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During the last few decades, clothes that came bearing “Made in China” label were usually synonymous with low quality. However, in recent years, young designers have started to shift public perceptions of Chinese fashion.
This year’s Costume Institute exhibition, “China: Through the Looking Glass” opening May 7, explores the relationship between Chinese fashion and Western designers. The bottom line is that there’s been a huge impact–where would John Galliano or Yves Saint Laurent be without an ability to pull from the traditional Chinese aesthetic for inspiration?
While traditional Chinese fashion has started to gain recognition, a new crop of Chinese labels have also been gaining steam. Here, a look at eight Chinese talents putting the country on the style map. Considering the buying power of Chinese consumers, you’d be smart to learn these names—there could easily be another Karl, Donna, or Marc among them.
1. Masha Ma
Masha Ma studied alongside Louise Wilson and Alexander McQueen at Britain’s prestigious Central Saint Martins fashion school, before launching her namesake label in 2008. Since, the collection has gained a cult following, along with a fan base that includes Naomi Campbell and Lady Gaga. For spring, Ma showed items like bra tops worn over jackets, and tube sock shoes, the kind of pieces that have given her label the reputation for being a fusion of sci-fi and ladylike influences.
2. Zhang Na’s Fake Natoo
Zhang Na studied fine arts for seven years, before launching her label Fake Natoo, meant to be the perfect fusion of conceptual and wearable clothing. Since, her label has become known for its use of experimental fabrics, along with more traditional Chinese fabrics including embroidered Chinese silks and dyed jacquards.
3. Huishan Zhang
While born in China, Huishan Zhang spent time in both New Zealand and Paris before heading to London for fashion school at Central Saint Martins. Since launching his own label, his pieces have been archived by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and he also won the coveted Dorchester Fashion Prize. The latest accolade? Barneys asked him to create a collection of dresses inspired by this year’s Met theme.
4. Dido Liu’s Deepmoss
Another graduate of Central Saint Martins, Dido Liu is known for her expert draping ability.“I think that the body, especially those of women, should be soft, and that qualities of strength and power should be on the inside,” Liu told Vogue recently. No surprise, Liu’s clothes have a romantic, otherworldly quality about them.
5. Yiqing Yin
Born in China and raised in Paris, Yiqing Yin is best known for being a guest member of Paris’ prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture (meaning Yin’s allowed to show her collection during Paris Couture Week). Yin’s ascent to the top of China’s homegrown fashion pack was swift: She was designing clothes from her apartment in 2010, when she the prestigious Festival International de Mode et de Photographie à Hyères prize. She launched her namesake label a year later, landing in stores including Milan’s 10 Corso Como, and Joyce in China and Hong Kong. And her star is only on the rise: In 2014, Yin was named the Creative Director of French brand Léonard.
6. Fiona Lau and Kain Picken’s ffiXXed
FfiXXed, based in Shenzen, China, started off as a unisex line in 2010, but has since grown to include both a women’s and men’s label (while picking up a cult following, particularly Japan). Expect a predominantly neutral palette from this brand’s designers Fiona Lau and Kain Picken, and comfortable, easygoing shapes.
7. Uma Wang
One of the most famous Chinese fashion designers, Uma Wang has shown her collection at London, Paris, and Milan fashion week. The accolades have been pouring in for Wang in the last few years too: Vogue Italia named her as one of their up-and-coming designer’s to watch out for, she was awarded the 2011 Audi Progressive Designer Award, the Beijing CCDC Best Designer award in 2010, and the Shanghai Fashion Week award for the Finest Craft and Best Creativity. In 2012, she was selected to be the first Chinese designer to take part in the inaugural CFDA/China Exchange Program.
8. Josh Hupper and Qiaran Huang’s Babyghost
Qiaoran Huang graduated from Donghua University in China, coming to New York City to attend Parsons. Huang met her now design partner Josh Hupper at an internship at Dian von Furstenberg, and from there, the two decided to found Babyghost. Based in New York City, the label is chock full of edgy silhouettes featuring cool embellishments. The duo held their fist formal New York Fashion Week presentation this past September.