From Maoism to Individualism
China’s fashion industry is now laying the groundwork for prospects and experimentation. And it’s youth is noticing.
The nationalism of Chinese youth has been an area of interest in the media as of late. Much has been said about the rise of xiaofenhong, which translates as “little pinks”
A new age of angry young keyboard warriors that jump over the great firewall blocking US social media platforms in order to display their patriotic zeal on Facebook and Twitter. However, recent surveys have found that Chinese nationalism is not on the rise within youth culture, in fact the opposite is true.
In the 1960’s, Maoist ideologies denied the Chinese youth of individuality in terms of style. To express yourself through personal style was seen as shameful, especially as China was a uniform nation, where deviating from the standard length of pants could land you in hot water.
It was feudal and firm in the undertaking of a collective communist ideology but after the death of Chairman Mao, China found a way to crawl away from communism and make a mark on the global market.
With little or no individualism present in its creative industry, Chinese fashion was slow to transition from communist fashion to fast fashion. Despite the time taken, China’s fashion industry is now laying the groundwork for prospects and experimentation. And its youth is noticing.
Two years ago, only 50% of young consumers opted for Domestic Chinese brands but now the synergy of youth culture and local fashion labels are on a rise. In a recent poll, about 39% of consumers polled to prefer Chinese brands because they had strong cultural elements with 26% adding that they found the styles compelling. As Ms Wang Chong, an associate partner of OC&C, states, “this has translated into salient demands for products, as well as producing a retail experience that resonates on an emotional level.”
Shangguan Zhe founder of the brand Sankuanz, leader of a group of fashion insiders known as the ‘Xiamen Gang’ and one of China’s rising design stars is known for leading this new individualism movement. Well known for his subculture - inspired collections and collaborations with brands such as Vans and Cassio, his eclectic design inspirations range from Tibetan Buddhist cloaks to East-Asian gaming and prominently includes the implementation of Chinese subcultures. All of which earned him the position of being an LVMH prize finalist. He believes that“In the past, the youth didn’t have the opportunity to make a sound or have any right to speak. Today, everyone can express themselves.”
His menswear label Sankuanz is stocked in prestigious stores worldwide, including Galleries Lafayette and 10 Corso Como. And last year, he opened a Akipelago (AKP), a multi-brand concept store that stocks his own brand, as well as a collective of Xiamen-based designers alongside international brands like Puma, Vans and Y3.
Another local Xiamen Gang certified talent is Liu Min, who launched her label Ms Min after graduating from London College of Fashion and interning at Victor & Rolf. She sells her collection on e-commerce site Taobao and is not only locally celebrated but has gained global recognition after presenting her collection at London Fashion Week.
The Xiamen creatives ability to tap into the mainstream and fuse it with obscure cultural references, all whilst kicking it back in the much more laid back Xiamen certifies China as a fashion capital in the making.
Words: Nailah Dossa