London - It has been one month since buyers, influencers and members of the press flocked to London for the Autumn/Winter 2018-2019 edition of bi-annual fashion week - which proved to be a standout event. It was a fashion week of many firsts and lasts, with Christopher Bailey presenting his final collection for heritage fashion house Burberry, Lulu Guinness hosted her first on-schedule presentation, and her Majesty herself attended emerging designer Richard Quinn's catwalk show, awarding him with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. Following the event, FashionUnited took a moment to speak to Wendy Yu, a leading fashion investor and founder of Yu Holdings to hear her thoughts on London Fashion Week AW 18. Which designers caught the Chinese heiress eye? What does she look for when searching for a new potential candidate to invest in? And which London designers does she foresee succeeding in China?
FashionUnited: What do you look for in a designer or fashion label before deciding to invest in them?
Wendy Yu: “I seek brands that are a little different and stand out within the market, those with a strong brand DNA that are able to evolve season after season. For me, the designer is as important as the brand, I look for people that I can relate to. I need a designer to be dedicated, original, ambitious and willing to take creative risks. A designer also needs to show lasting power for Yu Holdings to invest, We focus on the long-term strategic mission rather than short-term goals. “
“I take my time when investing and don't make any decision lightly, with Mary Katrantzou I built up a trusted friendship before I even began to talk about investment, I think this is a much better and more progressive way of doing business.”
What are your thoughts on the BFC’s NEWGEN that showed at London Fashion Week this season - any favorites and why?
“I've been following Molly Goddard for the last few seasons, who has just graduated from the NEWGEN program. I think it is a wonderful initiative that has helped find and foster incredible talent within the industry. Sadly I wasn't in town to see any of the NEWGEN shows this season, however out of the current NEWGEN brands I am excited by what Michael Halpern has been delivering, I can see him doing very well in the future. I have always enjoyed how much London Fashion Week and the BFC celebrates emerging talent, giving them a platform to present to the rest of the world.”
Who in your opinion is an emerging designer from London Fashion Week to watch? Why?
“Huishan Zhang is a close friend, therefore I have watched his brand grow and grow since the beginning. Whilst his certainly not a newcomer, I think his creativity is inspiring and predict that his brand will only continue to rise, making him the one to watch. Huishan Zhang effortlessly conveys Chinese heritage to a Western audience in such an effective way. As China takes on a bigger role in the fashion marketplace I think we will see more and more brands from the region begin to gain traction with European and American consumers.”
Which new designer brands that showed at London Fashion Week do you foresee having the most potential to succeed in the UK?
“At Yu Holdings, we are looking at brands with a proven track record and few years business under their belt. In late 2017, Yu Holdings invested in Mary Katrantzou as we truly believe she could be the next superbrand. Mary's brand as the potential to cover many product categories and her DNA exceeds borders - we anticipate her expansion into a global lifestyle brand. Another brand I love is Erdem, who once again managed to deliver a brilliantly clever collection of coveted looks, I believe the brand is only beginning to scratch the surface of its success. Erdem is a great example of a brand that has an instantly recognizable DNA that re-invents itself with every collection without alienating its core customer.”
Which British fashion brands, which have yet to build a strong presence in China, do you foresee doing well in the market over the next coming years?
“Emilia Wickstead is a brand that I have been admiring for a while. I think that the elegance and simplicity of her designs could do very well in the Chinese market. As the Chinese market's interest in fashion grows they are more open to new brands and are starting to move away from shopping solely within the major fashion houses. I think the gap that this is creating is perfect for brands like Mary Katrantzou, Erdem, Charlotte Olympia, Olympia Le Tan and Emilia Wickstead to fill.”
What advice would you give to a new fashion brand seeking to establish a presence in China?
“For a brand looking to expand into the Chinese market, understanding the customer is of the utmost importance. Take Mary Katrantzou as an example, when she showed her first collection to the Chinese market the reception was very different to the European market. Instead of the embellished pieces and 3D prints, it was the simpler and more paired-back pieces that captured the hearts of Chinese customers.”
What was your overall impression of London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2018?
“Due to commitments overseas, I was unable to see as much as I would have liked this season, however, what I did see only re-affirmed my opinion that London is still a hotbed of creativity within the industry. The Mary Katrantzou and Huishan Zhang shows in particular were a highlight for me, made all the better due to my close friendship with both designers. I think that the calibre of new talent has continued to grow every season at LFW and I hope that the BFC continue to invest in these young designers, supporting their expansion.”
Photos: Courtesy of Wendy Yu