Shang Xia: A hybrid debut hit in Paris
Turns out the Paris season’s biggest debut was on a crisp Monday when Yang Li presented his first collection for Chinese luxury marque Shang Xia, a brainy and beguiling high-color hybrid blend of east and west.
This Spring/ Summer 2022 collection also marked the first since Exor, the investment vehicle of the Agnelli family, owners of Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, acquired control of Shang Xia from Hermès last December in an 80-million-euro deal.
In the end, what counted, and what always counts, was the clothes, and this collection was an unquestioned hit. Beijing-born, though Australia-raised, Yang Li took plenty of risks, playing with rich bright hues of shocking pink, sunset orange or Yves Klein blue.
He tailored with precision – most splendidly a silver pony skin double-breasted redingote, collar worn up. And had the courage to cut with grand volume, sending out multiple down coats with flat fronts; flared puffers; or a great felt blazer in matt oatmeal with huge mutton chop brightest lime sleeves. Which probably shouldn’t have worked but did.
“I wanted a bridge between east and west. And between the digital arena and physical arena; modern and traditional. I define Shang Xia as a portal between those two things. A platform that circulates contrasts,” said the gentlemanly Yang, a LVMH Prize finalist back in 2014.
Worn by a well-chosen cast perhaps marred by the fact that after four weeks of shows, many of them appeared to be limping over the finish line. Paris Fashion Week ends on Tuesday, bringing down the curtain on the international season.
Almost magically, Li also dreamed a great new series of footwear – white patent leather brothel creepers; transparent platform sandals; cut-out-toe booties. Also striking was the Absolute Triangle bag, made in a series of exacting cuts, a reference to how Chinese culture defines absolutely purity using shape.
“Combining craft and innovation is essential, which is also very Chinese. What I want to do is say that China is not just a market. It’s a creative force as well. And today is the first day of that story. It’s such a beautiful mission to embark on, which was the dream of my own brand. It’s why I am in fashion,” said Yang Li, who confirmed that he had put his own house “to sleep” while he directs Shang Xia.
The designer will continue to live mainly in London, commuting regularly to Shang Xia’s new headquarters on Rue du Vertbois in Paris' 3rd arrondissement.
“Paris is the true center of fashion. And Shang Xia should be a Chinese luxury brand, so this is the right stage for the brand,” he underlined.
There was a great sense of expectation pre-show. Editors lined up for a quotes from John Elkann, the Agnelli clan leader and CEO of Exor; who this summer also oversaw the launch of the Ferrari fashion.
While Pierre Alexis Dumas, the artistic director of Hermès, graciously turned up to bid adieu, at the circular runway of Espace Commines, a famed show space which has welcomed such greats as Helmut Lang and Paco Rabanne.
“I hope that you feel as surprised after this show as you did after seeing Ferrari,” chuckled the twinkle-eyed Elkann, referring to everyone’s shock that Ferrari’s fashion designer Rocco Iannone had delivered a high-tech active sportswear collection for Ferrari and not some revamped version of Gianni Agnelli’s classic Italian gent wardrobe.
One of the great mysteries in fashion is that two decades after research assistant Roopa Purushothaman coined the term BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), there has never really emerged a champion designer from any of those four great nations. That Holy Grail for a BRIC fashion master may well have ended today, after Yang Li hit his fashion home run in Paris.
Expect a lot more action in the Shang Xia pipeline.
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