Hong Huang has a dream – to cultivate, help and support China’s emerging design scene until its members can take on the international brands at their own game. But Hong isn’t just any woman with her own boutique. She is one of China’s most successful celebrities.
The daughter of Mao’s English teacher and translator, her privileged life has long been under the scrutiny of the Chinese public. As chief executive of the China Interactive Media Group, she also runs the successful iLook fashion magazine, has millions of followers on her personal blog and microblog, has published three books, hosted various talk shows and even starred in a movie. But it’s her venture into retail that’s really getting us hot under the fashionable collar.
Her store, Brand New China, is appropriately positioned slap bang in the middle of the Balmains, Versaces and Lanvins of Beijing, but it’s proving to be the most exciting space in the gradually evolving Village North complex thus far. With products from more than 100 designers, ranging from clothes to accessories to furniture, this 540sqm space is both a museum and a show space for all that is hot in design right now. Rickshaw cabinets house pieces from the latest jewellery designers, while local streetwear brands, including the likes of NLGX, The Thing, Plastered and Hi Panda, flank the walls.
While it’s not exclusively Chinese designers on offer here, Brand New China is a great place to brush up on your local design names. The Wangs are out in full force, from Vega to Uma to Simon, and all the usual suspects have their spot, including Qiu Hao, Xander Zhou and Sankuanz. Highlights for this season include Fan Ran’s cocktail dresses, He Yan’s juxtaposition of tweed and floral, and Neither Nor’s slouchy knitwear. Hong has supported emerging talent from the outset, and hopes to help Chinese luxury brands eventually compete in the global marketplace.
Interestingly, she points out that only non-Chinese developers see the promise in a store so devoted to locally honed new fashion. But most only use Chinese designers for one-off events. Here’s hoping that Brand New China changes their perspective. AM