For Temper, it’s not about the pants, but about who’s wearing them. Socially speaking, China in the Roaring Twenties 2.0 is overhauling traditional gender lines, roles, and responsibilities. Fashionably speaking, gender fluidity, queerness and ideas of sexuality have always been a part of the modes du jour as far back as Ancient China — “androchine” in the Temper lexicon. Time for the Top Ten genderless labels. #inrandomorder
DisclaimerBefore tempers flare… Gender-less, gender-neutral, gender-fluid, non-gender,… Call it what you will. Genderless fashion has been on the rise in China, in the past five years, with men and women alike lighting the bonfire of the vanities that veer between through their exchange of commonly attributed masculine and feminine elements. This lil’ list we drafted for you right here is merely a top ten of China Fashion labels catering to the palates of aficionado and -a armies alike anno 2021.
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1. Ka Wa Key
Hong Kong and Helsinki meet in London. The 2015-born Ka Wa key DNA starts with the study of masculinity within East and West.
Hong Kong native Ka Wa Key Chow in 2015 graduated form the Royal College of Art in London with a Master’s in Menswear. He was a finalist for the H&M Design Award for his graduation collection entitled “No Asians Plz,” a satirical exploration of the identity of Asian men in modern society.
Key’s collaborator, Finnish-born Jarno Leppanen, translates the design into various art forms, ranging from poetic visuals to videos that veer between the sensual and surreal.
Rethinking traditional textile crafts, Ka Wa Key uses sustainable materials to infuse everyday casual wear with the roots of Asian and Scandinavian heritage. The gender-fluid label is constantly in pursuit of a core vision where simplicity meets soft masculinity — knitwear included. With “Through The Looking Glass,” Ka Wa Key AW 21 observes the duality of the imagination and reality inspired by larger than life characters and their dual personalities. Because everybody is an indiviDUAL.
Men, women,… Equal means equal.
2. Daoyuan Ding
A post-90s poster child, Zhejiang province native and Central Saint Martins (2019) graduate Daoyuan Ding possesses a distinct designing quality that hovers between the eerie and ecstasy, the poetic and the prosaic, the minimal and the maximal. Velocity.
Make no mistake, Ding’s aesthetic expression is by no means vague. His fashion philosophy is by all means one as consistent as it is authentic. In merino veritas.
With an unwavering ability to take a small selection of seemingly ordinary colors and fabrics, trompe l’oeil alert, and combine these in a most minimalist way to emphasize a maximally clear point of view, Ding has proved to possess a masterstroke since his very first collection — AW19. The unusual proportions running up and down, plus round and round, came via wide-legged, high-waisted, and often cropped suit pants paired with elongated jackets nipped in at the waist. #TailoringTeachings
Ding has long been fascinated by the way and ability to express one’s own identity through fashion design. The designer has repeatedly stressed his designs to be “pansexual,” adding a profound interest to venture into womenswear as well.
Why stick to one, when you can have both?
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3. Rolling Acid
The ever-fluid creatively commercial and conceptual label, Rolling Acid is a celebration of free reign and contradiction. Helmed by Sonja Xiao Long (Creative Director), and Dutch artist Mr. Pong Pong, the label represents the innate conflict between the commercial and conceptual. Long, founder of China’s multi-brand concept institution ALTER, and Mr. Pong Pong, with a background in contemporary art, come from vastly different strokes but their teaming up strikes a balance resulting in a “walking canvas”. Young, playful yet subversive.
What’s raw is posh, what’s expressive is imperfect.
Though heavily inspired by the subculture of the 1960s and 70s, the designers still add plenty of contemporary references into the mix. The separation line drawn between past and future represents the push and pull that is inherent to their OG spirit, mixing the feminine and masculine, the refined and organic.
In the progressive Rolling Acid universe, there are no limits. The label welcomes every-body to step onboard and enjoy the rollercoaster ride. As proven by the subtle garter line that hides, like a red thread, across all (well, all SS20 specifically) garment categories, the brand reasons that femininity and masculinity… Shall be genderless.
Rui Zhou and her genderless body beats. A bodysuit, as its name suggests, is meant to accentuate the silhouette, creating different layers of tight, seamless tailoring.
The suit is also not your “average” statement piece, but rather a utilitarian backdrop for that mind-blowing minidress that risks turning the world into your gynecologist or that vintage oversized jacket yearning for the right partner in crime.
Rui’s knitted (!) body armor comes with a design that twists the garment to amplify its bearers silhouette. Her designs also feature peekaboo cut-outs that explore the space between skin and fabric.
Check and double-check!
5. VII Victor X Wang
Individuality and gender fluidity. Designer Victor Wang is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp (BE). The brand was born in the summer of 2018, with an army that shares a fearless self-confidence and the courage to constantly pursue themselves.
The lovers are three-dimensional, colored, positive and flamboyant. At the same time, the label’s philosophy is diverse and inclusive, but also loves to explore the beauty found in conflict and opposition. The budding designer’s unique stream of consciousness is symbolized and brought to 3D life in strong cuts and extravagant shapes. Lavish and lush, we find it.
