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The Cool New Chinese Designers Making Their Mark on NYFW

By newadmin / Published on Thursday, 05 Sep 2019 08:13 AM / Comments Off on The Cool New Chinese Designers Making Their Mark on NYFW / 12 views

Alibaba Group’s Tmall is the world’s biggest commerce platform—and now, it’s bringing its sensibility to New York with a showcase at Spring Studios. The Tmall China Cool initiative will bring five designers to reveal their latest collections, and provide a unique insight into the fashion scene in one of the world’s most relevant markets.

With Jessica Liu, General Manager of Tmall Fashion and Luxury

Jessica Liu

Since its inception in 2008, Tmall has become a leading player in the world of Chinese e-commerce. What kinds of products does the site carry, and what is its general mission?
Tmall is the leading online business-to-consumer marketplace in China where more than 670 million Chinese consumers shop. Think of Tmall as an operator of a digital mall with virtual storefronts. Chinese consumers come to these storefronts with Alibaba organizing marketing, payments, and logistics services, which allows the brands to focus on the shopping experience. Alibaba enables the brands to own the relationship with their customers. Most importantly, we are not a retailer. We are a partner with, not a competitor to, businesses selling on our platforms. Alibaba’s success is aligned with the success of the brands and retailers on our platforms. Brands think of Tmall not just as a way to sell to Chinese consumers, but as a brand-building platform. In China, competition for consumers is fierce and e-commerce penetration is the highest of anywhere in the world. Tmall is more than a virtual storefront, it’s a rich shopping experience and we’re constantly innovating new ways to help our brands succeed and connect with consumers.

Can you give us a sense of how large the site is? The number of products, brands, and sales volume?
We have more than 190,000 brands on Tmall, including more than 75 percent of the world’s most valuable consumer brands, such as iconic American companies like Nike, Starbucks, Michael Kors, and Tory Burch, to name just a few. Tmall also has a dedicated platform for luxury and premium goods called the Luxury Pavilion, which offers more than 130 brands ranging from apparel and beauty to watches and luxury cars, including ChanelBottega VenetaValentino, Burberry, Tod’s, Versace, Stella McCartney, MoschinoGentle Monster, Maserati, LVMH-owned Rimowa, Guerlain, and Givenchy.

How is fashion integrated into Tmall?
Tmall was actually built for fashion, which is long-term and demanding in terms of the amount and types of content needed for consumers to feel comfortable making a purchase. Fashion is not just about the function–brand is everything. Tmall was built for brands to be able to convey their brand stories and engage with consumers how they see fit. And in China, shopping has to be entertaining. Consumers shop on Tmall not to save time, but to spend time! It’s the difference between buying and shopping. They are following their favorite brands for editorial inspiration, watching key opinion leaders’ (KOL) livestream to buy what they’re recommending, they’re watching lots of short form video before they make a purchase, they are checking out a brand’s fashion show to get a sense of the upcoming collection, and they are writing and reading recommendations and reviews. It’s not transactional, it’s experiential.

i-am-chen Fall 2019

Why is it important for Tmall to have a presence at NYFW?
Tmall is known for being the gateway to China’s consumers for the top luxury and fashion brands around the world, so it’s always great to be here to catch up with our customers and see their latest collections. But we also see ourselves as a cultural bridge to help showcase what is a very exciting moment in time for Chinese fashion. Our “Tmall China Cool” shows will feature some of the most creative talents in China today. China has traditionally looked to Western designers for their cues on what is fashion-forward, but we are seeing a dramatic rise in homegrown talent with their own distinctly Eastern aesthetic. Bringing some of the designers to the major fashion centers around the world is something we are uniquely positioned to do. This year, we are bringing five truly innovative designers to showcase their collections at Spring Studios on September 4.

How did you and your team go about the process of selecting brands to be featured in the showcase?
“China Cool” is our forward-looking vision for global fashion. We wanted a mix of iconic, heritage brands that are reinventing themselves as well as emerging designers. They were all hand-selected to showcase some of the most forward-thinking, creative fashion designs in China. They are innovative, open to experimentation, and eager to engage with a global audience.


