4 Young London-Trained - Shanghai-Based Design Duos Talk Partnership and Creativity

China’s fashion capital is teaming with young designers, many of whom have studied in London, Paris, New York, or Milan before moving to Shanghai. Amongst this group of mainly millennials, some teamed up in pairs to drive their young labels forward. A process of constant collaboration and partnership, the design duo format can be a compelling one especially in a fast-paced country like China. Growth can be fast, and these labels are being quickly snapped up by the likes of Lane Crawford. But will any of them become China’s answer to Viktor & Rolf or Dolce & Gabbana?

Pronounce Spring/Summer 2019 Ready-to-Wear show in London. Photo: Courtesy of PR.


1. Pronounce: Yushan Li and Jun Zhou

Yushan Li and Jun Zhou. Photo: Courtesy of PR.


For the two men behind menswear line Pronounce, new interest in independent designers in their native China offers fresh and exciting opportunity. Their frequent visits and time spent in Milan help to underscore the more serious tailoring and fabrication skills they employ at the brand.

In their creative collaboration, the pair refer back to an archive of reference material built together since they met. There’s a carefree, masculine edge to the pure lines on luscious knits, belted pants, and contemporary coats. Central Saint Martins’ MA graduate Yushan explains, “we often get inspiration from things that aren’t necessarily ‘trendy’ or ‘fashion-y,’ but more classical.”

The dynamic between the two is complimentary. Whilst Jun hones his skills on the tailoring, cutting, and menswear details, Yushan prefers to work on colours, fabrics, and image. Thus, Pronounce’s take on contemporary Chinese menswear uses “fun ideas and more creative thinking to tackle traditional menswear,” says Jun, a graduate of both Istituto Marangoni and London College of Fashion.

“It goes back to the things we love, and our customers are similar types,” adds Yushan. And even though menswear is growing at a slower pace than womenswear in China, Pronounce has already made a serious dent in the local fashion scene – at Shanghai Fashion Week, London Fashion Week (supported by GQ China), Pitti Uomo, and beyond.

 

2. Sirloin: Mao Usami and Alve Lagercrantz

Mao Usami and Alve Lagercrantz. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

Whether it’s lingerie in the streets, streetwear under the sheets, or the unexpected drapes commonly found in their clothes, this wild and whimsical world of Sirloin comes from Mao and Alve’s view of their world around them. 

“We first met in London where we studied together at Central Saint Martins, and we became a couple once we graduated,” explains Alve.

“It’s so difficult to start a brand now,” says Mao. “We have so many friends who are trying to do it themselves. And, for us, this was kind of starting the label another way. A Chinese factory contacted us to offer backing and we moved to Shanghai.”

Sirloin. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

That was 2-3 years ago, when both had worked for other brands (Alve had a stint at Dries Van Noten, whilst Mao was at Louis Vuitton) in Europe. And now, they’ve already gained a legion of young Chinese hipster fans with Sirloin. The label’s funny, slightly-off look is backed by wild thoughts, and “bits and bobs” of observational humour forged in their rather sweet coupledom. Their initial collection was “inspired by pot-bellied men in Shanghai who roll up their wife beater shirts in the summer heat.”

For outerwear, it’s easy to identify the tribes, Alve explains of the pervasive influences of undergarments on their look: “the Céline types of people buy that aesthetic, and if you like the Versace look, you buy that. But for underwear it’s harder. All of our friends in fashion had a hard time finding underwear that’s cool and fashionable, so we used this as a starting point.” 

3. Staffonly – Shimo Zhou and Une Yea

Shimo Zhou and Une Yea. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

“We want to illustrate unlimited imaginations,” says co-founder Une, an alum of the Royal College of Art. “We focus on the logic hidden beyond first appearances.”

This all sounds rather conceptual, but that is what they are going for. Both girls studied in London (Une in Accessory Design and Shimo in Menswear) where they mined its extreme openness to creativity. Since founding Staffonly, the pair have worked in tandem and curiously never take a bow after their runways, nor do they run on the fashion party circuit.

