Haizhen Wang Shanghai Fall 2024

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Haizhen Wang staged a memorable return to the runway at Shanghai Fashion Week last October with one of the week’s most engaging collections, so it was a surprise when his name was absent from the fall season lineup this past March.

Like many of his colleagues in China and across the globe, Wang is facing challenges running an independent label. “I had some issues after last season,” said the designer, reporting that an internal shuffle with his staff, together with slower sales (in line with many of his peers in Shanghai), forced him to delay this fall collection. “I had to pay attention to managing the business,” he added. Now, Wang is rethinking his pace: “I felt so tired after last season and after the pandemic, and I wanted to take the time to concentrate in real design and in developing techniques.”

While he’s presenting this collection slightly off-schedule, he hopes to return to a regular cadence in October, with his business back in order. To accomplish this, he put together a tighter, concept-driven lineup to inform his commercial collection, and has enlisted a new team to help him develop a digital direct-to-consumer strategy on T-Mall. DTC is the move with designers of late, and it’s something that Wang is counting on to help reinvigorate his business.

As for the collection itself, Wang is a deft technical designer who thoroughly enjoys making clothes. This was on display in a lineup that borrowed liberally from Madame Grès (many images of her work appeared on Wang’s mood board), with a sprinkle of the late ’80s and ’90s in the silhouettes. “The idea was to build a structure around the body and start pleating and layering by hand, focusing on the hip and waist and building out the silhouette with padding where needed,” he said. A trio of fabulous draped little black dresses will be easy hits with his more upscale customers, while the playful criss-cross halter neck details on slips and bodysuits will speak to a digitally savvy audience. This is where experience matters: Wang is weathering a storm, but he’s shown that he can, when need be, do more with less.

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