A fashion award designed to discover and support emerging Chinese designers. The winner receives US$100,000, a London Fashion Week slot, a Paris cocktail reception, and mentorship from industry leaders.
Many of the BoF China Prize finalists have already caught the attention of industry leaders in their respective market segments. Take Pronounce, founded by Li Yushan and Zhou Jun in 2016. Stradling Milan and Shanghai, the design duo has already gained popularity among key streetwear aficionados with their cross-cultural aesthetics.
Li and Zhou’s recent collections juxtapose tongue-in-cheek accents with athletic textures and quirky colours with sharp tailoring. The brand’s knack for creating sharp and singular pieces with genderless appeal are a product of the designers’ formative years spent at Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and Instituto Marangoni.
Another duo with cross-border credibility is Staffonly, helmed by Zhou Shimo and Une Yea. Graduates from London College of Fashion and Royal College of Art respectively, Zhou and Une earned their stripes at the likes of Emporio Armani, Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford and Erdem.
Since establishing Staffonly as a menswear brand in 2015, the two have gone on to build a contemporary yet considered yet humorous menswear wardrobe by creating functional and sculptural silhouettes with carefully curated materials. The Shanghai-based label marries Une's love of imaginative accessory design and provocative silhouettes with Zhou's eye for experimental textiles and colour palettes, resulting in wearable collections for the aesthetically curious.
Materials and attention to technique play an especially big role at Zhang Mijia and Lin Wei’s brand PH5. Having cut her teeth at brands including Calvin Klein, Christopher Kane and Nike, Parsons-trained Zhang helms the brand’s "right brain," while PH5’s "left brain" is managed by Lin, who holds a degree in business and entrepreneurship.
The two founded their label in 2014 and hope to bring a young and contemporary vision to the knitwear scene by marrying whimsical and graphic designs with innovative techniques. Their collections are full of colourful yet wearable basics that would separately upgrade the most monochrome of wardrobes, but together evoke a cohesive and vivid brand identity.
While half of the finalists are designer duos, the solo acts that made the cut are just as strong. Take Qiu Shuting, the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Art graduate who launched her namesake label Shuting Qiu in 2017. "I didn't expect to be selected as a finalist, so I was extremely happy and emotional to hear the news... it felt magical," Qiu told BoF. "I've never shown my pieces in China before, as a Chinese person this is an amazing experience."
Drawn to romantic silhouettes but bold in her use of contrasting prints and colours, the Belgium-based womenswear designer has already crafted a striking and recognisable brand identity. Qiu’s surreal Spring/Summer 2019 collection, inspired by Morocco’s Sahara Desert, is a testament to her knack for the kaleidoscopic, featuring voluminous asymmetrical silhouettes alongside a one-of-a-kind fusion of contrasting hues and animated prints.
Another young but already self-aware brand is the eponymous label by New York-based Central Saint Martins BA and Parsons MA graduate Caroline Hu, which was launched in 2018. Just last year, she showed her senior thesis creations on the Parsons MFA Spring 2018 runway show and is already creating an impression on both sides of the Atlantic.
At her New York Fashion Week solo debut, Hu wowed critics and the media with her tulle confections. Her impressionist influences are evident in the layered fabrics that make up Hu’s romantic creations. With swaths of appliqué, she crafts movement in brushstrokes with a deconstructed edge.
Last but not least is Chen Xuzhi, the Central Saint Martins graduate who founded his namesake label Xu Zhi in 2015. A London-based designer who focuses on meticulous and imaginative construction, Chen has worked in the ateliers of J.W. Anderson and Craig Green.
Adept at communicating simplicity through intricacy, Chen recently launched his first menswear pieces at London Fashion Week to much acclaim. At an intimate presentation, show-goers saw Chen’s signature jacquard technique interact with new textiles as the designer’s romantic vision adopted a darker and polished form.