Introducing: Front Row

Designer Ying Wu launches a new online store

Former advertising executive Ying Wu founded her Taobao label, Front Row, in 2010. Inspired by international trends, her affordable, fast-fashion pieces have drawn attention from domestic and Western markets alike, with UK high street giant Topshop picking up several designs for their 2011 autumn/winter collection. This month sees the launch of her new online store, She talks to Lydia Chow about China’s hunger for cutting-edge fashion, digital floral prints and the power of Weibo.

Chinese consumers are constantly exposed to global trends through the internet, international fashion magazines and fashion bloggers, so naturally they want affordable access to those trends. Right now, the domestic market is lagging behind when it comes to satisfying that need, so we’re trying to bridge the gap. In the past, people were highly price sensitive. Now, they want variety and new, interesting designs, and they’re not as focused on the price tag.

Our starting point is the Western trends showcased on the runways during fashion week: they basically lay the foundation for our designs. We would describe ourselves as ‘fast-fashion’ rather than a ‘designer’ brand, but we try to put a unique twist on what we produce.

Because our designs have a European feel, they appeal to the Western market here as well as to local clientele. Last year, Italian fashion blogger Shampalove introduced us to Topshop who eventually bought a few of our designs – mainly dresses and jackets – for their 2011 autumn/winter collection. They thought we were a good match style-wise.

We’ve developed new digital printing technology which allows us to print directly from photos, which produces a sharper, more 3D effect. It’s something we use on many of our designs. This year, we’ve created some unique patterns based on mirror floral prints.

Taobao is a great sales platform. People ask us when we’re going to open a physical store, but the truth is there are no boundaries online: we can reach out to every part of the globe. There’s none of the limits and overheads that come with physical stores.

It’s important to interact with your market and Weibo is a powerful tool for that. We get a lot of suggestions sent to us, such as photos of designs, and we try to incorporate elements of these in our own pieces. We’d never copy anything wholesale, but it’s good to understand what customers like and reflect that in the designs we produce.

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