Can you give us some background on the brands that you will be showing?
PEACEBIRD is coming back to NYFW with us again. It’s an established, beloved Chinese brand in China and they are really pushing themselves this year with a collection called “No Boundary,” inspired the Chinese women’s volleyball team! It will be a fun one to see. THREEGUN is another heritage brand known for intimates, sleepwear, and loungewear. This year’s collection is a strong departure from what they are famous for, and they are showing that intimates can be incredibly architectural and innovative. I am really excited about the emerging brands showing this year. RiZhuo has big ambitions to be one of the most influential Chinese brands in the world, and I think it’s possible. Lujian Zhang is the designer. He is incredibly poetic with a timeless aesthetic. He gets his inspiration from nature and poetry. SONGTA is especially interesting as the brand is only four months old! The collection is energetic, youthful, and inspired by middle-school uniforms in the city of Shenzhen. i-am-chen really pushes the envelope when it comes to color and expression. It’s a distinctive, joyful collection.

How can American consumers best experience these brands in the U.S.?
For the most part, they have to go to China or ask a friend in China to buy for them from Tmall. But we hope the buyers here at NYFW will take note and help these designers get a foothold in the U.S. They all have international ambitions.

With Bo Liu, General Manager of Tmall and Taobao Marketing

China has the highest e-commerce penetration in the world. Why are Chinese consumers comfortable buying anything and everything online? What’s happening to the physical store in China?
There are a few reasons why e-commerce took off so quickly in China. First, consumers were simply underserved in terms of brick-and-mortar retail compared to most markets in the West. Second, Chinese consumers leapfrogged the PC era and went straight to mobile. E-commerce was optimized for the mobile consumer; any moment of the day can be a shopping opportunity. Finally, the online shopping experience is an incredibly rich and engaging one for Chinese consumers. But that doesn’t mean the physical store is dead. Quite the contrary. Our strategy is to usher in the age of “New Retail,” the seamless integration of offline and online shopping experiences. Consumers are never offline or online–in the mobile age, they are always both! Shopping experiences should be the same. We are working with our brand partners to help them link inventory, logistics, and consumer engagement across their online and offline stores. This makes for a far richer and more convenient consumer experience.

What was the impetus to launch the “China Cool” pop-up exhibition this year? 
NYFW is a truly global stage for design, and we felt it was a great opportunity to help both up-and-coming and established Chinese designs get global exposure. This year, we are having fun with crossover collaborations between the fashion industry and consumer goods products. 

Today, every brand needs to incorporate design thinking. In China, there has been such an explosion of choice and creativity that consumers have come to expect well-designed products in every category–even food and beverage brands or simple consumer products. We’ve witnessed incredible results from pairing traditional brands with cutting-edge fashion brands. Our pop-up last year generated significant buzz on social media in China for the participating brands. For example, Lao Gan Ma, the famous Chinese hot sauce brand, created a hashtag that became one of the day’s top-10 trending keywords on Weibo, and its Tmall flagship store garnered 820,000 visits during its NYFW promotion.

Which brands are participating and how can people here for Fashion Week experience it?
The China Cool pop-up exhibition will run from September 4 through September 6 at 315 Spring Street in Soho. It is bigger and richer than last year’s pop-up. Featured brand collaborations include Chinese confectionery company Hsu Fu Chi, clothing brand Tyakasha, Chinese snack brand Qinqin, fashion brand Mukzin, Dove Chocolate, Hefang Jewelry, home furniture brand Ziinlife, and Chow Tai Seng jewelry. Better yet, it’s open to the public.

Meet the designers who will be unveiling their collections at the Tmall showcase.

PEACEBIRD MEN, Designer Ying Xu

Ying Xu

How did you get into the fashion world?
I was born in the early 1980s, which was the perfect time because that is just when China was able to access the world of fashion. From an early age, I dreamt of being a fashion designer. That dream came true when I began my fashion career at PEACEBIRD MEN.

