Toasting American Fashion in Beijing
“We went to the Great Wall and rode down the toboggan twice!” exclaimed Marchesa designer Keren Craig during a party that Chinese retail impresarios Silas Chou and his daughter, Veronica Chou, hosted at their Beijing residence on Friday. While her design partner—Georgina Chapman—was absent, Craig was joined by Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, and Rag & Bone’s David Neville and Marcus Wainwright, all of whom had traveled to the Far East as part of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund’s Americans in China initiative. Launched in 2012, the program aims to introduce a cross section of American design to the buoyant Chinese market.
Earlier in the day, the trio of U.S. brands presented their Fall ’13 ranges at the restored Ming Dynasty City Wall in the heart of old Beijing. Each collection was reassembled on a coterie of Chinese models, including Liu Wen, Xiao Wen, and Ming Xi.
“These designers represent the diversity of American fashion, from contemporary wear to high fashion and the red carpet,” said CFDA CEO Steven Kolb. “For all of us, China is this great unknown market,” he added, noting that over the next five years, the CFDA will expand its global programming.
The Rag & Bone boys divulged that this was their first trip to Beijing. “No one speaks English!” Neville joked. “But in all seriousness, we clearly see opportunity in China. There are just a few other territories we are focusing our business on first, like the U.S. and London.” The Marchesa team hopes to introduce a new diffusion line—Marchesa Voyage—to the market as early as August, and Proenza Schouler plans to continue learning the Chinese market. “There’s definitely room for growth,” said Hernandez. Each label is currently stocked at multi-brand retailers like Lane Crawford, or Joyce in Greater China, and none foresee establishing a freestanding mono-brand store soon.
After spending the evening mingling with the likes of Vogue China editor Angelica Cheung, wife of U.S. Ambassador to China Mona Lee Locke, and Chinese actress Carina Lau, hostess Veronica Chou hopped a flight with her father to New York. “We’ve seen the trend of European luxury brands entering the Chinese market, but now is the time for contemporary American brands to thrive, as Chinese consumers are becoming more curious and mature,” she offered before leaving. “This would have never have happened ten years ago!”