On Monday night at the National Portrait Gallery, British Fashion Council chief executive officer Caroline Rush revealed that the BFC and the Vogue Fashion Fund will continue working with Chinese online retailer JD.com to increase British designers’ presence in China. Also unveiled was cross collaboration spearheaded by JD.com to sponsor three Chinese London-based designers to sell their collections on the e-tailer’s JDesigner Boutique platform.
Huishan Zhang, whose show this season was sponsored by the retailer; Xuzhi Chen; and Xiao Li will sell a selection from their collections on JDesigner Boutique, which launched in June. JDesigner Boutique targets a younger market, which is on the constant search for something unique and edgy.
“When you look at the sales on our platform, we can see that young people are more into individualism and more niche products,” Xia Ding, president of International Fashion at JD, told WWD. “It’s not looking at who is famous now, but who’s in the pipeline and the next generation of designers. That’s why we choose emerging designers, who are also selling very well.”
Zhang is the most established of the trio, having launched his brand in 2011 and opened his London flagship last year. His romantic and feminine designs have garnered him much attention, including being short-listed for last year’s Vogue Fashion Fund. This season, JD.com sponsored his show, which was held at the Royal Academy of Arts.
“It’s important to have the diversity in fashion. It’s not just about supporting Chinese designers, but about supporting emerging designers and I think that’s the goal,” Zhang said.
Xiao Li’s sculptural knitwear was short-listed for the 2015 LVMH Prize and Xuzhi Chen’s brand Xu Zhi puts a modern spin on craftsmanship that landed him as the Asia finalist for the International Woolmark Prize.
While the cross collaboration has only just launched, Ding is already busily brainstorming with the BFC on new ways to bridge British and Chinese design talent, including opportunities to work with Chinese brands to do more crossovers, to connect British designers with Chinese manufacturers to help with production, and to introduce them to Chinese craftsmanship, which dates back to Imperial tailoring.
This is the second year of the partnership and through the scheme, JD.com has worked with British designers offering mentoring support and helping them grow and build their reputation in China, where there are over 300 million customers.
“The BFC have been very supportive and very engaged, and they believe in what we do,” Ding said. “They’ve introduced designers to us and talked to designers about us. They’re a great partner and that’s why we renewed for a second year.”
Ding, who is one of the judges of the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund, has been instrumental in introducing the Chinese market to British talent and working closely with the BFC to bring homegrown emerging brands to her country. She sits on the fund’s judging panel and helps with the selection process, as well as offering personal mentorship to the short-listed designers.
The party was attended by luminaries in British fashion including designers Alice Temperley, current BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund recipient Molly Goddard, Huishan Zhang, model Adwoa Aboah, photographer Ellen von Unwerth and Yu Holdings’ Wendy Yu.