Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Vogue China editor: China's young fashion designers need to take a larger step on the world stage

By Angelica Cheung, special for CNN
updated 12:01 AM EDT, Thu March 20, 2014
Step up and be counted: China's young fashion designers are coming of age, says Vogue China editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung.
Step up and be counted: China's young fashion designers are coming of age, says Vogue China editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Angelica Cheung is editor-in-chief for Vogue China
  • Journalist has seen rise of China's homegrown fashion designers since magazine's launch nine years ago
  • Designers and consumers are maturing and going beyond the allure of well-known logos, she says
  • Challenge is for young Chinese designers to move beyond influence of others

Editor's note: Watch Talk Asia with Vogue China's editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung on TV from Thursday, March 20. Click here for the show times.

(CNN) -- When I was launching Vogue China nine years ago, one of the key elements I was determined to introduce was a regular column dedicated to promoting and supporting Chinese design talents. We were the first fashion magazine to do this on a regular basis, but it was not easy.

There really weren't many people whose designs could hold up alongside all the international brands we featured. Nowadays, we are overwhelmed with design talent, both from emerging independent designers and from domestic Chinese fashion brands, and very often, we wish we had more space to feature more of them.

We started off lending a platform in the magazine for young local designers. But gradually, we started developing various initiatives beyond the magazine in order to promote their designs and widen their scope of influence.

For example, the Vogue Talents Corner in collaboration with thecorner.com.cn in December 2011 and the CFDA x Vogue Fashion Fund, launched in 2012, which allows Chinese designers to gain first-hand insight into the business and retail side of fashion in the New York offices of leading companies like Theory and Michael Kors.

Can Chinese fashion go global?
Meet China's Anna Wintour
Why Vogue China is more than fashion

Whilst we were mostly focusing on independent designers, gradually, I began noticing that many Chinese fashion brands were taking an increasingly international approach to the way they run their business.

They had long been power players in the retail market here, but perhaps lacked the industry know-how of how to operate like an international fashion house, without samples, appropriate PR and a streamlined brand image.

We started off by doing a feature on four major brands in our September 2011 issue and I was intrigued by the fascinating stories of their owners, who had all grown up in a society without fashion, but who were now relaying it to the masses with great commercial success. From then on, we have witnessed a growing maturity amongst these brands and their new season designs are often featured within the magazine.

See who else has been on Talk Asia

More recently, we are so proud to see those such as Uma Wang, Masha Ma and Huishan Zhang thriving on the international stage, as they show on schedule at Milan, Paris and London fashion week.

In terms of design style and business acumen, this new generation is possessed of incredible confidence and industry awareness, and are a lot less naïve than the earlier designers. Many of them were educated at design schools abroad, where they learnt to operate within the industry, both abroad and in China.

Their success is also an example of the seismic shift which is happening in the Chinese consumer market as people are moving beyond the logo-ed products, with a preference for more rarefied but discreet things. In this process, they are turning more and more towards Chinese designers, who they feel offer products more tailored to Chinese tastes and aesthetics than some of the international brands.

Compare the fashion choices of the first ladies of America and China

The growth of this market is witnessed by the rising number of buyer's boutiques who specialize in Chinese designers in Shanghai and Beijing, and increasingly spreading to other cities like Guangzhou, Chengdu and Changsha.

I don't think the 'made in China' label defines Chinese designers today.
Angelica Cheung, editor-in-chief, Vogue China

I don't think the 'made in China' label defines Chinese designers today. Many designers split their design and production between overseas and China. This is a natural process borne out of financial, quality and logistical considerations. Maybe a certain Italian fabric suits their design better, or maybe in some cases Chinese craftsmanship is better.

Angelica Cheung
Angelica Cheung

We live in a world which is getting smaller and smaller, and if for example, a German brand can produce in Italy without losing their identity, then I don't see how it is any different for Chinese designers. It is up to each designer to determine which production methods are best suited for them.

Sexy, skintight, sophisticated: How the cheongsma has survived a century

Of course, these young designers, like young talents everywhere else in the world, are also facing many challenges. A major one is how to create a brand that is really unique and stands out among the countless other designers and brands that are crowding the markets around the world already.

They have to answer the question of "why does the world need another designer?" not just for one season but consistently throughout years. The internet, whilst making some things easier, is also posing other challenges. A new idea does not remain new for long in this digital age. Execution, delivery and efficiency are just as important as novel ideas.

Chinese designers need, like young designers all over the world, to learn to move beyond the derivative influence of previous designers and stand up for themselves. Despite these challenges, I have confidence that in this, as in everything else in China, change will come much faster than most people expect.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, Angelica Cheung.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT