Cho Cheng is moving at a pretty good clip for a designer who graduated from Parsons The New School for Design just two years ago.
He has an atelier on Manhattan’s East 63rd Street, a handful of freestanding signature boutiques in China and celebrity clients. In addition, the designer — who is preparing for his first runway show in the tents in February — will sponsor the 2009 Young Friends of Save Venice Ball and is wholesaling his collection in the U.S. Until now, the Chinese-born designer has relied on word-of-mouth recommendations from his well-heeled friends and clients to sell his collection.
Last year, Cheng inherited the five Betty Couture stores in Asia that belonged to his maternal grandmother Betty Char-nuis Clemos, considered to be one of the first fashion designers in China. They are now under his company’s label, Chocheng. He also inherited his grandmother’s design archives.
Although Cheng’s family helps manage his stores, he came up with the seed money to start his business through an impetuous stock investment. After hearing that Martha Stewart was arrested in 2003 for lying about a stock trade, he decided to play the stock market for the first time and bought $50,000 worth of stock in her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. After her release from prison, however, he disapproved of Stewart’s decision to do a spin-off of “The Apprentice” reality TV show and decided to cash in, making tenfold in the process. That windfall enabled him to leave his full-time gig at Maggie Norris Couture, where he had started as an intern, to venture out on his own.
This year, Cho Cheng’s annual volume is $925,000, with the U.S. accounting for about $120,000. The company plans a 27 percent increase in 2009, which Cheng considers to be conservative, given the difficult economic climate.
Olivia Pei, architect I.M. Pei’s granddaughter, helped raise Cheng’s designer profile by wearing one of his made-to-measure gowns, a dramatic black and red style that retails for $40,000, to last year’s Crillon Ball in Paris. Months later, Cheng was delighted when Nicole Kidman commented on what he calls the “marshmallow gown,” a pink poufy taffeta number he designed for his friend Tinsley Mortimer for last year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Ball. “At first, I thought she was just being nice, but that was a big encouragement for me,” said Cheng, who escorted his friend to the gala.
In building sales, the company aims to broaden its domestic distribution beyond the handful of stores that carry his line. The 30-piece spring collection consists of jackets, skirts, suits, cocktail dresses and evening gowns. Wholesale prices range from $150 for a skirt to $3,000 for a gown. His made-to-measure collection retails from $15,000 to $45,000.
Cheng employs some of the seamstresses who worked for Mary McFadden, and buys handwoven brocade from Scottish mills. “There are still people in Scotland who do this intricate handweaving,” he said, displaying a jacket. In fact, he is so enamored with jackets that the February show is inspired by “The Little Prince,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s velvet jacket-wearing character.
Cheng credits his grandmother with introducing him to the design world and couture show in Paris. While she was known to match the lining of her designs to her clients’ complexions, he is also drawn to the little details— though these times do not allow for such indulgences.
“Back then, people would order from the same designer again and again,” he said.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)