Redefining “Chinese Design”: London Fashion Week September 2016

Located in the creative hub of the global city, the biannual fashion occasion, London Fashion Week is certainly a melting pot that embraces the up-and-coming international designers to showcase their best ideas and spearhead fashion excellence. During the recently finished LFW September 2016, we can’t help but notice the increasing presence of 20-something Chinese designers who surprise the world with their search for individual expression.

Angel Chen, Ejing Zhang, Jamie Wei Huang, Renli Su, Xiao Li the list goes on. These Chinese brand names are no stranger to international fashion world. Having lived and studied at home and abroad, these young Chinese emerge as a new force redefining the concept of “Chinese Design”. As independent designers, they don’t intend to weigh in too many ethnic elements in their design, but embrace styles that are hybrid, experimental, modern and multi-dimensional, which are gaining increasing global recognition.

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Renli Su

“It’s interesting that my customers can always find a trace of Eastern aesthetics in my label design before they know about my background,” says Renli Su. Having studied fashion design at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and London College of Fashion, the Fujian-born, London-based designer integrates the silhouette of the design from the Victorian era and Eastern sartorial mentality to create comfort, simplicity and exquisiteness in her design. Having a penchant for natural, organic cotton ramie, Su continues to choose cotton as the main fabric in her SS2017 collection and experiments with mix fabrics and textures, like the combination of organic layered cotton and Chinese silk.

The incredible comfort achieved by the softness and flexibility of the fabrics, the designer attempts to deliver an ideal modern femininity in the look of her design: sweet and bubbly, independent and sophisticated at the same time. “The combination of these attributes of femininity is quite rare; that’s why I want to give it a try.” In this collection, the cream colour palettes and elegant silhouette in the embodiment of sedateness and poise are blended with hand-crafted details that accentuates innocence and exuberance.

RENLI SU SS2017 Collection

While the unique trace of historicity and time is prominent in RENLI SU, another Chinese designer Angel Chen explores the other end of the spectrum of fashion – the cutting edge, avant-garde and free spirited.

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Angel Chen

Angel Chen is a maverick fashion designer determined to push the boundaries, which has won her the title of “Chinese Punk” by the press. In the SS17 collection, Chen drew inspiration from “Shan Hai Jing”, an anthology of Chinese ancient stories featuring protagonists that are monsters in the sea, to create original, bold, whimsical and spirited looks. The designer explained that she tries to deliver a modern interpretation of “Shan Hai Jing“ in her collection. “‘Shan Hai Jing’ is collection of stories written in ancient China, but it also insinuates many aspects of the modern society. I think it’s a very cool look with many trailblazing ideas, so I adopt patterns from sea horses, conches, crabs and coral to reference those sea creations.”

Fabrics also play in important role in conjuring up the image of these sea creations in fashion. Gold and silver yarn, hand-picked raffia yarn and cotton yarn are extensively used along with modern techniques such as 3D embroidery and print to create unique texture and mythical looks. Chen told that in order to “bring every garment to life”, she completed her design with a special finishing touch by creating a fluid effect. It seems that light can dance on the garment.

ANGEL CHEN SS2017 Collection

Though this collection brings cultural influence into play, it’s hard to categorise the aesthetics of Chen’s design into any specific cultural group. “My inspiration comes from a specific period of time in my life, from people, place and things that touched me, and I want to integrate these into my design. I’m not intended to label it as “China” or “Eastern”. I like designs that are original, edgy, outlandish,” says Chen.

The global fashion stage is welcoming more and more emerging stars from China. Individuality and eclectic aesthetics endorsed by these young Chinese fashion designers like Li and Chen are redefining “Chinese design”.

The article is originally published on China Info 24 on September 22, 2016.

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