‘Chinese elements’ have become an important cultural symbol in global fashion and there are several reasons for this.
Firstly, Chinese consumers’ purchasing power is having a massive impact on the global luxury fashion market. As Chinese consumers’ confidence in their home country increases, they are taking more and more pride in Chinese culture and would like to wear items that signify this. That’s why international luxury brands are increasingly using Chinese elements to attract Chinese consumers.
Secondly, more and more Chinese designers and brands are participating in and influencing the global fashion arena. Using Chinese elements can attract attention for Chinese designers or brands, as well as fulfilling their desire to promote Chinese culture.
However, what are the real ‘Chinese elements’? Are they just logos or patterns in a Chinese style? Is there anything more to them? Which elements of traditional Chinese culture are worth unearthing and incorporating into fashion? How can Chinese culture be combined with the fashion needs of the younger generation? How can Chinese brands have a bigger global impact?
At the roundtable discussion, “How can fashion brands use ‘Chinese elements’ well” from Luxe.Co Global Fashion Innovation and Investment Forum (LGFIIF), Founder of MukZin, George Feng （冯光，密扇创始人）shared his opinion.
Luxe.Co also invited three other outstanding entrepreneurs for this roundtable, Grace Chen Founder of Grace Chen（陈野槐，Grace Chen品牌创始人）, Weixiang Wang Director of 1436（王韦翔，1436品牌总监），and Zhifeng Zhang，Founder and creative director of NE·TIGER（张志峰，NE·TIGER品牌创始人). Cen Wang, Partner at Sequoia Capital China（王岑，红杉资本中国基金合伙人）hosted this discussion.
WHO IS GEORGE FENG?
Founder of MukZin, George Fengstudied finance at Durham University. In 2014, with Kate Han, he started MukZin, a designer brand that modernises traditional Chinese aesthetics. MukZin was the champion at InnoBrand 2015 – the FASHION.VC Brand Innovation Contest. In June 2016, MukZin received pre-A funding from Crystal Stream Capital and Series A funding from Capital Nuts and Oriza Holdings.
Chinese fashion brands should be the pioneers in promoting authentic ‘Chinese elements’.
Cen Wang: As Chinese fashion brands, how do you decide on the positioning and plan for the growth of your brands? What are your thoughts on ‘Chinese elements’? How do you use them?
George Feng: MukZin was founded more than three years ago. When the brand firstly entered the market, we thought that it wouldn’t be that difficult to succeed in the fashion business, as long as you were creative and resourceful. However, after three years of development, we’ve realised that it isn’t as easy as it looks. There are so many aspects involved, from ensuring the supply chain to creating an international visual, which requires comprehensive high-level international capabilities. At the moment, our overall sales channels are healthy, so we are focusing on improving our supply chain.
As the Internet develops, there are an increasing number of companies that are based on brand new business models; these include new supply chain companies with whom we are establishing partnerships. These innovative companies are more flexible than traditional supply chain companies. They are happy to process orders as small as 30 to 50 items, while traditional companies won’t even accept orders for a minimum of 100 items. Their costs are also reasonable. The transformation of the fashion industry is well illustrated by the changes in the supply chain companies.
Currently, MukZin has both online and offline sales channels. There are many ways to buy MukZin online, and we currently sell offline through a number of multi-brand shops that we have partnered with. This year, we’ve started working on our own stores in order to complete our range of sales channels. It is difficult for any single channel to deliver all the elements in a brand. A mature brand needs to have multiple sales channels that cover every aspect.
The real ‘Chinese elements’ are universal and timely
Cen Wang: Currently, the ‘Chinese elements’ included by some brands aren’t of great quality. ‘Chinese elements’ don’t just equate to Sheng Xiao animal symbols. Only chief designers who are too arrogant to really understand Chinese culture will think that things like Sheng Xiao are the sum total of ‘Chinese elements’. To build a brand, you need a serious attitude and respect for quality as well as putting in the effort over a long period. What do you think about ‘Chinese elements’? How can we build brands with real Chinese cultural DNA?
Guang Feng: I don’t think we need to stress too much about ‘Chinese elements’. As we saw at our show in Paris, we drew the attention of the Paris Fashion Week committee, who thought that our show was genuinely unique. What they saw was actually modern China through the eyes of Chinese young people.
The way we express ourselves represents modern China. It’s not just about putting together different Chinese symbols. What we need to think about is how to combine our traditions and the trends of the moment.