When people think of shopping in Shanghai, what usually come to mind are shiny new malls and the over-the-top flagships lining West Nanjing Road and The Bund. While glamorous global behemoths like Chanel and Louis Vuitton may outshine homegrown brands in terms of unapologetic glitz and posh real estate, local labels are speaking to Chinese consumers more than ever before. Jaded by big western brands, a growing number of Chinese consumers are starting to look to their own culture and comrades when adding to their wardrobes. Domestic brands often subtly infuse elements of Chinese history, culture and philosophy into beautiful, stylish designs for the modern world; in doing so, they stay in tune with local desires that extend beyond functionality, size and fit. This shift is happening mostly across the mid- to premium end of the market. Here are five brands that are gaining traction, both in Shanghai and in China as a whole.
Designer Wang Yiwang of unisex label Cha Gang founded Zuczug in 2002, with the aim of creating beautiful, simple and natural garments with interesting twists on traditional construction. Zuczug allows men and women to express their style and individuality without sacrificing comfort. ZucZug is famous for giving irreverent, cheeky nods to Chinese culture in a cool, wearable ways. One famous example is the former ‘”Vegetable Market” collection, which caused a playful stir with prints of traditional Chinese food ingredients like eggplants and butchered cuts of pork.
Shang Xia is a niche Chinese luxury lifestyle brand with lots of cachet. Not only is it backed by Hermès, it’s and headed by a famous classical Chinese artist, Qiong-er Jiang. The brand aims to revive ancient crafts like embroidery, lacquer and porcelain with thoughtful modern designs. The first of its three global stores, in Shanghai, is a serene gallery-like space displaying a curated selection of clothing, housewares and jewelry.
Chinese designer Ziggy Chen draws on his native China to inspire his menswear collections of deconstructed, dark-colored garments. Chen’s genius lies in his unparalleled ability to mix Asian, Victorian and avant-garde elements together to create a ruggedly elegant aesthetic. Each piece keeps the focus on quality, with intricate details and careful construction.
Guangzhou-based designer Manchit Au is the brain behind this fresh, modern line of “luxury basics” for women. Au’s wearable, layered separates feature unique cuts, colors and special fabrics. Think loose, sheer overlays and a mix of sturdy opaque textures with soft, transparent fabrics. Ricostru has a shop-within-a-shop which occupies the entire third floor of Dong Liang, a fashion boutique that carries high-end Chinese designers.
Exception de Mixmind
Exception de Mixmind is often dubbed ‘China’s first designer brand.’ The label was founded by one of China’s designer queen bees, Ma Ke, who uses environmentally friendly fabric and recycles old clothes into poetic yet durable womenswear. Although Ma Ke parted ways with Exception seven years ago to focus on her haute couture line, (Wu Yong, which is a personal favorite of China’s fashionable first lady, Peng Liyuan), the brand is still a huge domestic success, with more than 100 stores around China.