Designers Victor Zhu and Nicole Lin learned their craft at separate design schools in London and met while interning at Vivienne Westwood. After graduating in 2006, the pair eventually returned to Shenzhen, China’s textile capital where they came together under the name VMAJOR, a moniker borrowing from Victor’s name and a key in classical music.
The label was invited by the British Fashion Council to present its spring summer 2013 collection during London Fashion Week in 2012, garnering international attention that has seen the designers join showrooms in Paris, Milan and New York during subsequent fashion weeks. Combining creativity and commercialism, the pair pursue an open-minded design philosophy that draws on their cultural origins while building international appeal with a mix of beauty, confidence and sexy chic. It’s this combination that saw VMAJOR take home the 2014/2015 regional International Woolmark Prize for Asia.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your brand.
I studied at London College of Fashion and graduated in 2008 while interning at Vivienne Westwood. After graduating I returned to Shenzhen, China’s manufactory capital, to work in the local fashion industry for few years, then in 2012, I founded my brand VMAJOR in Shenzhen.
You won the International Woolmark Prize Asia Regional in 2014/15. What was the experience like for you?
We decided to use machine knitting to complete our collection. The capsule collection for Woolmark was inspired by the Himalaya ethnic group, as we are fascinated by observing local people’s way of dressing because it reminds us of how we wear a cardigan and sweater in our modern society. We started by trying to drape sweaters and cardigans onto a human body, and restructure the natural forms and shapes of it when wrapping, knotting, twisting around different parts of the body and transferring into the designed garment. The results were sometimes unpredictable as it could be worn in so many different ways. The process of mixing soft lines with the shapes of the knitwear offered us endless possibilities.
How did the International Woolmark Prize [IWP] influence your designs and understanding of wool?
Through the whole process of IWP we were exposed to new technology and this helped us develop our brand at another level. We decided to use machine knitting to complete our collection. For us, craftsmanship does not exist without technology, and in the future it will be impossible to create without the help of machines at some point in the supply chain. But most importantly is how to oversee the whole industry and create a unique, healthy and sustainable business model. Without IWP, we wouldn’t be able to achieve it.
What do you think of wool as a fabric? Do you use it often in your collections?
Usually when we design, we work first on textiles for practical reasons. We always choose innovative Merino wool with woven techniques and textile technologies to complement our designs. As a natural fabric, the durability, the texture, the strength, the softness and warmness of Merino wool is unsurpassable and often offers us endless inspiration.
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?
China’s fashion industry has developed so fast in the past few years. Customers are starting to looking for more interesting and individual styles rather than those offered by fast fashion companies and mainstream stores; more and more multi-brand designer boutiques are opening in Beijing and Shanghai and also expanding all over China. Since so many of our generation’s designers have been educated abroad and now come back and work here, things are becoming greatly more exciting. In my experience, Shenzhen is the manufacturing hub, especially when it comes to womenswear, Beijing has the biggest media and celebrity presence, and Shanghai is where the industry is based. Each city has their own unique strengths. But China as a whole is very efficient, with fast internet and the benefit of easy travel.
“As a natural fabric, the durability, the texture, the strength, the softness and warmness of Merino wool is unsurpassable and often offers us endless inspiration.”
Your collections are in many showrooms and multi-brand stores across the world, and are also available online on ecommerce websites such as Elleshop.com.cn. Are there any plans to also open up your own store?
We will keep investing in the domestic market as the Chinese market is influencing the rest of the world on a much lager scale that it ever has before. We will also continue to attend significant showroom tradeshows in key fashion capitals such as New York, Paris and Milan. And we have always wanted to open our own store, but this will have to be done at the right time with the right partner and location.
Chinese designer and 2012/2013 International Woolmark Prize Asia Region winner Ban Xiao Xue shares his success