Beijing-born Snow Xue Gao got her start in womenswear at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, later moving to New York City to pursue a Master’s degree in fashion at Parson School of Design. Following her graduation in 2016, she launched her label with strong east-meets-west influences.
“At Parsons, they really pushed me to find my personal identity as a designer, and that’s where I started to build my Asian-inspired aesthetic,” Gao tells ORDRE. “They would always question the Asian elements in my collections, they would ask: why is it different? Why does it belong to you?”
While at Parsons, Gao interned for Jason Wu and Martin Greenfield, a specialist menswear tailor based in Brooklyn. There, she gained a fresh perspective on traditional tailoring, which inspired her to marry Chinoiserie elements with the classic Western tailoring of suit jackets and menswear trousers.
This seems to be a winning combination for Snow Xue Gao. Although only three collections in, Gao reveals the label is growing steadily, with sales doubling season on season. She adds that SS’19 is the brand’s most successful collection to date, with revenue between USD$500,000 and USD$750,000. “Our spring collection sales have been quite surprising, and people have really responded positively to the bold prints and unexpected silhouettes,” she beams. “I think buyers are gaining confidence in the brand and placing a lot more orders now that we are in our third season.”
She outlines a number of pieces from the collection which have been particularly popular amongst buyers, including tailored trousers lined with colourful printed silk, and a juxtaposing outerwear piece, merging half a suit jacket and half a silk kimono. “It’s one of our most iconic pieces because I believe it shows our brand identity very clearly,” says Gao. “It’s also very wearable, offering the perfect balance between Asian and Western inspiration.”
“I learned a lot of consumers are interested in buying Snow Xue Gao because they value the brand’s individuality”
She adds that while many existing clients – like Chicago’s Blake or London’s Boutique 1 – increased their orders following her SS’19 runway show at New York Fashion Week in September, the brand also landed many new retailers. Top-tier department stores and boutiques like Lane Crawford in China, I.T in Hong Kong, and Ikram in Chicago snapped up numerous outfits from the collection, expanding the brand’s stockists to 20 retailers worldwide.
Choosing to set up her studio in New York, the designer explains she felt it was the right location as a young designer to grow her business. “For me, New York is like home, and I think there is a lot of great industry support for emerging designers, especially from the CFDA and Parsons,” she says.
Considering her studio and production are based in New York’s Garment District, this makes sense. “I can find everything I need within three or four blocks, and we are neighbours with our main factories, so it makes communication extremely convenient for the quality control,” she explains. She admits, however, that she sources all her fabrications from other countries for their superior quality, with 80 percent of her wool, cashmere and cotton coming from Italian fabric mills. Gao gets her silks from China, believing they are more cost effective but of a higher standard, even trusting her silk suppliers to handle all of the digital silk prints and colours.
Looking to the future, Gao is keen to focus on her upcoming AW’19 collection and build her brand organically. “So far I’ve received a lot of valuable feedback from buyers about what consumers are responding to the most – it’s given me a lot to think about for next season,” she reflects. “I learned a lot of consumers are interested in buying Snow Xue Gao because they value the brand’s individuality, so I want to continue to give them something unique.” With the consumer clearly at the heart of the brand, it seems Snow Xue Gao is on the path to success.