Chinese Design Concepts

He Yan

Listed as one of China's Top Ten fashion designers in Vogue magazine as early as 2009, He Yan's designs were included in the V&A's touring exhibition China Design Now. She is a constant reference within the fashion press as a leading example of innovation in Chinese desugn. A petite woman with elfin features and cropped hair, He Yan has been described as an engaging ambassador for her design approach, which she characterises as 'clean, simple and neutral'. Her clothes have an international look with her Chines influences subtle but ever present. As she says 'My generaration and those after, they don't have a very good sense of what China's culture is anymore, because they have grown up with lots of Western popular culture mixed into their concept of China'. She, for example, produced a collection inspired by British classical literature, especially her favourite novel, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. The collection was a retelling of the love story through fashion.


He Tan grew up in the city of Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, the daughter of a chef and a tailor. She graduated from Jiang Nan University a firm fan of John Galliano - 'he made me think fashion design is art' - and later came to admire Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and Olivier Theyskens at Nina Ricci. She says 'I design for someone like me or my friend. She has big eyes, a sweet smile, white skin and soft hair, and she looks perfect in my clothes'.  When He Yan holds a fashion show the models on the catwalk are drawn from her friends as she is adamant to display her work as an element of real life, rather than on impossibly ideal bodies.


She is perhaps most popular with Shanghai's young professionals, especially architects, interior designers and models. Her designs speak not only of a particular body type, but also to a way of life imbued with energy, beauty and an enviable social existence. The reult is a collection of designs that are not derivative or tame, nor patently 'Chinese' but implicitly modern and relevant to the aesthetic of contemporary urban fashion design in China.