You may well have heard of fashion guru Susie Bubble. You’ve probably heard of Bicester Village, but did you know that Susie Bubble is curating a Celebrating China pop-up boutique there, showcasing ten young Chinese designers of amazing talent and vision? Did you know that it’s happening right now? Bristling with prestigious new-talent awards, Bubble’s hand-picked cohort mingle fresh perspectives with cutting-edge methods to create trail-blazing designs.
Bicester Village – visited by approximately 6.6 million people last year – is home to more than 160 boutiques of world-famous brands, each offering significant discounts. Located just an hour from London, the village hosts a selection of restaurants and cafés – like Shan Shui, a Chinese restaurant inspired by 1920’s Shanghai cuisine – as well as Scandi-inspired high streets that are lovely to stroll around in. Worth visiting for the atmosphere alone, Bicester Village also hosts a number of pop-ups and events throughout the year that offer uniquely curated selections.
Susie Bubble herself – real name Susanna Lau – is a London-based writer and editor. Since 2006 she has run her blog Style Bubble, a platform for her thoughts, experiences, and observations about fashion with a particular focus on spotlighting young and unknown talent. Style Bubble is read by hundreds of thousands of people every month; her unique perspective, sharp sense of style, and self-confessed tendency to “ramble on and on and on” is clearly a winning formula.
This is why she was approached by Bicester Village to curate the Celebrating China pop-up. And looking at the designers chosen, it’s safe to say that she’s done an outstanding job. The ten designers constitute a wide range of Chinese contemporary design, each of them bringing their own aesthetic tastes into their designs. Having graduated from universities all over the world, each of the designers stands starkly in contrast with the others – and their designs in contrast with anything you’ll find in the U.K.
Susie explained to .Cent that she had actually already been going to fashion weeks in the area and so she had a very good grasp before she started on who she felt would be great to feature.
Susie Bubble also said at the pop-up’s opening that it was “fortuitously timed, obviously it’s a project that’s timed with Chinese New Year but it’s also timed with the fact that Chinese designers are really having a moment.” This is undeniable when looking at the pieces on display, but also says something very important about the project. In Susie’s own words: “the most interesting part of the pop up is finding this aesthetic breadth, I didn’t want to pick out designers that were ostensibly Chinese looking […] I really wanted to get across the feeling that Chinese fashion is deep, nuanced, and kinda spans all sorts of different tastes and genres.” A wide spectrum of Chinese contemporary fashion is on display; a full range of expressions from a flourishing industry.
Among these expressions is I-am-chen’s knitwear collection. Zhi Chen, who started the brand, dropped out of university as an engineering student to pursue fashion. Her remarkable garments are only possible through the technical know-how she acquired in engineering. She considers herself more of a technician than a designer, and spends long hours in factories to study the capabilities of modern machines. The results are incredible. Her clothes are composed of several different knitted fabrics, woven together with the specially programmed machines Chen uses. In an interview with .Cent Magazine, she stated that “even though this is two different textures, they were knitted in one piece […] they look very different but they are in one piece.”
Producing the garments is “very technically difficult” – but the results are undeniably worth it. The production process creates garments which aren’t just aesthetically stunning, but very durable. Everyone who has worn a piece of knitwear knows the frustration of pilling – expensive items ruined by slippery fibres refusing to stay where they’re supposed to. i-am-chen’s process solves this problem: “when it comes out from the machine there is no hair at all, so we have to do it with special washing treatment so the hair comes out […] because of the special technique [the hair] won’t fall.”
If you’ve never heard of it before, there’s a good reason for it. Chen, with a bit of prodding, admits that “it is quite innovative, when I show [the garments] to the people who have been in the knitwear industry for like more than 50 years they have never seen it before.” At .Cent Magazine, we’ve certainly never seen anything like it before.
But if you’re looking to pick up something from i-am-chen, or any of the other talented designers, you’d better hurry. The clothes are selling fast, and the pop-up wraps up on Feb 17. Getting there is easy; a 46 minute train ride from London will get you to Bicester Village, and once there the only difficult thing will be choosing which garments to get.
Celebrating China: A Pop-Up Boutique by Susie Bubble is on Jan 29 – Feb 17 in Bicester Village.