Chinese designers search for identity at the Beijing fashion show

Chinese designers search for identity at the Beijing fashion show, though for consumers the pull of foreign labels remains a force to be reckoned with.

BEIJING, CHINA (MARCH 25, 2015) (REUTERS) – The Beijing fashion week wrapped up on Tuesday (March 31), concluding seven days showcasing the cool, the classy and the downright weird in an industry trying to find its voice in a world dominated by the likes of Prada and Gucci.

One of the week’s most eagerly anticipated shows came from Amsterdam-based Chinese designer Hu Sheguang, who shot to fame after several of his models ended up toppling over on stratospheric heels during the 2014 spring fashion show.

Heels were still a feature of Hu’s collection this time around, but the Inner Mongolian artist also looked to his roots for his latest offering, choosing the traditional Chinese padded winter jacket, and colourful prints once popular in China’s northeast as his inspiration.

“When everyone thinks of cotton padded jackets, they will think of memories from their childhood. Grandmother, grandfather, on the Kang (traditional bed in Chinese countryside), tabacco pipes, a kind of stinky smell… but you can’t find that kind of feeling any more, it’s a feeling people from my generation had. So I hope that before it disappears I can use my take to display it for everyone, and let the next generation feel close to it,” Hu said, adding that he’s not that bothered whether people like his clothes so long as they remember them.

Hu says many Chinese designers are looking for a way to incorporate their culture into their work.

“Everyone’s searching and exploring for the most sophisticated way to elevate Chinese fashion to the highest level, how to do things with especially Chinese flavours. I think in the last two years, people have been constantly searching and China has more of the new generation of fashion weeks. In the fashion weeks, we can see lots of forward looking designers who have their own ideas. I think things are developing in a good direction,” he said.

On the consumer end though, Chinese designers still have to compete with the international titans of fashion like Louis Vuitton and Prada, beloved by the country’s new rich for the instant recognisability of their labels.

Those with their fingers on the pulse of Chinese haute couture see the label obsession as gradually improving though.

“If you look at the sales in the Chinese market you can see that in the past it was always the products with logos that were selling the best. Now this kind of expenditure is gradually decreasing, everyone is advocating real fashion design and a more vibrant fashion wave, and this is currently diluting the logo,” said Su Mang, the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar Magazine in China.

But out on the streets of Beijing, for many people the power of the “logo” still hold’s sway.

“There are still quite a lot of people in my age group, who will try and buy one or two bags like LV (Louis Vuitton) or Coach, perhaps they think, it’s not necessarily that they approve of the style, more that this is the same product as such and such a celebrity owns or because it’s some kind of proof of your status,” said 27 year old photographer Ban Wei.

Others worried that this power might lead Chinese designers to impersonate foreign products.

“I think this type of negative influence is pretty big, because after all they are major brands, aspects like their design, their craftsmanship will be more outstanding, a bit better, so perhaps some local brands might be more likely to impersonate them, so I think this type of negative influence is pretty big,” said a Human Resources employee, who added that she would buy a designer bag if she had the money.