Got to be some good times ahead! There’s an unadulterated sense of joy in being surrounded by splendid things, by exquisite clutter. With no time for monkeybusiness, Temper presents its bohemian rhapsody of our Top Ten must-watch China Designers in 2021.
Kaiwen Shi is a 2020 graduate student from New York’s famed Parsons School of Design, majoring in the MFA Fashion Design and Society. Prior to crossing the ocean, she studied fashion design at Tsinghua University, Beijing. Specialized in both garment making and graphic design, her personal style is vibrant in color, vivid in dimensions, and embroidered with a note of childlike innocence.
With a sophisticated set of handcrafting skills and a gut instinct for uncovering new textiles, the world Shi’s vision creates, forges a wardrobe-styled sanctuary for those who want to stand still and take a deep breath in the complexity and hectic intensity of today’s society.
Swept off her feet by the dramatic, powerful expression of animation, turning the impossible into reality, this graduate in 2020 set the goal of fulfilling her wildest fantasies through fashion.
This one’s on a (honor) roll.
Instagram: ey-oooh, soon.
2. Ming Ma
3. CALVIN LUO
The Shanghai native and co-founder of Rouge Fashion Book — China’s pioneering independent fashion and art magazine — in 2020 presented his eclectic collection in Paris for the first time since launching his brand in 2014.
His latest SS21 inspiration came from Woody Allen’s time-travel film “Midnight in Paris,” resulting in a punchy line-up of feathered evening blazers and disco frocks with styles intended to aesthetically bridge the 1950s to the 1980s.
Luo shows the most promise with his structural pieces designed to create impactful silhouettes. Next up, he hopes to try a stint at another brand.
“I’m still young, so I want to learn from other brands who have a similar aesthetic to mine,” Luo concludes.
4. Path by Janine Grosche
Perhaps not Chinese by the letter, but based in Beijing so China Fashion by Temper definition. Besides, rules are made to be broken.
PATH is a reformist, revolutionary Beijing-born menswear label (read: all-inclusive mancave) under the guiding hand of German designer Janine Grosche. The daredevil brand delivers a futuristic version of what masculinity means by re-viewing men’s fashion as catwalks generally stomp it.
Boundary-pushing at its finest, PATH pioneers a radically different aesthetic for men, one in defiance of all convention regarding materials, construction, and (gender) expectations.
“Choose Positively”. On this upbeat branding note, all PATH pieces are made with non-discriminating love – and a low ecological footprint in mind. Wise choice, too.
5. Snow Xue Gao
In the two years since launching her label in 2017, China-born Snow Xue Gao has been shortlisted for the 2018 LVMH Prize and inducted into the Forbes Asia “30 Under 30 List” for her take on deconstructed tailoring.
Based in New York City, this Parsons graduate gained experience under the watchful eye of Jason Wu, where she learned to cut the elegant shapes flaunted throughout her collections.
For 2021 spring, she showed off plenty of spliced-and-diced graffiti silk shirts layered under crisp suits or paired with short-shorts in a nod to both pop art and the Space Age craze of the 1960s.
Developing her nonchalantly-slouched silhouettes, designer Xiang Gao fits her toiles on differently sized and gendered bodies. As for materiality, she eschews the traditional knitwear process, wherein the designer machine-knits panels of fabric to scale and then assembles the garment without any cutting.
Many of the details — crocheted red dots or moments of top-stitching — are artisanal creations by the hand of Gao herself.
Gao’s meticulous eye for detail pushes her pieces into the realm of fine art; her response to the cheaply mass-manufactured streetwear commonly associated with the Middle Kingdom.
7. EIFINI by Xiaoyun Qian
As part of Tmall’s foray into the European fashion scene, the Alibaba-owned e-commerce platform brought its China Cool event to Paris for the first time in September 2019, showcasing China’s most promising design talents, including designer Xiaoyun Qian of EIFINI.
The Shanghai-based designer — who presented for the first time outside of China since her brand launched in 2001 — is known to incorporate many Victorian elements into her collections as well as the occasional flash of menswear details: think a bell-sleeved silk dress paired with matching trousers or a sharp-shouldered, cropped blazer with ombré-pleated skirt.
Prim and proper with edge, darling.
8. SONGTA by SONG TA
SONGTA founder Song Ta (宋拓) is a conceptual artist and art curator turned fashion designer. Heavily influenced by a Gen Z muse, if you will, his work encompasses both mens- and womens-(ready-to-)
In thinking about alternative visuals to represent contemporary China, Song looks to social satire. From an AW19 collection energized, youthful, and electrified to next trending levels by the omnipresent middle-school uniforms in the city of Shenzhen to an SS20 collection staging overblown high-waisted pants meant to mirror the quintessential style quirks of former PRC President Jiang Zemin (in office from 1993 to 2003).
The brand even coined the term “Kanbu style” (干部| gàn bù) which loosely translates as “leader style,” to refer to the way Chinese boomer politicians typically dress.
A de-Westernized understanding of fashion, as epitomized by the SONGTA label, is rapidly infiltrating China’s first-tier street style trends.
9. Susan Fang
Central Saint Martin’s graduate Susan Fang presented in Milan for the first time since the launch of her brand in 2015. The innovative designer is known for pioneering an “air weave” technique — allowing several layers of delicate materials to be stitched together—and has been lauded for her environmentally conscious approach to fashion.
The Chinese designer handcrafts each piece with her mother and allows the materials she uses, like biodegradable thermoplastic, to dictate the end shape of the garment in order to reduce waste.
Fang’s spring 2021 “AIR * BORN” collection features a flirty rendition of her latticework dresses adorned with glass beads clinking together at the hems, as well as an array of abstract, crystal headpieces and bags.
10. Jarel Zhang
Streetwear seems not to be going away and up-and-coming Chinese designer Jarel Zhang intends to take it well into the future with a galactic spring collection for his second Paris showing.
The Zhejiang native, who founded his eponymous label in 2016, used technical fabrics like the sort of “space cotton” found in astronauts’ suits in his commanding line-up of graphic, oversized puffers and anoraks in electric hues inspired by a post-apocalyptic world.
Though a darker take on his ski-inspired autumn collection, many utilitarian details, from the multi-pocketed gilets to the drawstring sleeves, continue to be a mark of his signature style.
Skiing is the new shopping in China. FYI.
This is the real life.
This is fashion fantasy.
Caught in a landslide. Offering an escape from reality.