The Agnelli family-backed luxury brand Shang Xia will mark a milestone when the spring 2023 ready-to-wear collection becomes the first to be sold internationally, and outside of China.
“This is me trying to crack the code of post-modern Chinese beauty. Shang Xia has roots in Chinese craft and heritage, but I’m trying to bring it into the fashion conversation,” said creative director Yang Li of the brand launched in 2009, which also has investment from Hermès.
Li worked in black-and-white and pastels, creating serene streetwear and dressier looks that seemed squarely aimed at the influencer set. He was loosely inspired by traditional Chinese paper cutting and watercolors, particularly the attention paid to negative space in those practices.
So oversize candy-hued shirt jackets had a single stroke of color down the back or contrasting single-pocket details, and were worn with biker shorts, while papery leather draped skirts with floating oval motifs were worn with draped, second-skin jersey tops for a touch of the ’90s. The sweet hues were countered by the toughness of punk rock platform boots.
Long-line tailoring was strong, as were girlie micro-minidresses with 3D ruffled oval embellishments or tiny beads and feathers, all of which would seem a natural for young starlets, who might also want to try out the models’ matching lavender hair. Dresses also came in draped color-blocked jersey that managed to look sculpted, or leather with allover fluttery cutouts. And legs were perched atop cool ballet flats with Mod-meets-Manchu Dynasty bubble platforms.
An example of Shang Xia’s network of Chinese craftspersons could be seen on a dress made by traditional artisans using a special bamboo with fine, hairlike strands, yielding an entirely new spin on fashion’s current fringe fetish.
To help reach more customers and propel growth, Shang Xia has a strategy for wholesale, and is talking to influential stores in key markets. Yi is also hoping to plan in-person events and to court young Hollywood and music talent, if the coronavirus allows.
The designer, who has his studio in Paris, still hasn’t been able to travel freely to the brand’s operational headquarters in China because of COVID-19 lockdowns. “In a perfect world, we’d be traveling back and forth,” he said. “However, this is about relentless optimism, which also represents China. We don’t need to look back.”