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David Jones

A Look at Modern Chinese Fashion

What is modern Chinese fashion? Most of us are quite a knowledgeable and sophisticated bunch but you would be forgiven to think that it's all about Chinese brocade and cheongsam-style dresses. Truth is, although fashion consumption has opened up to a global scale in where we can shop online from Europe to Asia, there's some cultures we still perceive in their most traditional form. 

But in reality, modern Chinese fashion is anything but. With the rise of an affluent and brand-conscious second generation Chinese, designs are keeping up quickly with the styles of the time. It's all about being cool and urban, appealing to the global customer who's used to seeing trends from all over the world and shopping them.

Shining a spotlight on this new generation of Chinese designers, David Jones is hosting a pop-up collection from 11 February featuring thirteen of China's most exciting ready-to-wear labels and three accessory ranges. Helen Lee and Huishan Zhang are two of the designers selected for the collection, and whose brands are clearly influenced by their studies and experiences working outside of China, yet maintain a balance with their rich Chinese heritage.

We speak to both designers about starting up their own fashion label and the inspiration behind their modern Chinese designs:

Helen Lee designs Shop Now

Tell us about your brand. When and where was it conceived? 

Helen Lee: I founded “HELEN LEE” in 2009. I already had a successful streetwear brand (“insh” meaning “In Shanghai”) at the time, but the idea for a more sophisticated and high-end fashion brand “HELEN LEE” came about because of our growing customer base. Both “insh” and “HELEN LEE” have Shanghai roots, but appeal to slightly different clientele. “HELEN LEE” is for an urban woman that is strong and independent, but also feminine, curious and adventurous.

Huishan Zhang: My brand started long before I put pen to paper… I have always wanted to design beautiful timeless pieces for women who want to feel beautiful. There wasn't an official start date to when I started the brand but my experience at Central Saint Matins where I studied, definitely opened my mind to how this can be achieved.

Describe the type of woman your brand designs for.

HL: “HELEN LEE” woman is feminine, playful, adventurous and a bit romantic (as any adventurous personality). She is independent, open-minded and curious.

HZ: A woman who knows her own personal style and doesn't follow trends; she is confident, cultured and open minded.
Huishan Zhang designs Shop Now

What's your brand's signature style?

HL: Our brand’s designs mostly have simple cuts with a great attention to details. We love to use a lot of vivid colours, texture and colour contrasts, combining different fabrics within a single piece. In addition, every season we create a set of new unique prints that have become our brand signature and our customers’ favorites. Our prints contain many nature and animalistic elements in them, because that is what I draw my inspiration from. 

HZ: Romantic, timeless, feminine, and cultured. I also tend to use a lot of Chinese traditional symbols and craftmanship, alongside Western influences in my designs and colour palette.

Where do you find inspiration?

HL: I find most of my inspiration while travelling, visiting new places and being close to nature. Travelling also allows me to discover local art, lifestyle and culture, and I love going to art exhibitions and museums. Communication with people also inspires me a lot as well. Discovering someone’s great personality is as exciting as discovering new places for me.

HZ: Everywhere. I travel a lot between China and London so there is always a strong emphasis on bridging my Chinese cultures and traditions with Western influences and lifestyle.