 

“We quite enjoy the moments that we can purely focus on the design developing process,” explains Shimo, who previously cut her teeth at McQueen and Erdem.

For their SS19 at London Collections Men, the pair sent snake-shaped accessories, insect jewelries that “scream repression and quirkiness,” funnel-shaped collars, and inflated column handbags down their runway. It was about addressing how “people of modern age show reluctance in dealing with emotions, but crave deeper understanding and expression,” says Shimo. Hidden fragility was expressed with a wide material vocabulary of intriguing textures, such as pre-shrunk wool, mat cotton, and hollowed-out waterproof fabrics in a variety of shades with faded tones. 

As young designers bang in the midst of an energized new Chinese fashion industry, the Staffonly women argue that the industry is “growing faster than anyone imagined. For the designers and buyers that are well-respected in this city, we’re starting to have a real creative community.” 

4. Shushu/Tong: Yutong Jiang and Liushu Lei

Youtong Jiang and Liushu Lei. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

“We came from the same high school, did our BA in one class, and went to LCF (London College of Fashion) together,” says Liushu about how she and her friend Yutong formed their design duo. “We were classmates and then flatmates. We found out we have so much in common in terms of our attitude towards design and other things.”

Since then, Shushu/Tong has developed collections that often take from 50s office worker or 60s schoolgirl silhouettes and are eccentric enough to earn them high fashion fans. The talented duo behind this brand are well placed in China’s rapid style evolution.

“I interned in Gareth Pugh,” explains Yutong, “and that really made me focus more on the clothes themself, where every small detail has to be really considered.”

Shushu/Tong. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

Consistency in their feminine quirkiness makes Shushu/Tong somewhat of a standout in the Shanghai scene – their runway shows at Fashion Week are packed with a mix of young local and international fashionistas. It’s the type of outfits you’d easily see Susie Bubble in, where the tension between girlhood and womanhood remains a constant source.

And so far, those giving their seal of approval include Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony, 10 Corso Como, and Lane Crawford, who’ve all stocked the audacious Chinese label. A bright future lies ahead.

