIA, Yang Li’s namesake brand carved a place on the Paris Fashion Week schedule for punkish womenswear that combined elements of skate and basketball cultures, infused with gothic undertones.
Now, he’s brought that precocious edge to SHANG XIA, a Chinese brand founded by Hermès in 2010 and further invested by Exor in 2020. The meticulous craftsmanship and Chinese identity remain fundamental, but its recently rebranded identity is buzzing with free experimentation.
Baggy trousers, short hemlines, cheerful pops of color, and models wearing pieces that revealed beautifully inked skin underneath: this new direction for the brand in recent years feels one of style-led confidence. Think timelessly classic, yet effortlessly cool staple garments.
For Fall/Winter 2023, Li found inspiration from the symbolism of freedom that birds hold in Chinese culture, seen in the subtle embroideries, and cocooning shapes representing the figures of birds in flight. Teaming this concept of national history with modernity, looks were accessorized by sneakers and suspended heel shoes.
The brand’s chief executive officer, Sophia Wu tells Jing Daily: “We are carrying on this very Chinese modernity. It’s in line with our roots, while also in line with Yang Li’s understanding and integration of Chinese design elements.”
SHANG XIA’s new logo reflects its focus on refreshing Chinese historic signifiers with a contemporary appeal. “It can be read internationally, but the way it is positioned is quite Chinese,” says Wu, adding that another major change to the brand is a new brand color (also a national color): blue.
“[This color] symbolizes that it is time for us to look up into the sky, to have the dream to really make this luxury brand from China create desirability, and present that on the global stage,” she adds.
As the brand maintains its focus globally, beyond the mainland, a core demographic of 20 to 30 year olds is increasingly showing interest, with e-commerce performing particularly well among consumers of that age-range.
“We are seeing these new young consumers who are wanting to have a Chinese name representing their new style globally, and for international consumers and wholesalers that are starting to show interest after the reopening of China,” says Wu.
There is room to ride the wave of “China Chic” and “Created In China” branding, led by guochao and Gen Z’s rising national pride. SHANG XIA has fertile space for growth.
While becoming more global-facing, the brand is abiding by five design codes. Firstly, its Ming stripe, which features cross the jackets, coats, and its iconic carbon fiber chairs. Second comes the devotion to illustrating Chinese architecture and craftsmanship, through the brand’s interpretation of historic design methods.
Wu goes on to explain that the third code encompasses “finish fetish”, along with the poetic concept of ‘transparency’ which tunes into Chinese culture.
Lastly, the code of “light that matters” is at the core of the label. “Our carbon fiber chair is so light, weighing 2.7 kilograms, but it can take the weight of 137 kilograms. It’s this lightness that can carry heaviness which is a very Chinese philosophy. We apply that to each of our fabrics, forming a very beautiful strength,” says Wu.
These house codes have defined SHANG XIA since its inception. But under creative director of fashion Li, they are seeing a refresh.
“Besides craftsmanship, quality, and creativity, as a fundamental, sense of style is very important to our character,” says Wu. While still keeping the elegance that has kept the brand in good stead, there is a more modern feel which foreshadows a future full of expansion, hot collaborations, and fashion-forward fan-bases all over the world.