Young Chinese fashion designers get big break in NYC
Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Zac Posen … all of these fashion icons graduated from London’s Central Saint Martin College of Art and Design (CSM). Now four of the school’s Chinese students have brought their works to New York to chase their dreams of becoming world famous designers.
CSM fashion design womenswear undergraduate students Wang Qing, Hu Tianjia, Hu Yingqi and recently accepted student Qi Sixian staged a fashion show for about 200 guests at New York City’s Hotel Pennsylvania during this year’s New York Fashion Week, which runs from Feb 6 to 13.
The biannual event is held in February and September in Manhattan each year and showcases the latest collections to the fashion world. Started in 1943, New York Fashion Week, branded Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in 2009, is one of the major fashion weeks worldwide, along with those in Paris, London and Milan.
“I am so lucky to be doing a show here,” said Wang Qing, a freshman at CSM. “A lot of my classmates are super talented but they don’t have such a chance.”
She told China Daily that the students were only able to present their works at fashion week because of their design coach Wang Hao’s connections.
In the past years Wang Hao has sent more than 10 designers he has helped to attend the graduation fashion show of his training school, Beijing-based Ying Sheng International Culture and Art Center (YS), to New York Fashion Week. But it was the first time for him to host a special show for his former students who got into CSM.
“I have always been wondering what I could do to help these designers’ careers,” said Wang, also an active fashion designer. “That’s why I started to organize fashion shows here to increase their visibility.”
“I want to support them to become rising stars in the industry,” he added.
Although the young women were fortunate to showcase their creations along with the world’s top designers while still in their early 20s, the journey that led them to the runway was not a smooth one, they said.
Wang Qing, Hu Tianjia and Hu Yingqi all had already completed a bachelor’s degree in China before going to London, but once there they had to complete another round of undergraduate studies before beginning to study design with the masters at CSM.
“I thought CSM was too prestigious to want anything to do with me. And it usually only admits one or two Chinese students each year,” said Wang Qing. “But I tried anyway. Every day I worked from 10 am to 10 pm to prepare my portfolio. I did nothing but work, besides sleeping and eating.
“The moment I received the admission letter, I cried,” she said.
London took some getting used to as well.
“I wasn’t used to the life there, nor the language. It was hard to keep up with school. The instructors don’t use textbooks, so we didn’t know where to start,” said Wang, who said she is finally getting comfortable with school life.
“Studying in London has helped me to find my own style and improve my ability to study independently, which you can’t really learn from schools in China,” said Hu Yingqi, a third-year student who was the first one from China admitted to CSM’s womenswear major in three years, according to YS school webpage.
“Also, in China we were asked to learn from established works, in CSM design is more about personal experiences,” Hu said. “However, I do need to think about commercial aspects once I graduate. In school you can create whatever you want, but in the real world you also need to think about if the market will like it.”
Looking forward, most of these young designers plan to develop their career either in the UK or the US first before deciding whether or not to go back to China.
“Probably the US. Compared with London, it is relatively easier to stay in New York,” said Hu Tianjia, now a freshman at CSM.
For Qi Sixian, life lies where opportunity takes her. In order to study fashion design, she went to Shenzhen for a pre-undergraduate program from a design school in London. But through Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, she found out about Wang Hao and headed north to Beijing to take a shot at CSM.
Now at the age of 20, Qi has already completed two shows in fashion week before going to CSM this fall. She has also been doing a variety of gigs on the side, including selling cars, in order to gain more social experiences. Zhang Yang contributed to this story and can be reached at email@example.com.
Hu Tianjia (right), a freshman student at Central Saint Martin College of Art and Design, is preparing for her show during New York Fashion Week on Feb 6.