“I don't think I’m a fashion designer in the traditional sense, but I have my own, authentic vision,” says Jingwei Yin, who started Oude Waag in 2017, and recently presented his second collection at Shanghai Fashion Week. Yin, who moved to London in 2009, is unlike a majority of Chinese graduates having completed all of his education in the Western system - his BA at Central Saint Martins and MA at Royal College of Art.
“When I went to London I didn’t have any education,” he explains from a local teahouse in Shanghai. “I was in Saint Martins when I was 18, which wasn’t very usual. I never even thought about if I wanted to do mens or womens you know?” Yin’s leaning towards slow, conceptual fashion was well suited to his intensively theory-based education and has now resulted in work which is a poetic study of the relationship between the body and the garment.
His short journey since graduating and returning to China has been an introspective exploration of what it means to be a designer and the role education had in preparing him up for the journey. “I was taught to be personal, emotional and conceptual,” he states. “And this was great for students to discover their own identities and I think is the best thing about the UK fashion education. On the other side, coming out of university, you’re not actually involved in the industry. I didn’t know how to work with a factory or a pattern cutter.”
“The ecosystem to support young designers is still not as established as places like London or New York.”
Jillian Xin , luxury fashion retail consultant, agrees that these are real challenges facing all graduates, but concedes that some issues are uniquely Chinese. “Designers [here] face the same challenges as any young designers in any market,” she explains. “It’s building the right network and finding the right mentors, learning how to evolve the collection and so forth — the market in this respect is still developing in China. “The ecosystem to support young designers is still not as established as places like London or New York. So it forces them to be even more resourceful and innovative on the business side of things as well.”
This season, for SS’19 it seems many of Oude Waag’s issues have been ironed out, and the result is an elegantly draped collection, inspired by Sappho — the Greek poet. In Tube Showroom, the collection also struck a chord with buyers and customers alike, securing stockists in Beijing and Chongqing, as well as multiple in Shanghai. Xin puts this down in part to his colour palette — also refined from the previous season. “What resonated with me from SS19 was Yin’s masterful use of colour...bold yet considered,” she says of the collection. “Prints can often be very dominant but he married it beautifully with the draping. It still felt very elegant and understated which is difficult to achieve when you’re using a bright yellow.”
“The big companies here are driving profit. Under these condition, pattern cutters are really restricted by ideas”
Of young designers adapting to the market, Xin continues: “There’s already a familiarity and understanding of the language and culture as well as what customers are looking for.” Yin’s interpretation of this is to strike a balance between Asian aesthetics and Western cutting as well as refine the complex considerations lying at the heart of Yin’s philosophy: celebrating the power of women, yet simultaneously critiquing the ongoing objectification and idealisation of the body. This season he points to a promising new direction: “It was the first time that I designed with a real person in my mind — that’s the power of the journey.”