Hong Founded Brand New China (BNC) In 2010
Since founding her Beijing multi-brand boutique Brand New China (BNC) in 2010, highly influential Chinese media figure, publisher, and blogger Hong Huang has become one of the country’s top advocates for home-grown fashion design, promoting up-and-coming names through in-house collections and collaborations. (As well as her ChinaFile column on WWD last year.)
Recently, Hong spoke to the Chinese-language news site Hexun about “made-in-China” fashion, Brand New China, and the progress made by the country’s young designers (translation by Jing Daily team):
Hexun (H): Over the past several years you have thrown your weight behind local Chinese designers. What caused you to do that?
Hong Huang (HH): It’s from two things I was told by two separate friends. The first was [SOHO China CEO] Zhang Xin — at that time, I was worried about my magazine iLook competing against famous foreign fashion magazines, and Zhang Xin said, “you’re such a character, why don’t you make yours a personality magazine? Why follow trends in foreign countries? What she said made me think to look for Chinese designers. Shortly thereafter, [architect] Zhang Yuanhe was planning for the Shenzhen Architectural Culture Exhibition and I noticed a few Chinese designers were going to be showing there. I told Zhang that I was thinking of doing an issue of my magazine focusing on introducing home-grown design, and asked if he would be the guest editor. He immediately said yes.
H: Are you working on any other projects similar to Brand New China?
H: How many designers does BNC currently stock? What types of products? What would you say is the most striking feature of these designers’ works, and which do you like the best?
HH: BNC sells a limited number of products from each batch of designers, with some pieces being one-of-a-kind or single editions. In total we’ve sold work by more than 200 designers.
Chinese design is not yet mature, though some designers are maturing quickly, like He Yan. She’s a great designer, but doesn’t understand the commercial side of things and runs a tiny workshop so her production volume is quite small. Then on the other side there are designers who are commercially very mature but have immature design skills, no clear style, no central product, yet because they’re aping international trends, sales are good.
H: How do you evaluate and choose young local designers? Are there any you think will emerge as master designers in the near future, and possibly become home-grown luxury labels?
HH: I think the Chinese media has a fundamental misunderstanding towards fashion: that fashion must be luxury. This mindset is wrong, and I think we’ve been brainwashed by luxury. People have to re-orient their view of fashion. I think in the current age of information, fashion should first be comfortable. Now lots of people stay at home and use their computers, so who wants to sit and be uncomfortable at home? This is why the Mark Zuckerberg hoodie look or wearing pajamas is popular. But when people go out, they want to dress up more, they want to be able to impress others.
So if they can be fashionable and comfortable, whether they’re wearing a suit or whatever, fashion and comfort don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Comfort has been the most important aspect of Asian apparel. The designers we stock understand that Asian cuts are the most comfortable for our customers. Yet the number of Chinese designers who have their own unique design language is quite small. Most of them are fluent in the language of others to express themselves.
H: Now, or in the near future, what do you plan to do to foster local design?
HH: We want to set up an alliance, an organization of various social players to help Chinese designers.