Vega Wang’s Retail Makeover of Beijing
From galactic systems to tattoo designs favored by Russian prisoners, Beijing-based fashion designer Vega Wang has a penchant for outré inspirations.
A graduate from the famed Central Saint Martins in London, Chinese fashion designer Vega Wang melds Western silhouettes with Eastern details in her eclectic designs. In 2010, she unveiled her eponymous boutique — housed in a grey brick structure adorned with antique sewing machines and spools of thread — in the Jianwai Soho Hutong. The store belies the label’s focus on hand-craftsmanship and Eastern-inspired aesthetics. Here, she discloses her work process and the inspirations behind her often cerebral collections:
Q&A with Fashion Designer Vega Wang
What kind of experience do you wish to create for clients when they visit your boutique?
I always hope that customers can learn about my aesthetics by visiting my showroom, even though they may not meet me in person. So when customers visit our store, they can see lots of antique furniture. For example, they can find clothes hangers made of old shutters, shelves made of spools and scissors and classical sewing machines used as decorative items. In fact these are what we use when making clothes and I hope that customers can feel our professionalism and passion for fashion once they enter our shop.
What are your inspirations for a new collection?
The initial inspiration comes from emotions. For me, designing a new line is like writing a diary entry. It helps me to record the changes in my environment, the ups and downs of my moods. I like to seek inspiration from life. I think design is a kind of language. But unlike the limitations of, say, conventional languages, which cannot transcend borders, design is a universal form of communication.
Music also influences me a lot. Both music and design convey a person’s innermost emotions and draw people of similar tastes and interests together. Sometimes I think that creating music is more difficult than design because composers have to use limited musical notes to express different feelings and thoughts and musicians have to express themselves within the limited period of their performances. That’s why I like to chat with my musician friends or watch their performances whenever I feel disappointed or suffer from a creative block. I can get strength from them to persist and go on.
Another source of inspiration is culture. I think local culture is a sum of history and civilization and a shared heritage among humans. Whether we dub it “globalization” or “resource sharing”, the fact is that citizens of the world are becoming more alike and unique national identities are fast disappearing. That’s why I like studying vanishing cultures. I recently found myself attracted to powerful elements in history like military uniforms, samurai, knights and warriors on Mongolian war horses.
Could you describe the typical Vega Wang woman?
I like girls who look tough on the outside but are gentle inside, or cool outside but warm inside. Some women may seem difficult to approach because of their appearance, but in fact they are sensitive and kind inside. Meanwhile, they know what they want, and will move towards their goals one step at a time, with great resolution. There’s much talk about gender equality and, to me, the real equality should be in our minds. That is, to believe deep within that women can achieve whatever men have accomplished and to believe we can really own the world. I wish that ladies wearing my clothes will adopt this belief, and that’s why there are many elements from menswear in my designs.
In what ways do your aesthetics reflect your past?
For fashion designers, aesthetics means style. From when I was a schoolgirl, I always liked antiques, old objects and elements that embody the universe, or are inspired by nature, animals and insects. I think that by constantly searching and discovering for references that pique your interest, they will gradually become your style.
How would you describe Beijing’s retail landscape?
As the economy develops to a certain level, people naturally search for a higher level of aesthetic sophistication — which is what is happening now in Beijing. As one’s horizons broaden, one is more willing to invest in aesthetically pleasing objects. I think I’m lucky. My predecessors have already devoted their efforts to building a local fashion industry and I can learn many valuable experiences from them. Young designers of my generation are working hard to move forward and spread their positive attitude, which is incredibly exciting.
Where to shop in Beijing
Shanghai might be the mecca of old school tailoring. But style savants seeking modern suiting could do worse than step into new made-to-measure outfit Principle M in Beijing. The label’s style gurus also provide image consultations for the full sartorial shebang.
The rise of China’s fashion savants is thanks to the support of homegrown retailers like Dong Liang Studio, which provides a platform for China’s budding couturiers.
Just as Vega Wang fuses her Western training with Eastern heritage, stores like Triple Major—located in a traditional Chinese medicine dispensary—combine the two influences in their retail spaces.
Vega Zaishi Wang: 63 Yanyue Hutong, South Dongsi Street, Dongcheng District; +86-10 5900-2279.
Principle M: 0807, Wing 3, Kunsha International Center, No. 16 Xinyuanli, Chaoyang District; +86-10-6409-4356
Dong Liang Studio: 102, Block 2 Xin Cheng Guo Ji, Chaowai Dajie 6, Chaoyang District;+86-10 8404-7648
Triple Major: 81 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng District; +86-10-8402-0763