BoF Exclusive | ‘China’s Oprah’ Hung Huang Picks Her Top 5 Chinese Fashion Talents

Hung Huang | Source: Hung Huang

BEIJING, China — Imagine a brand new China where modern women reject increasingly ubiquitous foreign luxury goods, and their counterfeit reproductions, in favour of raiment designed by local Chinese fashion talent. This is the vision that Hung Huang, the entrepreneurial CEO of China Interactive Media Group and the oft-described “Oprah of China” — she also runs fashion magazine iLook, frequently appears on television as a cultural critic and pens one of China’s most widely read blogs — aims to achieve with her retail venture Brand New China, or BNC, a platform designed to encourage high quality, independent Chinese fashion.

BNC occupies a 540-square-meter space in Beijing’s hip Sanlitun area, home to global brands like Balmain, Balenciaga, Lanvin and Comme des Garçons’ new I.T Market. But, as a rule, the boutique only stocks fashion, accessories and lifestyle items made by emerging Chinese designers, whose products are sold on consignment.

What Chinese fashion needs more than anything now is curation. “You need a credible ‘editor’ to say, ‘I stake my reputation on this, and I’ve tried it, and it’s good, and I didn’t get paid for saying this,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Ms. Hung said.

As BNC explores e-commerce, expansion into other important economic centres like Chengdu or Shenzhen, and the possibility of pop-up shops in Western department stores, Ms. Hung revealed exclusively to BoF her top designer picks from a growing scene of rising Chinese fashion talent.

UMA WANG
A graduate of Shanghai’s China Textile University, Uma first designed for a variety of domestic brands before moving to London to attend Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. In 2005, Uma established her namesake line and presented her first ready-to-wear collection at PURE London.

“Business-wise, Uma has the most sophisticated operation,” Hung explained, “in one season, in about four, five deliveries, [she can] give us about 50 to 60 different styles and SKUs…[providing] a complete line with range and production capabilities.”

Hung also characterized Uma’s design as being tongci, “which means that if you’re a super skinny person you wear it, there’s kind of a graceful fall, and if you’re a little bit chubby and middle aged, it still actually works with a belt. There’s something with the style that’s very universal but it’s very flattering on Chinese women because it doesn’t focus on the breast or the butt. [Her designs] have a very two-dimensional cut so that it flows with the body.”

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CHEN PING
Chen Ping, a graduate of Tianjin Polytechnic University is from Chong Qing in Central China. Chen has designed for almost ten years and, most recently, has showed at Shanghai Fashion Week under her brand name Pari Chen.

“She does a more classical cut except she has a twist to it, she’s not so much fashion forward as Uma is, but [her designs] are very pretty and tend to work very well with fashion conscious business women — she tends to attract the most wealthy Chinese women. For example, the CEO and founder of Dangdang.com, wore Pari Chen when she went to New York for their IPO listing,” Hung said.

“Last year, she gave us in one delivery for early fall, about 40 pieces, and we sold all of it except three pieces in about two weeks.”

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QIU HAO
From Suzhou, China, Qiu Hao originally studied interior design at Suzhou University, and later attended Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design’s M.A. Fashion Womenswear. Qiu won the prestigious Woolmark Prize in 2008 in Paris.

“Qiu Hao I think is really a genius, he is so talented, so incredibly well trained and versed in the language of fashion. If anything, his clothes are poetic,” Hung stated. However, Qiu, unlike his peers, is slow to produce. “Until October, we still had his spring summer collection on the rack because we didn’t get any pieces for his fall collection and finally by beginning of December, we had like five or six pieces. I managed to sell them right away. But I just wish some financier would back him and help him, he needs his Pierre Bergé.” Hung added that Qiu’s “fashion statements are so simple, it’s so easy to understand. His silhouette is usually very tall and lean, and yet everybody loves it. And, his clothes are not cheap partly because he doesn’t mass-produce. It’s very atelier.”

Qiu Hao was previously featured on BoF here.

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QIAO QIAO
Qiao Qiao runs One by One designer collective in Shanghai, whose output is currently found in Xin Tian Di and in Japanese multi-brand retailer Isetan.

“Qiao Qiao is one of those fashion designers that has a lot of staying power. Her designs are wearable, and her pricing is right on the dot. She does have this Japanese influence, you can see this sort of Yamamoto influence in her style,” Hung said. “She has the commercial knack for design. She knows what Chinese women like. She’s probably the only person who can design another commercial line similar to [Ma Ke’s Exception de Mixmind], except not cotton.”

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CHRISTINE LAU (or Liu Qing Yang)
Born in Beijing and raised in Hong Kong, Christine Lau also trained at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design as a textile designer. In 2009, Christine founded her line Chictopia in Beijing. Along with Uma Wang, Chictopia is one of the top two sellers at BNC.

“Her stuff just flies off the rack. She does pretty so well; pretty, feminine, young and at very reasonable prices,” said Hung. “She comes from a wealthy family so I expect that she will be very well financed and well managed,” she continued.

“She understands international trends and she has a very sophisticated production team similar to Uma’s production, which makes her one of the best Chinese designers to watch.”

Elizabeth Peng is an associate contributor at The Business of Fashion.