When did you discover your passion for fashion?
It was the absence of fashion that made me first think about it. I grew up in Washington State, where there wasn't a lot of the "fashion industry" per se [at the time]. The next step was when I went to Florida in 2001, where I saved up all my money from my first job to buy some Gucci loafers (it was one of Tom Ford's last seasons at Gucci).
I went to Harvard for undergrad and the campus was close to Boston's Newbury Street and I went often – buying stuff at Marc Jacobs, Saks and some awesome vintage shops.
As a way to engage with fashion, I did a charity fashion show called Project East where we showcased established and emerging Asian designers. Our biggest designer was definitely Issey Miyake, as it was the first time they had ever shown on a multi-brand runway. We also had Yeohlee Teng, Manish Arora, Derek Lam, Vera Wang, among other amazing talents. It was great opportunity for me to meet designers and learn how they work and what they need to create a business.
My East Asian Studies thesis was a pedantic way to explore the Chinese fashion industry and luxury consumption, and why the industry/consumers were so focused on fashion and not style.
So when did I first discover my passion for fashion?
It's probably when I saw how it could empower and help build one's confidence and identity.
Tell us why you founded China Fashion Bloggers?
I started blogging in 2009 about Chinese street style. It was field research for my thesis – more like the sociology or anthropology of fashion. I wanted to understand who wore what and why, and interpret that for a Western audience. Then, I wanted to contextualize my work, so I started China Fashion Bloggers (CFB).
We are the go-to website for inspiration and information about the Chinese fashion system, covering not only the industry (fashion), but also the human side (style). It was built to bridge consumers, bloggers, designers, retailers and creatives. Initially, I founded the site with two other bloggers. Today, we syndicate from about a dozen bloggers, and have collectively contributed almost 5,000 posts in five years.
How do you select which bloggers to collaborate with on CFB?
Bloggers are selected mainly on quality and consistency of content and relevance to our platform and Chinese fashion. The main thing is that they actually must have a website. We can pull content and repost from many platforms, but we prefer full-blown web blogs. Microblogging is great (i.e. Weibo, WeChat, Twitter, Instagram), but really good content will always exist on the web. Our blood is our bloggers, and we want to include many different perspectives, so being unique is also important.
Who are some of your favorite Chinese designers?
Vega Zaishi Wang - I love her ability to mix technology and fashion. Her thesis collection at Central Saint Martins was insanely beautiful and she has continued to work with electroluminescence through Intel and the Creators Project. It's a perfect balance of aesthetics and tech, which is very hard to do. Her design is in touch with her roots but also has an international approach. She does well in China and abroad, so I respect not only her design and creativity, but also her business acumen.
Boundless (see image below)- I love how Zhang Da mixes humor into his work. Definitely serious conceptually but with a more playful result, Boundless is a dream for lovers of fashion, substance and fun (in a subtle, comfortable, wearable and approachable way). The simplicity of his designs can be misleading, as many garments can be worn multiple ways and are actually complex to construct well. He is one of China's first designers, but he balances his mature approach with a youthfulness and purity that can't be replicated.
Poesia - Designer Chris Chang revels in ‘maximalism,’ a trait that is actually not that common. But mixing and matching all those little details to create bold but composed designs is truly a gift. Poesia masterfully integrates color, textures, cultural references, shapes and fantasy into wearable garments. It's the most beautiful explosion of creativity. Poesia’s recent collaboration with MAC featured incredibly vibrant colors, and there were so many different ways to wear it. I think it's hard for some people to translate their fashion brand into different products, so I really respect Poesia.
How has the fashion industry in China evolved since you arrived in Shanghai in 2009?
Whoa, where do I start? Shanghai Fashion Week was here when I first arrived, but there were maybe 20 shows at that time, and most were very hodgepodge. Now they have about 50 shows, two runways built over a lake in Xintiandi, tickets that are scalped for RMB100 and a crowd of photographers, media, buyers and old Chinese people surrounding the venue for almost an entire week.
There are so many more designers than there were in 2009. I could count the good ones on my hands back then, but now talent is everywhere! (There's also a lot of noise now too.) Surprisingly, there aren’t that many more good bloggers. We always need more independent voices that inform and inspire the general public. But Chinese people also learn and adapt quickly, and everyone is on social media. Virtually everyone is interested in fashion in China for one reason or another, so now consumers are much more a part of the loop than before.
What are some fashion items that you must have with you when you go out?
Sunglasses in summer (my eyes are bad and I hate those wrinkles you get from squinting), turbans in winter (these make all the difference between being cozy and freezing when outside) and a bag or fanny pack year-round (I'm always carrying something on me, and I need my hands for taking photos).
What are some things that you would never be seen wearing?
Clothes with words on them – I like it on other people, but I've never found something that represented me so well that I felt compelled to wear it.
Basic branded stuff – I never want to be branded. I love brands and designers, but I think mass-produced products like branded shirts are more advertisement and less design.
Normcore, unless I'm feeling feisty - It's just not my style. I think reveling in homogeneity has its appropriate time and place, so you may see me go super normcore one day, but probably not.
What are some current projects that you’re working on?
I've created a Youku channel where I post new videos every Monday. I love doing street style photos in a very amateur, documentary kind of style, and I'm doing video in a similar way. It allows me to show people other aspects of my life, like my family and friends, food, music and travel. For CFB, we have two very exciting developments: a store and events. They both sound really boring and standard, but I guarantee they won't be.
For more, visit chinafashionbloggers.com or add CFBmedia on WeChat.
Header photo: Hadas Zucker & Creative Director of the second photo: Hadas Zucker
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