Every season, Paris Fashion Week is the stand-out event. This time round, it’s even more so for China.
Embodying a momentous sigh of relief for the reopening of the country’s borders, the nine Chinese designers on the official schedule are reveling in a time of high optimism: a mood shared throughout the event, from emerging trendsetters such as Shanghai-born, Paris-based Didu and schedule newbie Rui, to globally renowned names like Shang Xia and Uma Wang.
“It is a great pleasure to see so many Chinese designers successfully reach the international market. Now is a time for designers to shine,” says London-based Chinese fashion duo Ahalolomay.
It’s not only designers who are representing the mainland this season – the level of key opinion leader (KOL) presence at Paris is seemingly at an all-time high.
Starting off the week on a strong note, Dior immediately went viral on Chinese social media thanks to the attendance of local popstar Liu Yuxin alongside Blackpink’s Jisoo. Details of Liu’s presence at Dior, published under the hashtag #刘雨昕dior迪奥巴黎时装周#, had been read by 44.5 million users on Weibo alone, as of yesterday.
Joining the Chinese signer in making the most of reopen borders, China’s highest-paid actress, X-Men star Fan Bingbing made a rare appearance at the LuisaViaRoma x Yun Yun Sun event, and Schiaparelli’s show on Thursday.
Lesser-known local KOLs have also flocked to the French capital, showing brands’ shared focus on the market – Paris’ Fall 2023 attendees so far include Alice Wang, Cristine Sun (@孙怡静cristine), Large Numéro China’s Fashion Director Audrey Hu, and Dazed China’s Mia Kong.
Turning to designers, in comparison to London’s roster of over 16 Chinese designers on the official schedule, Paris is offering a select, but exceptional few.
There is a distinct level of contemporary individualism coming from new-era designers this season, with a special note of recognition to the aforementioned Didu and Rui. Born and raised in Hengyang, Rui Zhou’s eponymous brand has garnered a cult following online.
The first ever Chinese finalist of the LVMH Prize in 2021, Zhou produces crochets that act as unique decorations of the wearer. They feature cut-outs stretching over curves, truly emphasizing the imperfect beauty of the body.
Held at Galerie Bertrand Grimont on February 28, the Rui show was a wonderfully seductive representation of China’s fierce new generation.
Another daring name among the heritage brands on the schedule is Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts graduate Didu, who presents her Fall 2023 collection today.
Forever sporting a punk avant-garde feel, the sultry, progressive label has been donned by (G)I-dle K-pop stars Minnie and Soyeon, as well as style icon Julia Fox and forever-trending music artist Doja Cat.
These names project a different future for Chinese design, in contrast to the clean-cut aesthetic that has been present over previous decades thanks to brands such as Uma Wang, Shiatzy Chen, Dawei, and Shang Xia.
Even heritage brand Shang Xia has presented a youthful look for Fall 2023, the product of rebranding under the new creative direction of Millennial talent Yang Li.
That said, 2020 Parsons School of Design graduate, Ruohan — who presented on March 2 — projected minimal neutrality that upholds the sophistication of the more seasoned names who have been showing in Paris for a while now.
A more-established new-era designer is the vibrantly cartoonish Chen Peng. Gaining prominence for designing the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic costumes, as well as having collaborated with Li-Ning and Balabala, the brand has undeniably won over Chinese consumers, along with the West, too.
Set to show at the Palais de Tokyo on Monday next week, Peng’s event has to be one of China’s most hotly-anticipated shows.
Dazed China’s Kong says she’s been most excited about these new-era designers, along with the burgeoning Chinese presence: “Rui, Chen Peng and Didu are all young Chinese independent designers who have really worked hard to make it to Paris Fashion Week! I also really look forward to seeing more Chinese models on the runway at Fashion Week this time round.”
For Fall 2023, China’s back in action.