When Yang Li showed his launch collection for the Chinese luxury brand Shang Xia last October he did it on the Paris runway. This time around, he said he chose to use the informal pictures the design studio takes during the fitting process as a look book, the better to emphasize the clothes and accessories’ real-world applications. Season one, he set forth the brand’s tailoring foundations, which are strongly informed by ’90s minimalism. Without neglecting suiting and sharply cut coats, he made sportswear basics an essential focus of season two.
“I really want to push simplicity and archetypes, such as the hoodie and the T-shirt, really hone them to perfection because I think that’s a very modern way of dress for everybody right now,” Li said. His Shang Xia sweatshirt is made from double-face boiled wool with a napa leather pocket—it’s not your standard issue Champion or Russell Athletic cotton. The double-face T-shirt’s singularity comes down to cut; it can be worn normally, the way T-shirts have been worn since T-shirts were invented, or with the sleeves tossed behind the shoulders like a mini cape.
Cut is one of Li’s fixations, and squares, circles, and triangles are part of his Shang Xia vocabulary. A double-face white knit column dress was designed with a square-cut back; where it folds over at the shoulder, it creates a dramatic, almost sculptural line and provides a flash of high-contrast color. Color is another emphasis at Shang Xia; a similar dress combining Kelly green and that bright sky blue was worn over a pink second-skin bodysuit.
Shang Xia, like Hermès which it was modeled in part after, is a maker of more than fashion. For fall, Li sharpened the connection between his part of the company and its lifestyle products. The teddy jacket that opens the look book, for example, is made from a bamboo silk tweed that echoes the bamboo marquetry of a tea set. Similarly, the graphic stripes intarsia’d down the spine of coats are lifted from Ming Dynasty chairs which tend to feature rectangular backbones. Those nods to brand and cultural heritage aside, the overall effect is one of forward-looking future-wear, thanks to the clean, minimal lines Li favors and the perfectionism with which he finishes his clothes both outside and in. Also contributing to that impression: the collection’s playful bubble-soled shoes.