Meet the designers, entrepreneurs, and tastemakers who are reinventing China.
A fashion portfolio by Alistair Taylor-Young
Portfolio styled by Marie Isabelle Creach; grooming by Janet Lee
Produced by Maryse Vassalo at the China Club Hong Kong
MARK HSU | Entrepreneur
"Right now China can make or break your business," says Mark Hsu, vice president of H&Q Asia Pacific. For the past four years, he has guided the investment firm through megadeals like Starbucks Beijing and Shanghai Links, a 350-acre residential complex with a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. The best part of being a Master of the Chinese Universe? "Witnessing the clash between old and new, East and West," Hsu says. "Imagine watching a Beijing local order a Starbucks caffè latte."
MARK HSU WEARS A BRIONI JACKET, $3,395, AND BRUCE FIELD SHIRT, $72.
HAN FENG | Tastemaker
Han Feng knew changes were afoot when she spotted a boldly printed jacket in a Shanghai store window. "When I left China twenty years ago," says the Nanjing-born designer, "everyone was wearing exactly the same thing, and it was gray." Feng seized the moment and opened a boutique in Shanghai's Three on the Bund. Her latest collection draws from her adopted city of New York and her native China. "My aim," Feng says, "is for my clothing to express the freedom and fearlessness of the West and the history and tradition of the East."
HAN FENG WEARS A HAN FENG SHAWL, $250.
MO WAN DON | Model
Since it first began, Hong Kong fashion week has grown from a local fair to an international event. China now publishes its own editions of Vogue, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar. Which means, of course, that models like Mo Wan Don are very busy girls indeed. Signed to a Beijing agency when she was just 14, she is already being scouted by a major player in Paris, who—pardon the industry cliché—believes she will be "very hot in Europe."
MO WAN DON WEARS A DORIAN HO TOP, $525, AND SKIRT, $425, WITH CHRISTIAN DIOR SHOES, $695, AND VAN CLEEF & ARPELS SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND EARRINGS, $26,800.
DANIEL NG | Arts Patron
In 1975 Daniel Ng introduced Hong Kong to the considerable joys of the Quarter Pounder with cheese. "I opened the first McDonald's here," he says. "By the time I retired in 1995, I had one hundred of them." Today Ng focuses his attention (and fortune) on promoting the performing arts in China: Consider the Hong Kong museum he founded that is devoted to the work of composers Richard Strauss and Paul Wittgenstein. When not collecting costumes and sets from Strauss's Die Rosenkavalier and amassing 30 boxes of original Wittgenstein compositions, Ng sponsors Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road cultural tour in China and chairs the Asian Youth Orchestra. That is, when he's not in a single-engine Cessna competing in air races from London to Sydney.
RANEE KOK | Designer
While Armani, Prada, and other fashion heavyweights have been frantically putting down roots in China, 30-year-old Ranee Kok has already been there, done that. After graduating from Parson's School of Design in New York and a stint at Donna Karan, the Hong Kong native headed home to open her own store and to establish Ranee_K, a collection that fuses the Eastern sensibility with her own punk spirit: In clothing terms, that translates into cheongsams fastened with zippers and festooned with feathers. The international press soon took notice and Kok landed on more than a few Designers to Watch lists. Now she's part of a pack of young creative types whose every move is tracked by the local media. She is the one they call "woman who'll put China fashion on the map."
SIMON YAM & QIQI | Model Couple
Their story is the stuff of Hong Kong legend. He—the son of the city police chief, who died when Simon was just 11—started modeling and acting to help his family pay the bills. Today he models, acts, designs his own sunglasses, develops real estate, and looks for vintage jeans to add to his collection. Asia's first supermodel, QiQi goes by one name only. The two met at a charity event in 1990 and are living happily ever after in a palatial Hong Kong home overlooking Clearwater Bay.
WING SHYA | Photographer
Even if you did not see Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai's romantic drama In the Mood for Love, you may know it from the photograph of star Maggie Cheung wearing that fantastic blue dress. For that image—stamped on your brain from the New York Times review or the poster displayed outside your local art-house cinema—thank Wing Shya. The 40-year-old is the exclusive photographer for the director, and the two have collaborated on stills and movie posters for Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, and most recently, 2046. And though his eye for color keeps him in demand by the likes of French Vogue and i-D magazine, Shya doesn't seem likely to get much time off the set anytime soon. Hollywood is investing more than $150 million in China's booming film industry—and it's calling.
ANGELICA CHEUNG | Editor
During the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, when just the slightest display of ostentatious wealth could land you in a gulag, Angelica Cheung's family was forced to flush their jewels down the toilet. Today, in a bit of ironic postrevolution turnabout, Angelica is the editorial director of the newly launched Vogue China and travels the world dressed in Prada, Shanghai Tang, and discreet diamond studs. "Chinese designers show promise," says Cheung, whose magazine showcases equal parts Armani, Valentino, and such young local talent as Wang Yiyang and Zhang Da. "But beware the cheongsam: It makes Chinese women think of their grandmothers."
ADRIENNE MA | Retailer
They call her the Chic Shepherd. As managing director of her family's retail empire, Joyce Boutiques, Adrienne Ma has guided Versace, Etro, and Dries Van Noten into China's fashion flock. In addition to its own retail stores, Joyce Boutiques works as an invested advisor to Western designers anxious to enter the Asian market. This fall Ma is particularly proud to usher Balenciaga and Jil Sander into her fold, with both opening Joyce-backed boutiques in Hong Kong. "My customers know the big names and the trendy pieces," Ma says. "Now they are ready for the cutting edge."
VIVIENNE TAM | Designer
In the mind of Vivienne Tam, MOCA Shanghai, Rem Koolhaas's CCTV building in Beijing, and basketball star Yao Ming work together to create a map of China style—now. Which comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen Tam's groundbreaking book China Chic. On the lacquered scarlet cover is Vivienne front and center, in the spirit of Mao's "Little Red Book." Inside, each page is a collage of images from the country's past and present—say, vintage calendars of "Shanghai ladies" beside the work of an up-and-coming conceptual artist, above a painting of a statue of Buddha. Tam's career is equally layered: Award-winning author and innovative entrepreneur (in the last year she opened a store in Shanghai, with plans for another in Beijing next year), she makes sure her clothing line always includes a nod to her favorite silhouette—the cheongsam.