Published for Paper Magazine in September 2011
It’s no secret that South China’s not really known for its bustling fashion scene. High-profile runway shows are few and far between, yet a scene exists and believe it or not, it’s quite vibrant in its own unique, subtle way. ‘Nan Pai’ (Southern style) is an identity among fashionistas in the South China region. It translates as young, hip, trendy, down-to-earth, as well as cultural. It takes influences from mega fashion centres such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, but it manages to maintain its own characteristics.
“The Southern style is an independent fashion scene. Much like the city of Guangzhou and its people, it’s never over the top and it’s progressing at its own pace,” comments Yoyo Cheung – senior fashion editor for Metro Post in Guangzhou. What Yoyo finds unique about local fashion is the fact that designer brands play very little importance. Most locals focus on the practicality side of fashion, i.e. classic appeal, wearability and comfort. Finer details are appreciated before flamboyant features. Yoyo is an advocate of the classic look, drawing inspiration from old Hollywood movies like ‘Roman Holiday’ and is frequently seen gracing industry events in her tailor-perfect attire. She adds, “The Southern style is not avant-garde, but it certainly isn’t boring either. We’ve seen many creative and fun designs in recent years which further establish the Southern style.”
One such example is Rae Han. Rae is the first haute couture designer based in South China to make his name in the fashion industry with his fun, ground-breaking and sometimes quirky design esthetics. When asked his opinion of fashion, he was quick to explain his point of view. “Fashion is something spiritually manifested in a material form. Trends go away but fashion stays. So fashion is a way of life and a designer’s job is to convey his ideals in the best way possible.” For the past 15 years, Rae has been on the frontline of a blooming South China fashion scene and he remains humble and true to his ideals. Originality has always been a priority and he refuses to sacrifice his process to please mainstream markets. “I love to have the visual impact – the wow factor in my designs. And I want to inspire eager designers, that you can be successful if you stay true to yourself.” Rae is an active contributor to the development of local fashion by sharing his fashion philosophy at seminars, fashion events and through a multitude of media channels.
Similar to Rae Han, Sunny Eos is also a creator of fashion, but on the other side of the lense as a photographer. Sunny thinks that in comparison to artistic creation of Northern China, the Southern style is more liberal and diverse. It is often an expression of individuality void of political constraints; therefore there might be unconventional provoking elements at play. Sunny likes to describe the Southern style as ‘X’ – ‘X’ indicating infinite possibilities. This liberal approach has enabled Sunny to create ground-breaking visual creations in his line of work – work that has inspired fashion designers in return.
But when everything’s said and done it’s the people on the ground that dictate the influence of fashion through media. But heavy marketing tactics don’t seem to have much sway over consumers in South China. This is how Echo Zhang, a freelance fashion writer feels about the local market. “I run a few fashion columns on some major websites but I don’t consider myself influential. The young crowds are looking for something to express their individuality. They might take inspiration from me but they know really well what’s their style. So they don’t just follow trends blindly.” “The media seems to play too much importance on outside influence,” she continues, “which doesn’t help with the blossoming of local fashion. If more local artists are encouraged and exposed, the Southern style will definitely take off in the right direction.”
Senior Fashion Editor for the Metro Post, Yoyo frequently ranks in the city’s ‘best-dressed’ lists with her succinctly classic style. She can be found at any given night hob-nobbing with South China’s fashion elite anywhere from Pearl River New Town to Shenzhen’s Futian District.
He’s single-handedly making a name for South China haute design with his innovative approach to texture and shape. His big break came when he won back-to-back design competitions in Hong Kong and Italy as a student of fashion in Guangzhou. He’s gone on to set the standard for other young South China designers to follow.
For every good designer, there must be a great photographer capturing their work and Sunny has a better name than most amidst fashion elite. Anyone can pick up a camera however it take a real artist to produce the kind of work he produces on a consistent level unheard of in the region.
It would be unfair not to include someone from new media on this ‘icons’ list. After all, most fashion news is derived from the screen, not the newsstands nowadays and it take those with pluck and tenacity to shake loose an entrenched industry standard. Echo does this and more, enthusing subscribers with her witty take on the state of South China fashion.