About Atomic Field London

Welcome to Atomicfield, a multi-brand boutique located in the heart of London's city centre. We specialise in internationally acclaimed designer brands that are imbued with the essence of Oriental aesthetics. Each brand in our collection represents the fusion of Eastern and Western influences, carefully curated through our buying expertise. Our mission is to share and communicate the beauty of Oriental aesthetics, fashion, and culture. We invite you to step into our store and immerse yourself in a captivating retail experience that showcases the vibrant world of international designer brands steeped in Eastern inspiration.

Produced by Adam Zhang

Unveiling New Chinese Style

Us and the others:

In the world of fashion systems, class division and exclusivism are always major issues, whether viewed theoretically or in practice. Every fashion designer coming to the West from an ‘other’ cultural background - not from mainstream European or North American culture - has probably faced a similar challenge during their early career: How can they establish their own identity? And where should I be based to develop my identity? In the West or back at home? Since 2010 a new wave of Chinese fashion designers have developed their business both in mainland China and overseas. One of the main common features of this group of designers is they all have experience studying outside China. The above questions would have likely driven this new wave of designers, consciously or subconsciously, to explore their cultural position since the first day they arrived in the UK to study fashion. I also believe these questions have affected many designers from Africa, South America, and other Asian countries who have generally been excluded from the Western fashion system. However, Japan stands out as a special case as it has long been consecrated into the fashion hall of fame since the 1980s due to the success of Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Yoji Yamamoto and others. This success in both design theory and the marketplace has established a watermark for other Asian countries to strive towards. Today’s new wave of Chinese fashion designers face the difficult challenge of how to differentiate their ‘Chinese’ style from the already established ‘Japanese’ style in the Western market. Especially when Japanese fashion has been on the international stage for a much longer period and has likely affected not only the customers’ taste but also Chinese fashion designers and fashion students as well. 

The new wave:

There is no doubt that before embarking on the international journey to the UK’s two most popular seats of fashion education - Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion - most Chinese fashion students have already been deeply influenced by Chinese culture. But once in London they commonly encounter culture shock, whether from the different educational environment or due to the mature and rather rigorous fashion marketplace. A few years of study provides them with the chance to examine their relationship with their own culture at a distance, as well as a chance to explore broader possibilities for their design language.

Currently, the new style trend ‘New China Style’ in the Chinese fashion market can be divided into two types. One type has the Western silhouette imbued with a Chinese spirit, using contemporary cutting combined with typical Asian materials, for instance, the choice of textiles or palette of colours. The other type is more focused on obvious Chinese cultural symbols, including embroideries and prints. And some designers have developed new textile techniques based on these two varying styles.

For instance, the Taiwanese designer Pengtai is famous for adapting traditional plant dye techniques into his designs, building his collections with Chinese traditional medicine dyes used to represent the Chinese traditional philosophy of ‘Wuxing’, or the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. He blends these techniques together with a more international style of design. Similarly, Renli Su developed her unique textile and designs while tracing back to Chinese traditional ‘fried dye” techniques. There are many other Chinese fashion designers who have established their fashion identities by using various elements of Chinese culture. Yet these elements are cloaked in layers of luxuriant Chinese cultural detail. It’s not easy for Western consumers to respond to these designs in the same way as customers in the local Chinese market would. However, this path that the numerous new wave of Chinese designers are aiming to carve out is beginning to take shape.  

Fashion designer Zhong Zixin, who graduated from the London College of Fashion (LCF) has designs that take inspiration from the resplendent outfits in the era of silent movies. These understated yet elegant colours and dramatic design styles fill us with nostalgia. At first glance her designs are extremely Western, but once unveiled to reveal the core we discover that the spiritual essence of her work is decisively ‘Oriental’.

In her latest 2023 Spring and Summer collection, her inspiration came from female characters in Chinese literature, especially those in Haipai style (originating from Shanghai) ,who lived through the period early 20th century period, when China was just starting to be exposed to the outside world and society was undergoing rapid change. Haipai ladies were a group of Chinese women who were embracing the influences of the new world, as well as the challenges of internationalizing.

One of Zhong’s muses from this period was Anna May Wong (Wong Liu Tsong), who recently became the first Asian woman in history to be featured on American currency (on the American Quarter coin). As one of the earliest Asian faces appearing in Hollywood films, she represented the mysterious and exotic East. Her identity caused a career dilemma for her due to the attitude of American society toward Asians at that time. She could only take supporting roles, and her part was always killed off by the directors for a variety of seemingly random reasons. However, she still established herself as an iconic symbol of modern Asian style in Hollywood film history. 

Zhong’s designs are based on her understanding of Asian females of that period, inheriting what Westerners considered as ‘Asian authenticity’ from that period. This combination helped her to stand out among other fashion designers in the new wave within only two years after she established her brand. She described the Oriental charm of her design as a type of introverted beauty; modesty combined with mysterious seduction hiding in the detail. 

Zhong’s period of study at LCF helped her find her unique design language, as well as formulate the understanding about how to position herself and her brand. One of the most impressive courses she attended was called ‘Visions and Politics’. During the course the students were required to repeatedly discuss and ask themselves many questions, such as: What kind of designer do you want to be? What kind of magazines will you accept or refuse? Which stylist will you accept or reject? Where do you want to sell your product? Where would you not want to sell your products? Also, how would you respond to failure? The answers to these questions all serve the main purpose of her collection: what kind of message does she want to deliver, how would it be delivered and to whom? Zhong noted however that the answers to these questions have continued to change with the times.

Hanying, a jewellery designer, took a Bachelors degree in jewellery design at the London College of Fashion, and founded her jewellery brand when she was still in Year Three of University. Her work celebrates the soft power of females incorporating romantic details and symbols from her childhood memories of fairy tales. Hanying’s work shares similar characteristics to Zhong Zixin’s work. Their Oriental roots are not present on the surface; it requires a deeper analysis to reach the core.

Before coming to study in the UK Hanying spend two years studying at Donghua University, a famous fashion college in Shanghai, China. The course she undertook was a collaboration course with Japan’s Bunka Fashion College, which also has a great reputation for its Asian fashion education system. Hanying was greatly influenced by the Japanese traditional aesthetic of ‘Wabi-sabi’ during this course. Wabi-sabi’s sense of delicate imperfection leads to an understanding of the beauty of nature. She also absorbed a natural feeling for soft and mellow structures and materials from her Chinese roots, as she had quite generous access to her grandparent’s jewellery collection during her childhood. 

For Hanying, she wouldn’t want to use the current popular word ‘new Chinese style’ to describe the Oriental design language she uses in her work. In her opinion, this ‘new Chinese style’ is rather constraining. Too much existing information surrounds this definition which she feels will impede her creative process. For her, she wants to create the Hanying style of new Chinese aesthetic.

All these designers are facing the challenges that come from their different cultural backgrounds and marketplaces. The form of their products relates to the responses they created when facing these challenges. This situation applies to the entire Chinese fashion industry, not just to individuals. Although we have many examples of successes, each pathway to success is different. Emerging generations of Chinese designers are striving to apply their understanding of Chinese culture to their work and working to communicate their voice to the world. We’re really looking forward to watching this fascinating journey as it unfolds.

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58 Dean st, London, W1D 4QH

Mon-Sun, 12:30 pm - 8:30 pm