In 2007, on behalf of China Fashion Cultural Foundation, Ban Xiao Xue went to the China Cutting-Edge Fashion Design Static Exhibition held by the Pont Alexandre III Fashion Club in Paris. His works were appreciated by professionals including Jean Jacques Picard and Milan Vukmirovic and he was evaluated as the Chinese fashion future star of the global fashion industry. For 2012 Ban Xiao Xue on behalf of Exception was invited to the 2012 London Fashion Week to attend the “Shan Shui” Fashion Design Show and also held a static exhibition in the Nunnery Book Gallery in London. Having won the Asia regional final of the 2012/2013 International Woolmark Prize, designer Ban Xiao Xue has established a growing reputation for his innovative take on classic wardrobe items.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your brand.
I design clothes inspired by nature so as to bring people closer to nature. I think it’s important that we continually return to a pure, natural state, to keep an open heart so that we can experience the different cultures, philosophies and aesthetics the world has to offer. With clarity of mind, we can discover beauty in simple things. I try and combine all of these elements, along with my own memories, in my designs.
You won the International Woolmark Prize Asia regional final in 2012/13. What was your experience like?
I was lucky enough to participate in the International Woolmark Prize which, for me, was full of creativity and surprises. During that time, I was exposed to a world of wool and to a continuous dialogue about wool, and that really became by challenge as I discovered its functions and many possibilities. For my collection, I wanted to go beyond the traditional beauty of wool, or at least tried to, and these attempts offered me a lot of inspiration and made me truly appreciate wool.
So wool is very much still a part of your design practice?
Yes. The International Woolmark Prize is not only a competition, but also a sharing and learning experience. Through it, we all learned how to understood how to better work with the fibre, something new for some of us, and this made the design process a pure one.
What makes wool so special?
Wool is not only very functional but also very versatile, and therefore the wool fibre is both practical and artistic. During the period in which I was studying and learning about wool, it was the intrinsic characteristics of wool that led the design process, and subsequently shifted my focus to developing new types of wool.
What are your thoughts on the current state of fashion in China, and what are some of the challenges you’ve come up against as a local independent designer?
Fashion in China has reached a very interesting stage in terms of design as well as consumer sentiment, because they have both been undergoing a transitional period. The industry has collectively passed through many changes, including the diversification of consumption patterns, and the segmentation of brands. For brands to succeed, they must have clear positioning and be true to their DNA, finding a balance between design sensibility and business planning.
“Fashion in China has reached a very interesting stage in terms of design as well as consumer sentiment, because they have both been undergoing a transitional period.”
You very recently opened a new store inside Grand Ocean in Fuzhou, as well as switched from showing at Shanghai Fashion Week to presenting your collections in private buying appointments in Guangzhou. Can you tell us a little bit more about this shift in fashion show/retail strategy?
There is a direct relationship between the retail strategy and the positioning of a brand; in China, the retail environment is very diverse, and so there is no right or wrong choice, however it is important to find your own brand’s direction instead of blindly following what others are doing. As a designer brand, BANXIAOXUE has been determined to be present in the broader market, because we want to be accessible to everyone, and so that means trying new things and presenting in different ways.
What are some of the upcoming plans for your brand?
In terms of design, we will continue to produce beautiful garments and to view design as a way to truthfully represent the lives of ordinary people. I want to continually improve as a designer and as a brand.
One half of 2014/2015 International Woolmark Prize Asia Region winning label VMAJOR, Victor Zhu, discusses the business of fashion