SHARE
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
SIMILAR ARTICLES
Upcoming Milan and Paris Shows Cancelled
By Alice Ierace
In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide, Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana...
By Alice Ierace
In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide, Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana has announced that the Milano Moda Uomo fashion shows and presentations, scheduled June 19th to June 23rd 2020, will now take place during Milano Moda Donna edition in September 2020 instead. “We are...
In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide, Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana has announced that the Milano Moda Uomo fashion shows and presentations, scheduled June 19th to June 23rd 2020, will now take place during Milano Moda Donna edition in September 2020 instead. “We are working on new digital formats and new ways of meeting to create, in the days provided by Milano Moda...
Net-A-Porter Shutters E-Commerce Indefinitely
By Elisa Carassai
Fashion e-commerce platform Net-A-Porter has bowed to pressure from its worried workers and...
By Elisa Carassai
Fashion e-commerce platform Net-A-Porter has bowed to pressure from its worried workers and stopped its online operations during the coronavirus emergency.“We have made the difficult decision to close our distribution centres in the US and Europe, thus temporarily suspending service in these...
Fashion e-commerce platform Net-A-Porter has bowed to pressure from its worried workers and stopped its online operations during the coronavirus emergency.“We have made the difficult decision to close our distribution centres in the US and Europe, thus temporarily suspending service in these regions including the Middle East. Our Asia Pacific service remains open.” Net-A-Porter explained in an...
Armani and Estée Lauder To Join The Fight Against Covid-19
By Alice Ierace
After being amongst the first brands to offer financial support amid the Coronavirus crisis and...
By Alice Ierace
After being amongst the first brands to offer financial support amid the Coronavirus crisis and amongst the first to announce the closure of all its stores to safeguard the health and wellbeing of its staff and clients, Giorgio Armani has now announced the conversion of all its Italian production...
After being amongst the first brands to offer financial support amid the Coronavirus crisis and amongst the first to announce the closure of all its stores to safeguard the health and wellbeing of its staff and clients, Giorgio Armani has now announced the conversion of all its Italian production sites to manufacture disposable lab coats for the personal protection of health workers committed...
Tokyo-Based Designers Reflect on the Effects of Covid on Fashion
By Elisa Carassai
While Italy may be at the epicentre of the pandemic at the moment, the Coronavirus crisis has...
By Elisa Carassai
While Italy may be at the epicentre of the pandemic at the moment, the Coronavirus crisis has been affecting every country, state and industry. Yet, how have designers been reacting? We talked to a series of designers who were supposed to present their collections at Rakuten Fashion Week in Tokyo...
While Italy may be at the epicentre of the pandemic at the moment, the Coronavirus crisis has been affecting every country, state and industry. Yet, how have designers been reacting? We talked to a series of designers who were supposed to present their collections at Rakuten Fashion Week in Tokyo and asked them about how, regardless of the cancellation of Fashion Week, they are reacting and...
Tomihiro Kono Explores Wigs' Hidden Power
By Alice Ierace
For the past 20 years, Japanese wigmaker Tomihiro Kono has been exploring the everchanging...
By Alice Ierace
For the past 20 years, Japanese wigmaker Tomihiro Kono has been exploring the everchanging relationship between hair, identity and transformation. Starting his career as a trained hairdresser in Tokyo in 1997, Kono relocated to London where he worked as a hairstylist for different publications,...
For the past 20 years, Japanese wigmaker Tomihiro Kono has been exploring the everchanging relationship between hair, identity and transformation. Starting his career as a trained hairdresser in Tokyo in 1997, Kono relocated to London where he worked as a hairstylist for different publications, including i-D and Dazed and Confused, and became a well-established name within the fashion industry...
Finding Joy in the Unexpected at Colville
By Elisa Carassai
When designer Molly Molloy and stylist Lucinda Chambers left Marni after more than 15 years...
By Elisa Carassai
When designer Molly Molloy and stylist Lucinda Chambers left Marni after more than 15 years working together, they both knew it couldn’t be the end of their friendship and mutual collaboration.And so Colville was born. Named after a street in London David Hockney used to haunt, the brand was...
When designer Molly Molloy and stylist Lucinda Chambers left Marni after more than 15 years working together, they both knew it couldn’t be the end of their friendship and mutual collaboration.And so Colville was born. Named after a street in London David Hockney used to haunt, the brand was established in Milan in 2018 and has become known for its rather unique and effortless way of merging a...
British Fashion Council Asks Government for Freelancers Support
By Alice Ierace
In an attempt to support and promote British fashion, the British Fashion Council has been...
By Alice Ierace
In an attempt to support and promote British fashion, the British Fashion Council has been engaging directly with the government in order to closely monitor COVID-19 updates, advice and support for businesses whilst, at the same time, ensuring that the challenges facing the industry are...
In an attempt to support and promote British fashion, the British Fashion Council has been engaging directly with the government in order to closely monitor COVID-19 updates, advice and support for businesses whilst, at the same time, ensuring that the challenges facing the industry are articulated to the government. In particular, BFC has been asking for support for businesses, including...
Blazé Milano and The Art Of The Blazer
By Elisa Carassai
Regardless of where you’re from and what style tribe you associate with, the blazer is and...
By Elisa Carassai
Regardless of where you’re from and what style tribe you associate with, the blazer is and remains an item of clothing with an innate timeless quality to it. After all, the garment has a rich history associated with it, as the prototypes of this item of clothing hail back to the uniform of rowers...
Regardless of where you’re from and what style tribe you associate with, the blazer is and remains an item of clothing with an innate timeless quality to it. After all, the garment has a rich history associated with it, as the prototypes of this item of clothing hail back to the uniform of rowers at Oxford and Cambridge, which were meant to keep them warm during chilly training sessions and...