Established in 2008 by designer Christine Lau, the Chictopia (Beijing) clothing brand aims to promote an independent and relaxed lifestyle. With a Sina Weibo account of some 200,000 followers who religiously say yes to her dress, Lau’s quirky upbeat take on textile has proven a breath of fresh air in China’s fashion scene-at-large.
Digital printing, laser cutting, composite coating, embroidery and embossing always turn up in their most state-of-the-art form.
Established in 2008 by designer Christine Lau, the Chictopia (Beijing) clothing brand aims to promote an independent, relaxed and enthrallingly pleasant life style. With a Sina Weibo account of some 200,000 followers who religiously say yes to her dress, Lau’s quirky upbeat take on textile has proven a breath of fresh air in China’s fashion scene-at-large. With summer rapidly moving towards us, it’s about time Temper Magazine takes a look at Chictopia’s kaleidoscopic collections.
The brand swears by the use of natural fibres only, including cotton, wool and silk. Chictopia’s staple bold “pick-me-up” prints and motifs range from teapots, insects and flower pots to the absolute abstract. Lau consistently weaves together innovative ideas with the latest in fabric technology. Digital printing, laser cutting, composite coating, embroidery and embossing always turn up in their most state-of-the-art form.
The following interview with Lau was conducted by Rome-raised, Beijing-based Chiara Sassu. The two spent a girly afternoon at Chictopia HQ in Beijing’s Jianwai SOHO playing dress up and undressing the raging rebel that resides under the brand’s ultra-feminine aesthetics. Ladies, take it away!
Sassu: What is Chictopia to you?
Lau: “Chictopia is a very important part of my life, it fills me with a deep sense of success and happiness. It started out as a way to express myself and it remains as such to this day. I’m a goofy girl with self-confidence and the pieces I design aim to bring out the kookiness that lives within every individual. I am inspired by the simple things that happen every day: I’m a very good observer and I find the world around me to be beyond beautiful. It’s not too difficult then to design beautiful pieces!”
The fact that I was in London played a big role: The city is at the same time traditional, arty and very edgy. It was a process of self-discovery.
Sassu: You were trained as a textile designer at London’s Central Saint Martins. When you moved away from China and found yourself in the UK, how did that make you feel?
Lau: “For the very first time in my life, I felt completely free. I had discovered a completely different environment, completely different to what I thought it would be like. Studying in China is very stressful and you are not encouraged to develop any form of independent thinking, whilst in London my tutors were very open-minded. One workshop after another, a new Me was born: An adult with clear ideas about the future and a more educated passion for fashion. I think also the fact that I was in London played a big role: The city is at the same time traditional, arty and very edgy. I found myself in a very inspiring place with people from all over the world. It’s a self-discovery process that I think every person should experience and I hope it will be easier and easier for Chinese students to do so.”
Sassu: How was Chictopia born?
Lau: “After graduating, I worked as a freelance textile designer in London for a while. It was fun, but I still wanted to improve my technique. That is the reason I came back to China: Learn more about those techniques. After one year I felt confident enough, or reckless — depending on how you look at it, to launch my own label. For the first two years it was extremely tough… I had to do everything by myself: Design, marketing, sales, the whole shebang. Yet even on those most nerve-racking days I felt I would eventually make it. This thought gave me the strength to keep going.”
Sassu: How is the Chictopia adventure going today?
Lau: “Today, it’s definitely become easier: I have a fantastic team of 20 highly trust-worthy people [“her younger siblings”, she calls them], the media has really rallied behind us independent designers and the Chinese clientele is becoming more and more curious about new and unconventional products. [Not to mention their increased spending power; it’s all coming together.] Moreover, the opening of concept stores that promote up-and-coming domestic designers have given sales a nice big boost.”
Chictopia is not ready to venture abroad just yet. It’s a young label, it needs to grow and grow wiser before it sets sail.
Sassu: Are you interested in selling your pieces abroad?
Lau: “Of course I’m interested, but I feel Chictopia is just not quite ready yet. It’s a young label, it needs to grow bigger and wiser before it can venture abroad. At the moment, I’m still focusing on the domestic market, aiming at having more and more shops selling my pieces. Once we have a very wide selling platform and our brand is stable, then we’ll be ready to go. I don’t see the point in rushing things.”
Sassu: What’s your big dream?
Lau: “I’m actually not a dreamer and I’m not even particularly ambitious. I would love just to keep Chictopia as successful as it is now. If I have a dream, it’s about the health of my family members and the love for my husband — these are my priorities.”
Chictopia is a rising star in the China Fashion ranks and it won’t be long now before the brand turns up on the global fashion radar. A rebel with a fun-loving fashionable cause.
This interview was originally conducted by Rome-raised, Beijing-based Chiara Sassu. You can find the Chinese and Italian translations, plus an additional few pics of their model mayhem afternoon, on her personal lifestyle blog right here!
Additional editing by Elsbeth van Paridon.