In three words, how would you the aesthetic of PEACEBIRD MEN?
Youthful, fashionable, and trendy. PEACEBIRD MEN represents boundless creativity and inclusiveness of the Chinese culture. PEACEBIRD MEN aims to reshape fashion trends in China. We have done quite a few crossover collaborations with other brands to inject more novelty into our design and to stay on-trend with youth culture in China.

What is your global ambition?
PEACEBIRD is a well-known brand in China, but it has yet to attract international attention. Our vision to gain international recognition for our design is more important than international ambition. Participating in NYFW is an important way for us to showcase our work on a global stage. We are delighted to be here for the third time. We are always looking for more ways to collaborate and partner with global and domestic partners, and we hope to find more opportunities to do so this year at NYFW.

What’s the concept behind your Spring/Summer ’20 collection?
This collection is a celebration of Chinese youth culture and sports. There has been a dramatic rise in sports and sports fashion in China, and Chinese consumers are looking for functional and fashion-forward apparel in all their athletic pursuits. The theme of our show is “No Boundary,” which pays tribute to the spirit of the Chinese women’s volleyball team. “No Boundary” means not being afraid to break rules or to take a chance to do what may seem impossible. This represents both our brand’s attitude toward innovation and the fearless and self-reliant spirit of the Chinese women’s volleyball team. The runway will combine elements, such as gold medals and a volleyball court, to bring the concept to life. And there are some surprises in store as well.

Peacebird Men

Where can we buy your clothes?
You can buy our items at PEACEBIRD MEN’s Tmall official store. And if you have friends and relatives in China, there are more than 4,500 physical stores across China. Just ask them to buy something for you. Of course, you can also contact me personally, I will be happy to help you!

What are you most looking forward to doing in New York during Fashion Week?
I will be working a lot, but I hope to carve out a bit of time to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

What are some of your passions, outside of fashion?
I am student of youth and pop culture. It’s important to stay up to date with what the younger generations are up to for fun. I try to do what they do!

THREEGUN, Designer Chuang Qu

Chuang Qu

When did you first get interested in fashion?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in fashion! For more than 30 years, it has consumed me.

How did you get your start in the fashion industry?
I studied fashion design in college, and my first job was a design assistant at a Japanese firm.

What inspired you to launch your line?
I founded my own brand at the age of 40. I wanted to express my own interpretation of fashion. I am leveraging my many years of experience in the industry to create my own line.

How do you describe your aesthetic?
I like minimalist and well-made texture in design.

What’s the concept behind your Spring ’20 collection?
THREEGUN is a heritage Chinese brand established in the 1930s. It holds a special place in Chinese consumers’ hearts and is known for high-quality intimates, lounge, and sleepwear. One way we keep it fresh is through new collaborations with cutting-edge designers. This collection was inspired by architecture and specifically by modern concrete buildings.

Where can we buy your clothes?
At our Tmall official store.

What are you most looking forward to doing in New York during Fashion Week?
I am only focused on the show, and I hope it goes as well as I envision!

What are some of your passions, outside of fashion?
I am passionate about all the beautiful things in life. I hope I will have more time to reflect on these and recuperate someday.

RiZhuo, Designer Lujian Zhang

Lujian Zhang

When did you first get interested in fashion?
I have never had a passion for “fashion” per se. I never want to be part of a trend; I aim to make timeless pieces.

What is your professional background?
I started in the industry as an apprentice tailor in a Chinese garment factory for three years from 2002–2005 before obtaining my formal fashion design training in school. I have spent nearly 17 years working in this industry in various roles.

What inspired you to launch your line?
I want to make a brand that represents our customers’ personal values, fits their daily style, and is also reasonably priced.

