LONDON — It’s about time to design something for himself.
Ian Hylton, the former men’s wear creative director at Ports 1961 for nine years and president at the Xiamen-based label Ms Min, on Dec. 15 is launching the men’s wear line Xian Sheng, which predominantly means “mister” in Chinese, with a capsule of 18 looks.
He said he picked the name because Xian Sheng can mean so much more, as it also means gentleman, teacher or a highly regarded woman in Chinese. It’s also because their first choice — Mr Min — was registered by a Spanish shoe company that declined to sell the trademark to them.
Married to Liu Min, founder of the LVMH Prize-shortlisted Ms Min, and having spent 15 years in China, Hylton said the new line is designed for the Chinese middle class who increasingly desire to own what is theirs — and one of those things is wearing clothes designed in China.
“If I hear one more Western person talking about China as an emerging market, I am going to spit. I just can’t stand to hear it anymore. People need to understand China has a history of luxury that’s dynasties old,” he said.
Hylton added that ever since he joined Ms Min in 2014, he has been working on the launch of a men’s wear label of his own.
“It has always been in my plan. I am a designer. I have always wanted to realize something again. As a matter of fact, this is the third time that I tried it. I did collection samples and then I trashed it, twice,” he said.
According to Hylton, this time works because he didn’t take his Western training to do Western clothes. Instead, he used his Western tailoring training and knowledge of Chinese people and culture after living in China for 15 years to develop clothes for the market.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant as a Westerner trying to design Chinese clothes, but I feel that the influence of the collection is coming from the East. It’s a wind coming from the East,” he said.
“I used to feel like Milan being the home of men’s wear, as a young Canadian boy, I was always dreaming of being in Milan. But that is a one-sided view of the world. After I started looking from the East, things became much clearer,” he added.
“I am making clothes for Chinese life, for what people do here, whether it’s a meeting with government officials or karaoke. The lifestyle is completely different. So, the clothes for that lifestyle need to be different. They need to be altered.”
Therefore, the collection has many subtle or even indescribable clever references to Chinese culture and traditional clothing that might be easily overlooked by people from other cultures.
For example, there is a twin set of thin down and a vest that are made with ink navy blue silk with a muted chrysanthemum jacquard pattern. Hylton made it with an Italian technique to keep them thin and light, while maintaining the shape of a traditional Chinese jacket.
“For me, this is the new chic way to look. I wear it with tuxedo pants for dinner, wear jeans to a play, when it’s packed, it’s my airplane pillow,” he said.
There is also an evening shirt made from an Italian silk fabric that Liu has been using for years in the women’s wear line.
“It’s not greasy or slippery. It’s dry and just hangs on your body. I love it. It can take you anywhere,” Hylton added.
The designer describes the line as a play of his own, and he is not in a rush to scale the brand. He wants it to grow organically.
“I am looking forward to people actually wearing my clothes and enjoying them and feeling why I did them,” he said.
The first drop of Xian Sheng will be available via Ms Min’s Tmall online store, its Shanghai store and select retailers. The price point of the collection is similar to Ms Min, starting from $200 for a shirt to $1,000 for a padded bomber jacket.