Born in Dalian, Northern China, Dawei Sun’s fashion career began when he emigrated to Paris, attending the prestigious École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne (ECSCP). He followed this by working at John Galliano and Balenciaga, before co-founding his first women’s ready-to-wear label, Belle Ninon, with fellow ECSCP graduate, Ling Liu.
“At Galliano, I learnt to take my first steps, and discover the inner workings of the fashion industry,” Sun tells ORDRE. “Galliano is open-minded and extremely curious about different cultures, and this interaction encouraged me to have a wider vision of art and fashion.”
Sun then landed the title of co-artistic director of French fashion house, Cacharel, working across the brand’s womenswear, childrenswear, menswear, and accessories lines, alongside his former design partner, Liu. They debuted their SS’12 collection as part of Paris Fashion Week in October 2011.
“I was surrounded by visionary talents, which nourished my aesthetic and opened my eyes,” he beams, highlighting how this stretch of work was an invaluable experience — ultimately becoming the building blocks for his eponymous brand launched in 2016.
Why did he choose the French capital as the brand’s home? “I find inspiration in being surrounded by different forms of art, and Paris is the perfect place to foster new ideas.” Now, the designer divides his time equally between Beijing and Paris which makes perfect sense, given that production is based in China and materials are sourced from neighbouring Italy.
“Our customers are fashion literate, well-travelled women, who appreciate unique, under-the-radar designers like Dawei”
Just two years after launch, Dawei's retailer base is expanding at a steady rate, and Sun discloses that Dawei’s revenue is also growing (sales are increasing 40 percent season-on-season). Its current stockist list includes leading boutiques like Dressing For Fun in Chengdu and Via Bus Stop in Tokyo, alongside renowned luxury chain stores like Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and China.
Kuwait is another market where Dawei’s pieces have been flying off the shelves, namely at Grain boutique, which has stocked the brand since Spring 2018. With a collection sell-through rate at a remarkable 80 percent, Grain founder Fatma Algharabally is enthusiastic about the designer's cache: “We keep receiving requests for Dawei’s best selling pieces, even after selling out.”
She goes on to paint a picture of the luxury market in the region, adding, “Kuwait’s fashion market is saturated with high-end luxury brands like Celine and Chanel. Our customers are fashion literate, well-travelled women, who appreciate unique, under-the-radar designers like Dawei.”
Perhaps it is Dawei’s take on history which makes it such a hit with global audiences. Defined by clean cuts and clever deconstructions, recent collections — AW’18 in particular — take cues from 18th century Romanticism, a time that resonates heavily with the designer’s inspiration. “I love this era because it was rich in literature, art, music, and philosophy, and it’s also a time where individualism was highly accentuated,” he adds.
As the brand continues to grow, Sun faces the challenge of building his team effectively, and an expansion into menswear looks likely: “I have had constant requests to create a menswear collection, and it’s something I am considering to pursue further down the line.”