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New designers put London fashion back on the map

Updated: 2016-09-16 17:02
By Zhao Siyuan in London (chinadaily.com.cn)

After fears in recent years that London was losing its luster as a capital city in the fashion world, following an exodus of brands that went to show their products in the rival cities of New York and Paris, the British capital is back on the map.

Worries started when Alexander McQueen moved its show from London to Paris in 2002. Stella McCartney, daughter of British music legend Paul McCartney, also shows her eponymous brand in the French capital.

And an unwritten consensus started to form: Ambitious designers seeking international recognition had to go to New York, Milan, or Paris.

Even the timing of London's fashion week, awkwardly squeezed between those held in New York and Paris, did not help the British capital.

But, despite the concerns, London has defied skeptics and, rather than fading in significance, cemented its status and, to some extent, edged out the other three.

This year's London's autumn catwalk shows start on Friday.

In addition to traditional stalwarts, such as Burberry, London's fashion scene has bounced back because it has become a magnet for young and original designers who want to unsettle the industry's hierarchy.

New designers put London fashion back on the map

Left: Robert Wun's Spring/Summer 2017 collection. Right: Robert Wun in his studio. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Among them is 25-year-old Robert Wun, who, like so many London-based fledging designers, defies preconceptions.

Sporting a casual black T-shirt and jeans with long, curly bob, Wun looks like a London version of Alexander Wang.

One might assume he too would take his inspiration from street styles in the way 32-year-old Wang built his brand as the ambassador of America's young and sporty chic.

But when Wun speaks, his received pronunciation and out-of-the-box ideas jolt you into realizing he is not, and does not want to be, anyone else.

Asked whether he is street-style savvy, his beaming expression dims and is followed by a clear-cut "no".

"Trends are not what I care about," he says.

Instead, he questions the obsession with "being trendy", saying it stops people from understanding the true value of clothes – the stories behind them.

"In the end, if it's just about a piece of clothing, it devalues this industry," he says.

So, where does he get his ideas? Perhaps, from locations, as is the case with Dolce & Gabbana's love letter to Italy's picturesque and culturally unique Sicily.

The last answer you might expect is National Geographic but, in declaring his admiration for "the amazing beauty of nature", his collection last season featured sea-wave-style ruffle sleeves, and the new collection for Spring/Summer 2017 comes from his observation of mantis and orchid.

"I just want to tell my own stories through design," he says.

And, while his clothes tell a story, his life story is worth telling too.

Born to a Mongolian father and Tibetan mother in Britain, Wun's background is diverse, even for a city like London that is known for its diversity.

He moved to Hong Kong as a toddler and returned to the UK at 16 to attend boarding school and then college. He speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese fluently.

After graduating from the London College of Fashion in 2012, he launched his brand one year later.

"London is a good place for fashion-loving young people like me, without any background, to start up," he said.

Constantly travelling between London and Hong Kong, he appreciates London's welcoming environment.

"If a designer is a seed, it needs good soil."

Three years after starting his brand, Wun is still a one-man design team. None of his co-workers have a full contract because they all work part-time.

But he is not alone.

For two seasons he worked with On|Off, a company, like others in London, including TopShop-sponsored NewGen, that promotes young talent and helps present their collections in designer showrooms before making runway shows.

New designers put London fashion back on the map

Tomorrow's Talent show is held in London on September 15, a day before London Fashion Week kicks off. [Photo by Jiang Shan/China Daily]

Some of these new designers made it onto the runway at the Tomorrow's Talent show on Thursday, one day before London fashion week officially began.

Reality is harsh for start-up designers, but hope roots in London that they can become the next Christopher Kane.

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