Hung Huang: Fashion in China

January 21, 2014
By Hung HuangEditor: Amanda Wu

Hung Huang: Fashion in China

Hung Huang works as the CEO of China Interactive Media Group, a publishing company which prints fashion magazines like i-Look, Time Out and Seventeen. [Qianjiang Evening News]

About 20 years ago, when Chinese clothing factories were busy manufacturing clothes for foreign brands, and foreign brands established their first international flagship stores in China, two Chinese students from the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology got acquainted at a rock party and talked about their common dream: building up a domestic fashion brand to elucidate Chinese aesthetic values.

In 1996, the two students, Mao Jihong and Ma Ke, set up China's first independent fashion brand, Exception de Mixmind, in Guangzhou, the capital of south China's Guangdong Province, thus making the first step in promoting homegrown Chinese fashion.

"Fashion is about culture, while culture is about society's values. As modern society becomes materialized, Exception goes against social popular culture," said Hung Huang, CEO of the China Interactive Media Group, a publishing company which prints fashion magazines such as i-Look, Time Out and Seventeen.

"While the luxurious beauty of Western clothes has conquered fashion in China, Exception highlights the reservations of Chinese people. While the market favors various high-quality imported materials, Exception focuses on how to make better use of cotton cloth, a traditional and plain material often used in China," added Hung.

During the past 20 years, Chinese aesthetic values have not entered fashion's mainstream. On the edge of fashion, the country didn't have a consumer market for their own fashion brands, and even Chinese designers preferred to name their brands in English to drive away its domestic aroma.

As a result, every Chinese independent designer went through various hardships, and their largest challenge was to reject the temptation of making a fortune on the processing of materials supplied by foreign businessmen.

Fashion is also about the market, sales and money. In the past 20 years, every corner of China's fashion has been open, but our best factories worked on foreign orders, our most bustling shopping malls sold foreign brands, and our fashion icons read foreign fashion magazines.

China's fashion industry took on a really bleak look. Our fashion market was dominated by fashion brands from Paris, Milan and New York. The domestic fashion brands didn't come into the spotlight, let alone cause a stir on the international stage. China's fashion has long been concerned about Western values

As the consequences of the global financial crisis that hit the world in 2008, the West witnessed a sluggish fashion market while China began to make its way up in the fashion field. Many international fashion moguls began to focus their eyes on independent Chinese designers.

In 2011, the then Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour, came to China and invited Chinese designer Uma Wang to join Vogue, later becoming the first-ever Chinese Vogue Talent.

Meanwhile, Chinese clothing factories also began to develop their own brands. To date, Exception has more than 90 retail outlets, with an annual sales volume of nearly one billion yuan (US$ 165.2 million).

The brands of other independent Chinese designers, such as ZUCZUG, Ziggy Chen and Chictopia, have also entered the mainstream fashion market.

But if China's fashion industry aims to produce an influence on the international fashion stage, we should make more of an effort and get more support, especially from the government.

In recent years, under the guidance of the Chinese Central Government, local governments have invested a lot in creative industries. It has benefited many large enterprises, but the development of the fashion industry depends on small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Chinese women should stand up for fashion in China and give a voice to domestic brands on the international stage, for women are the most important consumers of the fashion industry.

Nowadays, local designers and fashion brands always get a boost when the wives of state leaders choose domestic brands for important functions.

Michelle Obama, the first Lady of the US, wore a custom-made Jason Wu gown for her two inaugural balls, bringing sudden fame to the 27-year-old Chinese-American designer.

Ex-model and singer Carla Bruni, wife of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, showed the charm of French fashion in her Dior and Chanel dresses. France's present official first lady Valerie Trierweiler often wears dresses made by unknown designers.

In ancient China, men dominated politics, while women were traditionally deemed as fragile 'Helen of Troy' figures. As a result, the political scope of China looked more like a men's locker room, as few women we able to be seen and heard by the masses.

Fortunately, great changes have taken place. The moment when China's first lady Peng Liyuan made her diplomatic debut upon her arrival at Moscow on March 22, 2013, wearing a dark navy overcoat, a light turquoise silk scarf with a matching handbag, the Chinese fashion industry got the boost that it needed.

The first lady's style was dubbed by netizens as 'Liyuan style'. The exact purse and coat she donned have become top search items on Taobao.com, a major shopping website.

Her jacket and purse by Exception has helped its stores see a sharp increase in the number of visitors.

Domestic fashion brands' stock prices were also boosted the following Monday after the first lady's visit.

Peng has brought in sudden market benefits for Chinese designers, several times what I have worked for during the past 10 years. She had made it as easy as blowing dust off a table, which made my 10-years of hard work look as if I was just treading on water.
 
The author is the CEO of China Interactive Media Group, a publishing company which prints fashion magazines like i-Look, Time Out and Seventeen.

(Source: blog.sina.com.cn/honghuang /Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)

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