Super influencer Susanna Lau (a.k.a. Susie Bubble) is hot. Her blog, “Style Bubble,” has become one of the most successful fashion blogs since its launch in 2016, boasting some 300,000+ views per post. Her recent collaboration with Chanel, modeling sumptuous haute couture pieces, was a great success. And now the fashionista has entered the world of brick-and-mortar retail, with her first-ever pop-up boutique, aptly named “Celebrating China,” at Value Retail’s Bicester Village Shopping Collection to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
The Bicester Village Shopping Collection, a discount designer outlet located just outside of London, is said to be the second most visited destination for Chinese tourists visiting the U.K. (Buckingham Palace is first). It’s also home to more than 160 mega-brands, including Prada, Gucci, and Yves Saint Laurent, and has been leading the way in catering to the booming outbound Chinese travel market. Almost every store has at least one Mandarin-speaking staffer, and it’s impossible to find a sign that isn’t translated into Mandarin, and that includes the nearby Bicester Village train station.
So it’s no surprise that they partnered with Alipay on a global campaign to promote the Bicester Village Shopping Collection and its other shopping villages in Europe and China. Gone are the days of shoppers simply being lured in by big name brands alone. Now, the discerning Chinese market is seeking edgier, one-of-a-kind designs, and Bicester Village is working to accommodate. Susie Bubble’s pop-up is curated just for this crowd, showcasing the work of ten emerging Chinese designers, including former winner of the BFC Fashion Trust Award and an LVMH award finalist Huishan Zhang, Marie Yat, I-Am-Chen, and Snow Xue Gao.
Jing Daily caught up with Susie at the opening of “Celebrating China,” where, among many other things, she explained how she thinks the Chinese consumer is changing, and why the rest of the world should pay attention.
We were all ears.
Why is now the right time for the first Chinese designer pop-up in the U.K.?
Well, I’ve been banging on about Chinese designers and Shanghai Fashion Week for the past year, because there’s just such a big talent pool. This project was fortuitously timed, not only because it’s Chinese New Year, but also because Chinese designers are really having a moment. We’re seeing Chinese designers emerge in the main fashion weeks — in New York, Paris, and London — and what we’re really noticing is the enormous depth of talent.
How were the designers chosen for this collaboration?
What I found most interesting about doing this pop up is finding an aesthetic breadth. Chinese consumers don’t necessarily want designer clothes that are obviously “Chinese looking.” I really wanted to get across the feeling that Chinese fashion is wide-ranging, deep, nuanced and spans all kinds of tastes and genres. We have some more established names with evening wear from Huishan Zhang to minimal, slightly grungier pieces from Yang Li, who has done some amazingly powerful shows in Paris. There’s also I-Am-Chen whose knitwear I actually spotted at a trade show in Shanghai, and Mukzin, who was an Instagram direct message find! She basically slid into my DM, and I thought, “Wow this is great! I’m going to keep tracking you guys.”
Do you think the fashion world is ready for Chinese luxury fashion?
Absolutely, or at least it should be. For the West, there might still be a question mark over Chinese designers, but I think that perception is slowly changing. In London, for example, you see that the British Fashion Council has greater ties with the Chinese fashion community, like doing more with JD.com and VIP.com at London Fashion Week. It’s important to note that China itself has a massive domestic market, and a lot of designers could happily build a great business there alone. But, at the same time, worldwide there is a greater appetite for the discovery of luxury Chinese designers. Things like the LVMH prize have really done a lot in terms of exposing global talent. I think they make a conscious effort of scouting designers from all regions and not just Europe and America. Slowly, it filters through to retailers who are picking this up, places like Bicester.
How is the Chinese luxury consumer changing?
These mega-brands were once the be all and end all of many Chinese shoppers but the luxury Chinese customer is now very curious and very fashion forward. With Western brands falling into gaffes like the Dolce & Gabbana thing, the Burberry Chinese New Year thing, it shows you have a much more critical and savvy Chinese audience. They don’t want to be spoken down to, and they don’t want to have things dictated to them.