How do you describe your aesthetic?
My aesthetic is inspired my childhood experience in rural China, Eastern aesthetics I studied while working in the industry, and personal introspection and feelings. I grew up on an orchard in rural China. I have vivid childhood memories of the sky, forests, and morning fog. While I was a professional tailor and then a designer, I became influenced by Japanese aesthetics. I always try to draw on my feelings and emotions when I design.

What’s the concept behind your Spring/Summer ’20 collection?
The inspiration for the collection came from the Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wan’s “Beigu Mountain” poem. In China, everyone returns home during Chinese New Year. This kind of melancholy sentiment is brilliantly conveyed in Wang Wan’s poem. I hope that through this collection, and inspired by this poem, people who are traveling home this year will feel more beautiful and full of hope.

Where can we buy your clothes?
Everyone in China can easily buy our clothes on Alibaba’s Tmall platform.

What are you most looking forward to doing in New York during Fashion Week?
This is the first time in New York to showcase my collection. I look forward to meeting the expectations of our nearly 2 million fans in China, and I hope the audience in NYC likes what they see.

What are some of your passions, outside of fashion?
I love literature and photography. Literature makes me understand life, photography gives me insights into life, and design makes me appreciate life.

SONGTA, Designer Ta Song

Ta Song

What is your professional background?
My first job was an artist. For most of my career, I have been a conceptual artist and curator. I studied watercolor at school. I have always loved fashion but am new to the fashion industry. My brand is only four months old.

What inspired you to launch your line?
I officially retired from the art industry. I was free and wanted continue to inspire, so I established a fashion house.

How do you describe your aesthetic?
“Diao” Chinese slang language means “terrific” and “awesome.” “Diao” is my aesthetic, and also being passionate and legitimate.

What’s the concept behind your Spring/Summer ’20 collection?
My inspiration is the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and middle-school students there who attempted to style their uniforms to be more fashionable. Shenzhen is recognized as a hub of the future in Asia and represents iconic urban culture. When we talk about “Asian clothes,” we need “neo school” over old school. That’s why my debut collection is inspired by Shenzhen school uniforms and Generation Z.

Where can we buy your clothes?
You can visit SONGTA’s Tmall online store. For offline stores, we currently have a pop-up store in the K11 mall in Guangzhou, but our Shenzhen flagship store is opening in October.

What are you most looking forward to doing in New York during Fashion Week?
I’m looking forward to showing my collection and, of course, grabbing a burger!

What are some of your passions, outside of fashion?
I love to sing.

i-am-chen, Designer Chen Zhi

Chen Zhi

When did you first get interested in fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion, even before officially entering the industry.

What is your professional background?
I dropped out of college as an engineering student in China to pursue my dream in fashion. I eventually won a scholarship to study at Parsons and subsequently at London College of Fashion. Founding i-am-chen was my first job after graduation.

What inspired you to launch your line?
I felt like I had something to say and a point of view to express, but I could not have done it without my business partner’s support.

How do you describe your aesthetic?
It’s a combination of complication and simplicity.

What’s the concept behind your Spring/Summer ’20 collection?
The inspiration of this season’s collection comes from the small encounters and surprises in life captured vividly by photographer Kourtney Roy. Her work was shot in various old warehouses, abandoned parking lots, and motels in California. In all these seemingly ordinary scenes, she looks for the unexpected and humor to break up the monotony of everyday life. The 1960s style of clothing in the images works to create a seamless utopian vision and moves us beyond the radical contradictions of that decade. Instead, they are fun and relaxing, which is exactly the concept and style our brand wants to express. In a life of convention, a palette of intrusive colors can be necessary to break up the boredom. Everyday life is so much more attractive and interesting when you look at it from a different perspective.

Where can we buy your clothes?
We distribute with more than 50 partner platforms and retailers, including Tmall and You can find our items in department stores, such as Lane Crawford. Outside China, you can find our items in Japan, the U.S., the U.K., and Italy.

What are you most looking forward to doing in New York during Fashion Week?
I look forward to visiting MOMA and, of course, to showcasing my collection.

What are some of your passions, outside of fashion?
I love skiing.

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