Founder's Interview|George Feng of MukZin:A Modern Brand That Interprets Traditional Chinese Culture Like Never Before

June 6,2017

Before the final round of InnoBrand 2016, we sat down with George Feng, the founder of last year’s champion MukZin, who shared with us the brand’s growth and success this past year.

Established in 2014 by George Feng and Kate Han, MukZin is a designer brand that modernises traditional Chinese aesthetics. The couple felt that Chinese youngsters’ fashion was too Western, with few traditional Chinese elements. They hoped to modernise Chinese-style apparel via design, and show how Chinese fashion could have evolved had Chinese culture not been disrupted.



October 2016 for MukZin

MukZin experienced a series of climaxes last October. The first was a partner appearance with a fashion TV program, Hey Muse, and the release of their new collection ‘Flying Swords of Dragon Gate’. This appearance gave MukZin a lot of exposure among young consumers, and helped to promote the Uyghur Intangible Cultural Heritage. Prior to the show, designer Kate Han and the team visited Hami in Xinjiang, the birthplace of the national intangible cultural heritage Uyghur embroidery, and set up a workshop there to make the brand’s haute couture collection ‘MukZin Traditional Handicraft’.

On the Shanghai Fashion Week runway, MukZin revealed their 2017 Spring/Summer collection, Man Han Quan Xi (Manchu Han Imperial Feast), which won the best presentation award. For the 2-year-old brand’s runway debut, this was a significant reward. George Feng said: ‘we participated in the Fashion Week with the hope of learning from other professionals and hearing their feedback regarding our products and the brand’.

Following this success, MukZin took its incubated sister brand BAIXIJU to the TMall Global Fashion Show, and released a pop-up collection on the theme of vintage snacks, ‘Dian Xin Shen Dian’ (Parthenon of Snacks). Unlike fashion runways, which are one-sided, the communication at offline exhibitions is two-way, allowing more interaction with consumers and offering the chance to gain experience for the opening of physical stores in the future.


Is MukZin an Indie Brand with a Limited Audience?

Would you wear Qipao when you go out?

MukZin has often been asked whether the target audience of their brand is too narrow. For George Feng, MukZin is more like a content brand: MukZin delivers its brand message via carefully planned content. Although it is a clothing brand, what lies at its core is the oriental lifestyle. Content planning is the MukZin team’s core strength.

As proven by several crossovers in the past year, MukZin’s unique oriental style is highly adaptable. At the end of 2015, MukZin and Artron’s Artplus partnered up with contemporary artist Wu Jian’an.  They released a ‘The Year of the Monkey’ limited-edition Hou Wang Wu Ji Pao (Chinese gown inspired by the Monkey King), which was exhibited as part of the 2015 International Creative Festival in New York. In May, the brand designed four sets of suitcases with Caissa Touristic, and became the first Chinese brand to be sold in the legendary French multi-brand store Maria Luisa. This October, MukZin was once again involved in a crossover, this time with fashion stylist Wang Jia, and released a limited-edition Chinese-style lipstick.

Crossover collaborations have high returns,’ Feng says. ‘These crossovers work well for brand promotion. We are mostly in charge of the design and content output, which means we are responsible for cultural surveys, product development and visual presentation. We have always believed that consumers who dress in a certain style will also like similar styles in other areas in life. The results of these crossovers concur. MukZin will continue to provide a diverse range of products for our consumers’ various needs.’


How Does an Online Brand Go Beyond the Internet?

The Internet was MukZin’s starting point. After digitalisation and C2B endeavours, the brand bridged in the gap with consumers, and shortened their product development cycle. MukZin enjoys the advantages of being an online brand. With its own data analysis team to analyse the age, demographics, careers and favoured styles of their consumers, it can create content and develop products based on these results. The sales department of MukZin provides the design team with insights drawn from data analyses, while the design team submits the key points of their designs to the marketing team to support marketing event efforts. Such a workflow continually feeds creative and design inspirations to the design team that are relevant to market demands.

However, consumer touchpoints are limited online. Online presentation, which is generally two-dimensional, falls short when it comes to raising brand awareness and enhancing consumer experience. Many brands have gone offline after reaching a certain point, by opening or joining other physical stores. Both fashion runways and the pop-up at Tmall Global Fashion Show were attempts by MukZin to make the brand more relevant and accessible offline, while preparing for O2O business in the future. Since the offline fashion business works differently, the brand will also need to adjust its positioning for offline channels.

As China’s GNI per capita nears $8,000, the middle class has become the main consuming force. The overall environment for design is improving. Some brands have received funding, including MukZin, which has just announced that it has secured several million RMB in investment from Crystal Stream in their Series A investment round in May.

While still in the early stages, Chinese designer brands by and large continue to face the market’s challenges regarding supply-chain efficiency, wearability and stability. With the overall industry environment improving, more designers with a strong educational background, work experience and the relevant skill sets have emerged. Only once the designer group has reached a certain size and consumer awareness has reached a certain level, will the best of these brands rise to the top and have an impact on the whole of China, and the overseas market.

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