Wang’s current SS21 collection, “Nova, is based around the 1969 film “The Color of Pomegranates” by Russian director Sergei Parajanov depicting the life of revered 18th-Century Armenian poet and musician, Sayat-Nova. The designer’s inspirations pull from sub-cultural and historical references that are fused together to create sensuality and elegance within each unique garment.
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6. Private Policy
Established in 2015, New York-based Chinese designer team Haoran Li and Siying Qu presents cutting edge genderless clothing. High-quality fabrics meet classical shapes, pushing all the visual and tactile buttons; all about the individual pursuit of fashionable freedom.
The brand models itself after news outlets, researching and reflecting upon what is overlooked in and by society. Presenting their findings and insights trough physical catwalks and digital events, onlookers raise a question mark and one eyebrow alike. The downtown vibe is palpable with every single Private Policy stitch. Clothes for people who heart fashion and mind the world.
The brand has a tendency to pack every season’s presentation with one strong socio-politico statement. Throughout the years, they have used NYFW to spotlight the South Asian fishing industry (SS17), support LGBTQ rights, break the Asian stereotypes (SS19); just to name a few. Their SS20 “COMM-UNITY” collection was inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Riots, sparked by its prominent figure Marsha Johnson’s, gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen, “queerness” and skin color.
You make your own rules. Your own Private Policy.
7. Louis Shengtao Chen
Louis Shengtao Chen is the energetic designer behind the eponymous brand, describing his work as “surreal, delicate and enjoyable.” And yes, Temper alludes! The Beijing- born designer has worked for Loewe and Kiko Kostadinov, with his bodacious craft highly received by industry from the grassroots. Louis was awarded the Ports 1961 full scholarship, the LVMH Grand Prix Scholarship (2020) and the British Fashion Council BA Scholarship (2019).
Aimed at challenging the tradition notion of glamour, the Chen label attempts to construct a boundary-breaking yet accessible clothing philosophy. This designer has a mind of his own and approaches design from a more “unorthodox” perspective, the man told us; his recent AW21 collection cementing that very notion.
The contrast between masculinity and femininity runs through the entire punky body of work. “It’s not because I am trying to get rid of the gender label, I just simply love the sense of contradiction in design,” Chen explains to Temper. He skillfully mixes hard materials such as mechanical parts, rubber and metal with soft fabrics such as lace, cashmere and silk, creating his very own design philosophy, and a dramatic style of new elegance.
The very brand name BOUNDARYLESS since 2017 delivers the underlying significance of the ethos sewn throughout the label’s collections, representing a vision of breaking the rules of limitation such as the concepts of Border, Gender, Season, and Age. It goes along with the designer Guo Xian’s core code that is A-gender Style, mirroring the BOUNDARYLESS unisex fashion philosophy and thus gender-arbitrary wearables.
Lusting for freedom and achieve individual identity, there’s never been a better time to be your true self.
As society dismantles gender stereotypes, BOUNDARYLESS rebrands the term “genderless” to “gender-full”. A positive identity that is unique to each person, constantly evolving and inclusive of all forms of self-expression.
BOUNDARYLESS through fashion strives to express the concept of “gender-full”, breaking the boundaries of gender prejudice, designing a new, young fashion culture without prejudice, and never defined by age or gender.
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Hong Kong-based PONDER.ER (wordplay on the names that shall pop up later this sentence) is the brainchild of creative duo Alex Po and Derek Cheng. The gender-fluid brand challenges traditional ideas around both menswear and masculinity itself.
Po and Cheng look at urban life and modern masculinity through their own fashion label, always opting for the more “alternative approach.” It’s something they draw on their own experiences as young men for. “More significantly, growing up as ‘too soft,’ and some would say ‘feminine’ boys, our brand is about questioning and challenging what modern masculinity means and the possibility of menswear.
With a common interest in exploring the world of menswear through an alternative approach, this creative partnership was formed with the intention of challenging gender stereotypes and raising question marks regarding traditional slash social norms and convention.
10. Feng Chen Wang
Feng Chen Wang is a Chinese-born, London-based designer. Wang studied MA Fashion Menswear at the distinguished Royal College of Art, London, graduating in 2015. Describing her aesthetic as “contemporary, emotional and structured”, she focuses on technical outerwear, creating unisex clothing for both men and women. The brand’s sense of functionality, one that proves at the same time both conceptual and personal, often draws on her life experiences.
Recent collections have seen her explore her family roots and Chinese heritage (AW19), the notion of your “other half” (SS19), the concept of “home” (AW18) and the abstraction of human connection (SS17). Mixing together traditional blue printings, Chinese bamboo art, and hardcore fashion visuals to create a voluminous level of lithe design. Modern, avant-garde, and artisanal.
Due to the rise of newly in vogue tech methods, Wang’s also ensures her works represents traditional craftsmanship, revealing values that are gradually forgotten — a sign of the fast times at fashion high.
Functional, conceptual, personal. Wang’s love for China echoes in the design elements throughout her body of work, continuously composing poems of modern fashion and traditional craftsmanship.
FEATURED IMAGE: Courtesy of Ponder.er
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