For the past two seasons, fashion editors have been entering Jing Fong, Manhattan’s largest no-frills Cantonese restaurant — all for the sake of fashion and New York Fashion Week’s newest darling: Snow Xue Gao.
The Beijing-born designer started off at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, then moved to New York for an MFA in fashion design at Parsons School of Design. Upon graduating in 2017, and with a spot on the LVMH Prize shortlist, Gao launched her eponymous brand, giving her own spin to East and West, tailoring and draping — and promptly turned heads in the industry, from Vogue to WWD.
Inspired by Western suiting and Eastern silks, prints and cultural motifs, Gao interprets the East-West mix by literally deconstructing the suit such that half the garment is a standard grey wool blazer, and the other half is a purple satin mahjong-inspired geometric print, stitched and belted together — combining Manhattan’s city grit with Chinatown’s frozen-in-time culture.
Gao is not shy with proportions, playing with men’s tailoring, exaggerating the shoulders against the traditional qipao, constantly pulling from her culture, be it mahjong, Asian florals, the colour palette of ’60s Hong Kong or Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love.
In her runway show, Gao deconstructs conventional notions of gender, with women striding down the catwalk in enveloping blazers akin to gangster suits, while some male models stroll down topless, in a plaid and floral satin spliced skirt.
It’s a good time to be an up-and-coming designer, with the industry keen for new talent to bring original and intelligent design to the table. As a daring designer willing to tear down and redefine the cheesy cues and stereotypical context in which Chinese — and particularly Chinatown — culture has often been depicted, Snow Xue Gao might just be spearheading a wave of new Chinese design in the West.