Pride of Taiwan
Douchanglee is a predecessor in Asia. The brand – founded in 1995 – is the ensemble of Taiwanese designer Stephane Dou and Changle Yugin’s self-titled brands. The duo were classmates in Shih Chien University studying fashion design, revealing: “We did many projects in school and then gradually we found that we had a kind of trust and understanding.”
Actually, their styles are quite different but they very much appreciate these differences. In 1995 they got the opportunity to establish their own brand and launched their first collection, which was well received by the public.
Doing what they love is the philosophy of these designers. “Nowadays, it’s hard to conclude an era in a single world. We want to showcase the diversity of our lives. Life is always full of contrasts and compatibility. We love blending these different styles,” they explain.
Recently, Douchanglee showcased their A/W 2018 at Shanghai Fashion Week, and this collection showcases the brand’s own easy-match features. There are no bold colours but the styling is outstanding. Wearing the clothes in an un-proper way is the biggest attraction of the styling. Models, for example, always wear only one sleeve of the sweaters and jacket.
“We wanted to break the rules and boundaries,” say the designers. “That’s why we recombine the easy-match outfits and add some trendy elements to the timeless designs. For example, pairing a feminine dress with sporty jacket.”
Inspired by Chimera, in this collection the duo rid themselves of all the cumbersome decoration, using a lot of silhouette cutting and both lightweight and thick fabrics to showcase the interesting contrasts.
“We want to enhance the connection between humans and clothes. We want them to create their own look by recombining the items.”
The white flat shoes models wear on the runway come from Superga, they say: “We’re very happy to collaborate with Superga. Their shoes help to add a more casual chic attitude to the show.”
The duo give themselves 90 out of 100 for this collection, adding, “In the other 10 we want to leave a space for us to keep discovering.”
New Chinese force
In recent years, more and more Chinese faces have been appearing on international platforms. Gong Li, the founder of hot brand 8on8, is one of the best representatives.
The dream to be a fashion designer began when Gong was in the second grade of high school, he says: “It was the first time I felt the mood in garments by Alexander McQueen; it was also the first time I felt that garments could be something else.”
To perfect his skills, Gong embarked upon his journey by way of the London College of Fashion with a BA in Pattern Cutting and Fashion Design Women’s Wear plus an MA in Fashion Design Menswear from the prestigious university of Central Saint Martin.
His graduate collection showcases his signature toward sharp cuts and, ultimately, tailoring as his main inspiration and pays attention to the tailored details. This collection gained great success and was immediately bought by iconic luxury department store Lane Crawford. Which is why Gong Li set up his own label 8on8. In 2017, this talented young designer won the Scholarship of LVMH Grand Prix in the Design section.
Keeping clean and sharp is the philosophy of Gong Li thus his 8ON8 brand is a menswear brand that has a crossover between traditional tailoring and everyday clothing styles at its core. The brand’s pieces aim to be functional and take inspiration from contemporary outdoor lifestyles, restricting the body as little as possible. The biggest feature of 8on8 is its mixing of suits with sportswear elements and functional details, continuing the brand’s progression towards the creation of a truly contemporary style.
8on8 Autumn/Winter 2018 is inspired by Martin Parr’s nostalgic photography: a series of film photographs portraying tourist groups from the 90s which records their singular ways of dressing.
Through the looks of this collection we can discover the shades of Gong’s childhood foreseeing the future gentleman in his mind. At first glance, we may think that the models had stolen all the garments from their dad’s wardrobe but theclash of modern and tradition is always the most interesting part of Gong’s designs. He clearly uses bright colours in small proportions, pairing them with the traditional hues of tailoring; the garments are shaped into full modernity.
“A winter jacket made of the dark green and white power jersey fabric and the 100% brown check wool fabric is the highlight of this season,” Gong declares.
He pays most of his attention to suits, continuing to be inspired by Edwardian type suiting although chooses to exaggerate proportions, fabrics and colours. The shoulders are moderately relaxed in the tailored pieces, injecting a stylistic attitude to the garments whilst adding a hint of drama.
Thisnorthat is a cool streetwear brand founded by two girls – Yu Bo from China and Li Chen from Malaysia.
What is interesting is that neither are like most other designers in that they were not goal-oriented to be fashion designers in their early years.
