With Adidas arguably the most relevant fashion brand to those (Chinese) born between 1980 and 2000, it is nice to see some legit fashion history has not yet disappeared into thinspo air. The Antwerp Six are a fashion collective who in the late 1980s radically influenced catwalks worldwide, turning their stomping ground into a righteous fashion rage. Anno 2016, we see the surge of the Xiamen Gang, with critics likening the city’s role in China’s fashion landscape to that of Antwerp in Europe. In clique terms, then: The Xiamen designers… Pleasers or leaders ?
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ARTICLE CITED IN THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY MANGO ZHANG AND KATI CHITRAKORN FOR THE BUSINESS OF FASHION (BOF, JULY 19, 2016).
‘For me, the coolest thing [about the Xiamen scene] is that it is not dominated by a mature elite, but by young people,’ Shangguan Zhe, founder of the Sankuanz brand, tells BOF.
A topnotch Google search result teaches us that: “The Antwerp Six collective includes Belgium’s six most influential avant-garde fashion designers: Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee. In the 1980s, they all received their diploma from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp”. Just to add a little correcting fast fact, Martin Margiela, their Belgian contemporary, is often mistakenly included in this sixy gang. In actuality, he’d already cantered off to Paris to work with 90s Maître D’ Jean-Paul Gaultier.
At the time of the collective’s formation, the undertakings of the aforementioned six designers exhibited a sensational difference compared to previous designer notions. Their ideas differed from the run-of-the-mode-mill to the extent that they transformed their Antwerp style into a righteous fashion rage, especially after they took part in the late-80s London Fashion Fair. Anno 2016, Antwerp City is unquestionably one legit Fashion Destination.
In short, Antwerp’s fashion scene needed the Antwerp Six to put the city on the Vogue map. The fashion collective went on to break up and carry on sketching and sowing individually, with each designer producing their own distinct brand identification. They set the pace for generations of internationally renowned Flemish fashion designers, including Raf Simons, Veronique Branquinho and Kaat Tilley.
“The government’s support for independent designers has been very beneficial. Our office is more spacious and more stable than ever before.” Shangguan.
BOF dives right into Xiamen’s island culture with this Shangguan interview by Zhang and Chitrakorn:
“Today, as the local government seeks to restructure its economy and upgrade industries, fashion is becoming a big part of the municipal strategy. Xiamen now has its own fashion week and special funds have been set aside to support local colleges and universities with fashion and textiles courses.
‘The Xiamen government even commissioned a short film about the city and sent it overseas to communicate [its image],’ explains Shangguan, one of 260 designers who have settled in the recently established Longshan Cultural Creative Park, a government project that offers affordable studios for creative talent to rent. ‘The government’s support for independent designers has been very beneficial. Our office is more spacious and more stable than ever before.’
Shangguan’s menswear label Sankuanz counts more than 30 global stockists including Joyce, I.T, Galeries Lafayette, 10 Corso Como, Dong Liang and Opening Ceremony. Last year, he opened his own multi-brand concept store in Xiamen called Akipelago (AKP), which stocks his own label alongside the collections of Xiamen-based designers, international brands like Vans, Puma and Y’s, and also offers lifestyle products, artworks and a café.
A 2015 LVMH Prize semi-finalist, Shangguan heads up a group of local designers, including Min Liu of Ms Min, Xiaolu Liu of Deepmoss and Yifang Wan, whose businesses are based in Xiamen. The latest addition is Vega Wang, who moved her studio from Beijing to Xiamen.
It is this congregation of fashion designers that led to the Chinese edition of the New York Times to compare Xiamen’s fashion circle to the Antwerp Six, naming them the ‘Xiamen Gang’, and to liken Xiamen’s role in China’s fashion landscape to Antwerp’s in Europe.”
To read the full article and Shangguan’s opinions on the comparison, you can visit The Business Of Fashion right here! As far as the Xiamen designers are concerned, they’re definitely leaders in their own right. With collections pleasing to the flight of fancy. Who wants to fit in, anyway?
Photos: The Business Of Fashion.
Featured Image: Sankuanz By GQ, 2015.