China’s Independent Fashion Designers Are Breaking Free A Preview of Shanghai Fashion Week

China’s Independent Fashion

Until March of 2022, Shanghai had spent much of ‘The Covid Years’ largely lockdown-free. 2020’s international outbreaks had prompted a mass return to the Motherland.

Chinese models and photographers flocked back to China’s fashion and financial hub—never busier—while New York, London, Paris, and Milan ground to a halt. During COVID Chinese models engaged in dance classes online where they learned from professional teachers. Upcoming Chinese designers moved their businesses back home, closely followed by a wave of fashion graduates from the likes of Parsons and Central Saint Martins, who would otherwise have stayed overseas to intern with international houses. Shanghai’s fashion scene had never felt more alive.

Established Chinese designers

“Shanghai, from a creative and design standpoint, was booming. There were so many new brands popping up. Established Chinese designers were evolving and entering a new chapter. Last week, he stepped out of his apartment compound for the first time in 60 days. The first thing he did was cycle around the city for hours.

“Shanghai Fashion Week should have kicked off on March 25 this season, but Shanghai’s Covid surge tipped us back into unprecedented times,” says Madame Lü. After delaying launch by a week, then two weeks, then a month, it became clear that the offline celebration of Shanghai Fashion Week’s 20th year  was not going to materialize any time soon.

Fashion Week format

The call was made to pivot to a digital Fashion Week format—now slated for mid-June to give Madame Lü and her team sufficient time “to help set the designers up for success with sell-through and marketing plans”; to give designers a beat to orchestrate remote sample production, fittings, and shoots. Now the verdict is in. Faced with the most uncertainty the local industry has witnessed in years, China’s independent designers have delivered Shanghai’s strongest season of fashion to date.

A fierce optimism runs through the collections, not least in a continuation of global fall shows’ electric hues. Ming Ma’s interpretation of “hot fuchsia” (the shade of the season) and his famous “Ming Ma yellow” takes a high-voltage brush to Gilded Age silhouettes and oil painting references. around color and texture… balancing glamour and utility… but for this season, I just wanted to work with shades and materials that really made me smile.

Introspective and nostalgic

Yang was after a more introspective and nostalgic joy—contrasting familiar comforts like traditional Chinese shirting or jewel-toned greens and reds, with boiler suits and boiled wool. Speaking to Vogue from his Airbnb and unexpected lockdown location (the designer is usually based in London), Yang cites a quote from American speculative about ‘looking down’ on life, as the trigger for his examination of vulnerability through the decades. “But not a negative connotation ‘looking down’,” he is quick to add. “It’s more about assessing where you’re standing as a kind of posture. A gesture in the face of uncertainty.”

Chen took the opportunity to revisit a self-reflection exercise from his studies at Central Saint Martins. “I had a professor who would have me do a weekly report on what I’d observed, what influences I’d absorbed… I feel like during this period, I’ve finally had the time to look inward.

Double Fable studied

” In the same vein, design duo Double Fable studied the women in their own family photo albums and the ’80s leather jackets gathering dust in the back of their parents’ wardrobes. Shu Shu Tong analyzed the yoke of taboo Series had a sudden moment of clarity on how much creative collision took place on his block in pre-lockdown Shanghai: design spanning the ’70s to the ’90s, the diverse architecture from all backgrounds. “This really is the brand’s stomping ground,” he says. “It’s been a very emotional experience.”

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