SHANGHAI — Gemma Williams, formerly the curator of Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion, has spent the past two years working on the first comprehensive, English-language book about Chinese fashion — the forthrightly titled “Fashion China.”
The book features 41 design talents from China, including lavish eveningwear specialist Guo Pei, Uma Wang’s voluminous silhouettes and designers — such as Huishan Zhang — who have moved from China to make their mark on foreign markets.
A panel made up of model Liu Wen; China fashion cheerleader and media personality Hung Huang, and Harper’s Bazaar China director Lucia Liu chose the featured designers in consultation with the author, who spoke to WWD following the book’s launch at Shanghai’s 10 Corso Como store at the beginning of Shanghai Fashion Week.
WWD: What made you want to write “Fashion China”?
Gemma Williams: I was in London and there was this interesting synergy of Chinese students coming over, which got me thinking about Chinese fashion and what was going on in Mainland China, because we know so little about it.
WWD: What were the criteria for designers to be considered for the book?
G.W.: I wanted designers who people were talking about and who were making an impact on the industry.
WWD: How has the experience of writing the book and now coming to Shanghai Fashion Week shaped your idea of Chinese fashion?
G.W.: There’s that saying, which is something like, “If you spend a week in a place, you can write a book, but if you spend 20 years, you won’t even dare to write a sentence.” I feel as though China gets more and more confusing every time I come back.
WWD: What does the Chinese fashion world look like to observers in places such as the U.K., do you think?
G.W.: We get such a small biased version of what it is, that it’s exciting, but it seems more straightforward than it actually is. I was trying to book my flights for Shanghai Fashion Week and people were telling me I didn’t necessarily need to go at that time to see all of the shows, and they are right. There are designers doing things all of the time, outside of Shanghai Fashion Week, two weeks before or after, it’s pretty chaotic. You wouldn’t see that in London.
WWD: What are some of the misconceptions about Chinese fashion?
G.W.: A lot of people in this West are looking at it from a Western perspective — a woman asked me today to tell her about the trends [at Shanghai Fashion Week] but it’s not about that. It’s just really good to be here on the ground and see it from myself, but it’s a challenge.