“I don’t know exactly when I wanted to become a fashion designer; I don’t feel like one to be honest. I feel like I’m just an individual who explores the construction of clothing and is fascinated by how fashion/clothing has become a form that defines one’s personality, style and even culture,” explains Li Chen.
Meanwhile, Yu Bo studied graphic design whilst in college. “Whilst doing my Master’s degree in graphic design I also attended a fashion design Summer course programme in Shanghai. I’ve always wanted to go overseas to study, and then my parents popped that question. Within a two week period, I successfully applied for Maragoni in Milan for a one-year intensive course in fashion design. There, I found my true calling,” says Yu Bo.
It was destiny that the duo met in Milan.
“The chemistry between us just came so naturally and we just let it take us to where we are today. It really was a true blessing,” says Yu Bo, and after graduating they started up their own brand.
“We didn’t plan it at all. It was unexpected and rather spontaneous. However, we took it very seriously. Later, I followed Bobo back to Shanghai, thinking that it was going to be a two weeks vacation. However, everything just starts spinning from there and the next thing I knew we are already on our sixth collection,” Li Chen laughs.
Although streetwear brands spring up like mushrooms, Thisnorthat is very outstanding no matter its concept or its designs. The brand signify different possibilities that have no boundaries, no labelling, no rules and no gender.
Every season, the brand wants to respond to some of the serious social problems of this era trough their designs. In Autumn/Winter 2018 collection, for example, Thisnorthat continues Stop, Slow Down’s (Spring/Summer 2018 collection) topic of talking about how city life has brought so many distractions and is often overwhelming.
On the runway, we can still spot the quirky, fun DNA of the brand. The bold colours they use brim with lively, youthful enthusiasm, with the designers’ hard work evident in the details. This season, the brands continue to use a large number of adjustable strings, belts accompanied by detachable pouch/belt and flexible hood details to project the sense of an explorer who is still journeying. Gloves are also frequently shown this season, with the designers revealing that they have been inspired by the traffic police.
Recreating designs with a bit of a twist and making things more interesting is always the ideal for Yu Bo. However, in addition to creating unique visuals the brands also want to convey a deeper message.
“As for the silhouette,” they say, “we’ve contrasted slouchy and structural shapes. It’s to present the different state of mind the explorer experiences during the journey. When the explorer is wary and tired of the future it is presented with a slouchy silhouette and when he is tense and anxious the exaggerated structural shoulder is introduced.”
A romantic artist
It was an afternoon in the venue of Jonathan Liang Autumn/ Winter 2018 show presentation in Shanghai Fashion Week. Jonathan was sitting on the ground, making the floral installations for the show on his own, and in the later interview tells us he used to learn the art of flower arrangement.
Jonathan Liang, a young Malaysian designer based in France, has an impressive CV with experience at Givenchy, Air and IRO, which he couples with his creative vision in every piece created.
At the time of the show, the floral installations have been but into a white box in the centre of the stage. When the lights turn on, guests are transported to Jonathan’s secret garden. The use of organic colours like green and brown can be seen throughout the show featuring a large scale of flower prints which is the signature element of the brand, embroidery, ruffles and many other feminine elements.
Unlike previous collections, the designer employs these beautiful flowers to ‘grow’ in sand in the flower prints of this season, explaining: “Sand is an environment where it is difficult for things to grow. But there are a few flowers that can still live in this bad environment. They are so delicate and beautiful. It’s amazing,” he says.
The collection lively represents swaying plants, especially a dress with cheongsam collar, complicated and exquisite embroidery, and colourful ruffles and tassels. It is like a moss covered with different grasses, flowers and plants. When the model moves the tassels resemble the grass swaying in the wind.
“To inspire women to inspire others. Today’s feminism is the thing. Women are sailing to gain power, women are sailing to fight for their equality. When you search the Internet you can still see that there are many sticker marks of feminine item equalling weakness. We don’t want that. I want people to understand the brand has very feminine things like flowers with very soft fabrics [but that] it is still for strong women. They can dress however they want. It’s not about being stronger than anyone; it’s about equal,” Liang insists.
The outfits also showcase many styling opportunities. Women can mix and match with their mind; for example, by pairing a dress with jeans or stockings.
“Being a male designer, I don’t want to tell people what to wear, I want to create what a woman wears, what she loves and do that for them,” he concludes.