New China's Fashion Trail

Local designers and fashion brands transform Beijing's fashion scene

Issue: Oct 2009

Local brand Croquis latest outlet at Raffles City Beijing
Local brand Croquis' latest outlet at Raffles City Beijing

Beijing's fashion scene is an eclectic mix of modernity and tradition- not unlike its post-Olympic urban development. The country once known for qipaos and tailors has embraced mall culture, where the middle class spend all their leisure time shopping. Weekends see the malls packed with shoppers of all ages, with branded bags in tow. Western big names like H&M and Zara have seen long queues during opening week and continue to have a great flow of traffic.

When H&M opened at Qianmen, it created a media sensation. There are new branches at Xidan on the West side and another massive store at CapitaLand's Raffles City Beijing.

Croquis' Fall/Winter collection echo the simplicity of Japanese-inspired menswear

Local fashion brands have also grown in popularity and gained recognition both locally and internationally. JNBY, which was established in Hangzhou in 1994, now retails its clothes in Japan, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Russia. In 2001, it established its male fashion line Croquis, which recently opened an outlet at Raffles City Beijing.

Raffles City Beijing
No.1-1 Dongzhimen Nan Da Jie,
Dongcheng District, Beijing

Golden Touch

Lu's haute couture creations are inspired by everyday life

Whimsical pieces with a touch of haute couture by Liu Lu

Designer Liu Lu in one of her own creations

Although some local brands have taken to setting up in malls, others, like Liu Lu, have opted for more independent outlets. Lu spent two years in Paris studying fashion design before moving to New York to continue her quest, graduating from the Parsons School of Design.

She was awarded the Golden Thimble award in 2006. The promising designer gave up a potential career in New York to return home to Beijing to start her own label Lu12.28, the numbers indicating her date of birth. She has a store in the heart of the city at Nali Patio.

She said, "As an up-and-coming fashion designer, I think Beijing is a good place to start. When the brand grows, I can always take it to Paris or New York."

Lu gathers inspiration from everyday life and her latest fall/winter collection was inspired by a beautiful shoulder pad jacket in her mother's closet. The collection "Love the '90s" sprang from that one item.

She shares that "every collection has a different story, derived from different experiences of life where inspiration springs from." On how Western brands are invading the mass market she says, "Personally, I think the Chinese fashion scene is moving both ways. One direction is more Western, another younger group is supporting the local designer brands."

Room D-350/3rd Floor/Nali Patio,
81 Sanlitun Beijie,
Chaoyang District, Beijing

Mongolian Mix

Yunxi's designs are often a case of East meets West

Reinventing the traditional qipao

Yunxi , a fashion designer from Inner Mongolia, opened shop a year ago at the corner of Sanlitun Bar Street. She has been designing for seven years, after graduating from a fashion design school in Beijing.

Her distinct designs merge elements of East and West and are popular with a clientele of half foreigners and half local Chinese. Her quaint little boutique studio can only be found if you look hard enough for it, and therein lies the raw beauty of the understated label.

She modestly shares that whether her designs are received depends on the judgement of her clients. "I think that fashion depends a lot on who is wearing the outfit.

The personality and style of the individual comes through his/her choice of fashion. Chinese design is in my blood and this is how I design, inspired by the elements of the West. My wish is to do unique local designs that have an international feel, without losing the essence of self and Chinese culture."

She is confident that local Chinese design will be better received in the future and notes the trend towards more natural and organic materials.

Yunxi Design
Central Park Bld 13/606
42 South Sanlitun St
Chaoyang, Beijing

Fashion forward

Several independent designers interviewed by INSIDE gave their forecast for the next five years. They see their labels moving internationally with more local designers making their mark in China. Lu believes that "Chinese fashion trends will become more international and the concept of the independent designer will be more accepted and appreciated by the public. The Chinese fashion industry will play a big role around the world."

Beijing's fashion scene is building its own identity with its edgy local designers, but the market is also embracing the western brands that are setting up shop in Beijing with the growing mall culture, giving the fashion scene an interesting variety of styles.

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