Some Highlights from Major BrandsChina International Fashion Week is something of a misnomer, since the brands on show, the media, and the spectators are over 95 per cent Chinese.
Still, China alone is a market so huge and rapidly growing that making it there often means you don’t need to make it anywhere else.
The biggest brands at this Fashion Week are mostly not known to outside China, but on the Mainland they are very successful, commercially at least. They may not be the most innovative, no where are the most widely worn brands the avantgarde ones, but they are definitely growing fast and gaining more attention.
Many of the themes and designs seem derivative, but the production level of the shows and clothes did seem on a nearly international level of quality – perhaps for he first time in the history of China fashion weeks.
Opening the week, Notting Hill really is named after and inspired by the Hugh Grant movie, though it is hard to see how. They collaborated with an artist to create a 3D effect show that had local media going gaga. The clothes were undeniably wearable and displayed a formal sensibility often absent from the runways of Chinese designers. Most of the outfits could be comfortably worn for a night out in Paris or London, though, ironically, they may be too much for Beijing. After the show the star studded audience was most enamored with the carefully controlled shocks of pink, notable in a sea of gray and black. The highlight might have been the little girl in the same pink who came out toward the end, suggesting that the chiseled dandies on the runway might have a soft side, though her own stern face suggested she would be quick to stomp any weakness.
Probably Mainland China’s most famous designer, Frankie Xie brought us a very 80s, rather Madonna themed show. Much of it was a bit too risque for comfort, though I think it was aimed mainly at sexy risk takers in the 35 over category. The gowns were probably the highlight. In 2006, he was the first Mainland Chinese designer to show his collections at Paris fashion week.
Menswear specialist Cabeen has hundreds of boutiques throughout the second tier cities of China selling clothes of dubious quality and often obnoxious design. Cabeen is like a cheap version of D&G geared to meet the tastes of hoodlums in some Asian version of Blade Runner. Low end hair dressers love this stuff. This show, however, showed products with an entirely different level of quality and finish. One expects runways to outdo the racks, but the gap for Cabeen was truly canyon like. The designers here did well reinterpreting some of the best plays with proportion and fur trimmed coats from recent shows in Paris and Milan.
Septwolves is another big chain with more prosaic but less offensive wares than Cabeen. Again, the show brings us the more high end collection of items. The designer here, Daniel Faret, is a Frenchmen. The theme was Beyond the Lights: Urban Warriors and the clothes were aggressive if not risky and definitely marketable. These warriors were quite certain in their choices and not ones to mess around with unexpected fabrics or wild colors. That said, there was a very nice blue that made an appearance on the runway and the light grays for winter picked up on a theme that has met with widespread approval from stylish men in recent seasons. The puffer blazers, cardigans and tweed trousers were among the must haves from this collection.
The name of this brand sounds European and the clothes are demurely feminine in a way that would work on the continent. This rather attractive if not terribly memorable collection was actually spring/summer. The fact that they chose to show the spring and summer collection while all the other brands were showing fall winter might show that Maris Frolg is particularly concerned for the women that actually wear the brand rather than the fashion media.
One event not on the normal schedule of China Fashion Week certainly gave a better party. There was no caviar, but the bubbly was flowing freely at this fashion show in Beijing’s hippest bar, D Lounge. There are several tropes that designer Candy Lin loves and one of the most notable is hoods, particularly on sport coats in nice wools. Their eye catching contrast linings seem to be, beyond the obvious need for keeping the head warm, the raison d’etre for the hoods.