Slaying it Ripper style, we bring back Big Ben from silence to strike five for these, well, five, Chinese designers based in London. In random order. Because they’re all bloody brilliant.
1. Huishan Zhang
Born and raised in coastal Qingdao, China, Huishan Zhang left his Heimat at the tender age of 17 and has since lived in Paris, New Zealand, and London. He is most influenced by his Chinese heritage, particularly aspects of his native country’s craftsmanship and design, but he has taken these initial inspirations through his own very global lens to produce typically feminine refined silhouettes.
His eponymous London-based luxury brand Huishan Zhang was launched in 2011. And proved an instant non-one-off hit in the hungry yet critically callous eyes of fashion’s couture clientele.
As the man is, and we quote, “in the mood for love, every day,” Zhang often, from debut to SS20, returns to that signature Chinese garment, the qipao, incorporating its architecture in sleekly cut minidresses, jackets in floral jacquards, and even marabou-fringed pajama suits.
Bepearled, befeathered, bedazzled, Zhang’s work has proven a consistent go-to for the socialite on the jetting go. From East to West.
2. Yuhan Wang
Yuhan Wang is a London-based womenswear designer and founder of her eponymous label. Wang studied graphic design at the School of Visual Arts in New York and moved to London where she studied Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins.
A maker of light-as-air dresses, Wang believes there is both strength and romance in femininity; a romance that develops life and enriches the world as we know it.
Wang’s preferred mode of working is in 3D, moving quickly from sketch to draping as she finds it easier to touch, feel, and set the mood that will create a more attractive story.
And stories, she can tell. Wang, as a designing globetrotter, knows how to notice cultural differences, and she believes that her work can help open people’s awareness of them in positive ways. “I do believe the culture of integration makes us a better world,” she remarked in a 2020 Vogue.com interview. “As the old saying goes in Chinese, ‘有容乃大’ [yŏuróngnăidà] which loosely translates as ‘the sea accepts all rivers to have the capacity to be big’. The message is to be tolerant of diversity. The ocean is vast because it refuses no rivers.”
NOT to be mistaken for the homophonic “有容奶大” slang expression– damn those 汉字. #temperteachings
3. XU ZHI
XU ZHI is a 2014 London-born luxury label sprouting from the brain of Xuzhi Chen. With a contemporary attitude to both aesthetics and craftsmanship, the label’s approach to fashion design from the get-go has honed in on simplicity through intricacy, projecting an unmistakable level of quality for both the trained and untrained eye.
With an adroitness for material innovation at the core of every piece, XU ZHI not only creates designs synonymous with the brand’s beliefs but has also developed a construction technique unique to the atelier.
The brand continuously experiments with both material and technique, showcasing its collections across London, Paris, Milan, and China. And European plus Asian luxury consumers are biting into every handsewn hemline.
4. Feng Chen Wang
Feng Chen Wang is a Chinese-born, London-based menswear designer. Wang studied the MA in 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).
Raising her designer profile both inside and outside of the fashion industry, the designer has especially been making a name for herself with an inimitable roster of Converse collaborations. Essentially making her way through many of the brand’s classics, Wang in July 2020 reinterpreted the Jack Purcell and its signature double cap toe “smile”. #findfeaturedimage
For her SS20 collection, Wang mixed 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 ensured her SS20 designs represented traditional craftsmanship, revealing values that are gradually forgotten — a sign of the fast times at fashion high.
5. Yang Li
Yang Li ( 李阳 in Chinese) is a fashion designer born in Beijing, based in London. He currently serves as the creative director of his eponymous label Yang Li. Li’s first collection “Zero Hour”, released in 2010, was shown through a short film in collaboration with filmmaker and photographer Scott Trindle. The film features articles of clothing being cut and repaired to varying degrees. Yang saw this as an act of “subtle rebellion”.
Li is known for working with underground and cult musicians. For his AW17/18 collection, for example, the designer partnered up with American singer-songwriter Michael Gira for a live performance to accompany his runway show at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Other musical collaborations have thus far included Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Ramleh, KK Null, and Pharmakon.
Li in 2019 took part in the “China Wave”, a month-long film series by Nowness “profiling a new era of Chinese creative expression that is rewriting the rules on conventional art, filmmaking, music, and performance”. As the official line went. Li curated a series of films entitled “Notes from the Underground”.
The first film, “Sonic Wandering”, features Nojiji — China’s only DIY experimental noise label. The second is “The Next Page (Venus in Furs)” — a feverish journey through a world of masochistic desire. Courtesy of Nowness.
The man is making some confrontationally fashionable noise.