the CHINESE designers you need to know about: LFW2016

Source: Asia Werbel Photography

Returning with a blaze of fresh talent, London Fashion Week’s Autumn/Winter 2016 show featured many highlights from all around the world. London seems to have become a platform for a Chinese fashion invasion especially, celebrating an eclectic mix of collections from some of China’s most exciting new designers.

Five Chinese designers in particular stood out from the crowd, bringing captivating lines to their runways this season.

Ryan Lo

Source: Asia Werbel Photography

Known for his dreamy aesthetics, pastel palette and soft fabrics, Hong-Kong born Ryan Lo has earned a place at the top as one of China’s most upcoming fashion designers. His AW16 collection was characteristically kitsch, evoking memories of his home country with designs and makeup that inspired images of china dolls, oriental princesses and hints of the kawaii craze.

Walking to a soundtrack of ‘Reflection’ from Disney’s 1998 Mulan, the models garnered delicate ensembles in lurid pinks and pale lilacs, with cherry-blossom and lotus flower embroidery, and doll-like makeup.

Source: Asia Werbel Photography

The outfits themselves were relatively minimalist, but Ryan Lo was all about the finer details, complementing maxi dresses in silk satin with faux-fur stoles, oversized coats with diamante jewellery, ponytails with wide ribbons and floral hair accessories, and ribboned stilettos with pom-pom adorned ankle socks.

Overflowing with fussy ruffles and graphic prints, the entire collection avoided tipping the balance between old dynasties and modern beauty though, to create femininity at its best; that which was unabashedly girly.

Huishan Zhang

Chinese designer based in London, Huishan Zhang, cites his heritage across all of his collections. His AW16 line didn’t disappoint with detailed and delicate yet strong designs. Melding intricate embroidery and soft textures with bold monochrome contrasts and ditzy floral prints, the collection was every bit modern luxury.

With tailored collars and structured waistlines, the models looked elegant in a fresh take on workwear-ready pieces. The rich fabric choices and smooth chiffon layers created effortless silhouettes, complementing the models’ tall frames.

Photography: Erol Birsen
Photography: Erol Birsen

The real show-stopping piece was his all-white faux-fur coat jacket and fur trimmed hood, evoking the image of a snow princess emerging from a blizzard. The clean choice of timeless black and white combinations kept the whole collection simple and graceful, making it easy to incorporate into every woman’s wardrobe.

Xiao Li

Photography: Mitchell Sams

With tailored suit sets and monochrome palettes, Xiao Li’s AW16 collection appealed to the independent woman. Flicking between pastel tones of cornflower blue and salmon pink with darker, earthy tones of oxblood and midnight blue, Li challenged the image of the modern, working woman.

Originally born in Qingdao, a small seaside town, Li’s move to London and embrace of city culture has helped cement her as a promising young Chinese designer.

Best known for her use of texture and knitwear lines, the AW16 collection played with velvet fabrics, woolly layering, suede finishes and lace embroidery. Each of the outfits featured tailored elements with oversized qualities to create voluminous shapes, so that coats were ankle-grazing, jumpers were worn like ponchos and peplum skirts started below the knee.

Citing inspiration from Salvador Dali’s surrealistic painting ‘The Persistence of Memory’, Li experimented with shapes so that clothes hung from the models in a way that seamlessly melted together round the edges. Some garments were left to look unfinished within the endless folds of fabric, almost as if time ran out, and clock emblems hung around some of the model’s necks or were carried in the form of silicone bags.

Sean Suen

Photography: Lonny Space
Photography: Lonny Space

Fusing punk with normcore, Sean Suen’s AW16 collection presented by GQ China asserted the designer’s full diversity. Born in Chongqing and having lived in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing, Suen seeks to decompose standard structures, inspired by various street culture pieces.

Sending models down the runway with messy, dishevelled hair, tattoos, piercings and chokers set his line of structured coats and jackets apart. With a pertinent palette of autumnal khaki, camel, auburn and oil black tones, the pieces experimented with silhouettes, creating something that was stylish and minimalist yet edgy and undone.

Xander Zhou

As homage to Bowie, Xander Zhou’s AW16 collection indulged in flashes of glitter and sequins, fetishist lamé imprinted skin and gender-spiralling winkle-pickers. Free from limits, the designer explored thirteen themes, including diversity, gender identity, freedom, fetish, inclusiveness and emancipation, resulting in a collection that was gloriously camp yet poignant.

Photography: Fernando Uceda
Photography: Fernando Uceda

His pairings of leather with sequins, lace ruffles with structured jacket collars, and faux-fur with bare chests resulted in a show that was far from reserved. Not shy to subvert gender norms, the Chinese born-and-raised Zhou mixed bold, masculine shades of red and navy with elements of silver sheen and Ziggy Stardust inspired sequined makeup.

Following on from his previous collections, this line reconstructed classical forms, taking it one step further to bring new meaning to youth subcultures around the world, proving that streetwise attitude doesn’t have to be overtly masculine.