By Hart Hagerty
October 23, 2014
Coolest Chinese Fashion Designers
Credit: Guo Changyao/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Shanghai is home to China’s most in-demand design talent. When not showing their collections in Paris, New York or London, these successful Chinese designers are leaders of the fashion pack in their home city. One of them is veteran avant-garde designer Uma Wang, best known for her luxurious line of sculptural, androgynous knitwear; she recently opened her Shanghai shop after years of success in Europe. Another local fashion A-lister is Shanghai is PR-maven-turned-designer Nicole Zhang, who creates strong, streamlined wardrobe staples for the modern Chinese woman. Each season at Shanghai Fashion Week, there’s a scramble for tickets to the show of designer Qiu Hao, whose downtown edge and sharp tailoring evoke the creations of Alexander Wang. Another star of Shanghai Fashion Week is Helen Lee, whose colorful boutique on Fumin Road shouldn’t be missed. And there’s also Zhang Da, the designer of cult label Boundless, who blends Chinese philosophy and modernity into the designs from his Shanghai studio.

Uma Wang

Since launching her brand in London in 2005, Uma Wang has become one of China’s most successful designers, Her avant-garde, luxe knitwear pieces are often shown on the runway in Milan, and can be found in boutiques across Europe. After so much success abroad, Wang’s Chinese customers begged her to open up shop in Shanghai; now, her small Xintiandi boutique stocks her signature chunky, hand-knit long dresses, cloaks and cardigans that beautifully blend different fabrics, textures and silhouettes.

Zhang Da

A slightly mysterious designer, Zhang Da came into the international spotlight when he designed the first collection for the Hermès-backed Chinese luxury brand Shang Xia. Zhang Da’s own brand Boundless has a cult following. The experimental label has deceptively simple clothing that mixes the aesthetic of Martin Margiela with references to China’s revolutionary history, philosophy and culture.

Qiu Hao

After establishing brand Neither Nor and ONEBYONE boutique in Shanghai, Qiu Hao furthered his study at Central Saint Martins in 2004 before launching his namesake label, which has quickly become one of the most reputable and influential in China. Underlined by subtle Chinese references, Qiu Hao’s conceptual pieces feature deconstruction and strong silhouettes tailored in unexpected, luxurious fabrics.

Nicole Zhang

Nicole Zhang’s foray into fashion design was a gradual one. The Wenzhou native spent more than a decade doing visual merchandising for the world’s top luxury brands before launching her first accessories line in 2011. Encouraged by the enthusiastic initial reception to her work, she launched a high-end contemporary line reminiscent of Céline. After only a few seasons, the up-and-coming brand consistently lands in glossies like Elle China and was recently picked up by the hugely popular retailer Lane Crawford.

Helen Lee

One of the first designers to ever show at Shanghai Fashion Week back in 2003, Helen Lee became famous for balancing her signature playfulness with sophisticated undertones. Her eponymous brand—whose flagship can be found on Fuming Road— features feminine-yet-sporty womenswear, accented with bold colors, fun prints and luxurious, unexpected fabrics.