Following her showstopping and sustainability-led London Fashion Week catwalk presentation, luxury womenswear designer Susan Fang introduces Drapers to her newly-launched childrenswear range.
10 March 2023
Since founding her eponymous label in 2018, Central Saint Martins-alum and 2019 LVMH Prize finalist Susan Fang’s rise has been rapid. Her womenswear brand is now one of London’s most beloved, known for its glass-beaded handbags and maximalist, saccharine-sweet and ultra-feminine dresses in pastel clouds of chiffon and fields of floral-inspired fabrics.
For autumn/winter 2023, Fang has ventured into childrenswear for the first time, offering customers coordinated mini-me skirts, dresses and puffer coats, unveiled amid a blanket of rose petals at north-west London’s Little Venice Leisure Centre on 20 February, as part of the official London Fashion Week schedule.
Featuring upcycled fabric, woven laces and 3D-printed accessories and footwear made from biodegradable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), Fang’s AW23 collection imagines “clothes of the future”, she told Drapers backstage after her catwalk presentation, worn by future generations empowered by technologically-advanced and responsible manufacturing practices.
3D-printing footwear components, including heels and soles, allows Fang to reduce waste by leaving hollow spaces where material isn’t needed, eradicating scraps and trims found in traditional manufacturing, while TPU is a non-toxic alternative to PVC that biodegrades in soil in between three and five years.
“Children are the future,” says Fang, who aims to help preserve the world for the next generation by promoting environmentally-friendlier materials and manufacturing techniques.
Following the whirlwind of London Fashion Week, Drapers caught up with Fang to talk technology, keeping in touch with her inner child and what she learned from her January 2022 Zara collaboration.
Backstage at Susan Fang’s AW23 catwalk presentation, Little Venice Leisure Centre, 20 February 2023
I check [Chinese instant messaging app] WeChat and reply to all our studio messages, press-lending messages, collaboration projects. I often start with video calls before even getting out of bed, sometimes at 3am because of time differences [due to working between Shanghai and London].
Then I will meditate in front of the sun with my crystals on the palm and stretch, it helps to calm and focus for the day.
I was in a boarding kindergarten since [the age of] four, and I remember I loved drawing, so there was a lot of inner-world imagination, listening to tapes, fairytales, and drawing nonstop. I wanted to be an artist and just kept creating imaginary worlds and stories. At [the age of] six, my mom saw my comics [where I] always drew girls in different outfits, and said I should be a fashion designer.
I studied BA [(Hons) Fashion Design:] Womenswear at Central Saint Martins [Fang graduated in 2015], where I could very conceptually and freely explore clothing expression with styling and music and accessories and had internships at Kei Kagami and Celine [as well as a] womenswear trainee[ship] at Stella McCartney. Then my work holiday visa was up and I was excited to start my own label in London, prepping in 2017 and launching in 2018.
Coffee is a bit too bitter. Usually it’s hot chocolate, and all types of floral or herbal tea.
Susan Fang AW23
It was an Oséree lace bra and underwear set, a Prism sports bra and leggings set and Dries Van Noten earrings from MyTheresa.
The Oséree bra has no underwire and is very simple – it feels so light you forget you’re wearing one, and I always love something simple but beautiful. It’s actually my first proper lace bra set, and I found it actually difficult to find lace bras without an underwire, so maybe I should develop some for the future – a lot of my friends also prefer no wire now.
Dries Van Noten crystal-embellished hoop earrings, retail price: £295, available on mytheresa.com
[I chose the sports bra and leggings set from London-based sportswear, swimwear, underwear and eyewear brand] Prism because, in the summer, I bought a cycling short and only later noticed there was no seam and only one size. It was super stretchy and comfy with no sweat stains – I was amazed!
I think [the earrings] are my first Dries [Van Noten purchase]. The golden thick hoop is almost like a ring, with bubbles of crystals over the hoop. It felt a bit vintage but modern at the same time. I might try to test it out as a ring too.
Oh, so many! Because I’m always on the move, I prefer all my updates, samples or research collected digitally. I think WeChat is definitely [an app that makes work easier] – I almost use it as a drive: I have all my files and use it to find photos. Then the Keynote app from Apple to put all my notes, daily sampling updates and see all the items together, because you can shrink the entire screen to a tiny size and enlarge easily, like a huge brainstorm wall, and I can also iCloud share to my colleagues or a stylist.
The Notes app on iPhone, which syncs to my iPad and Mac [computer], too. I’m really excited to start using this new whiteboard app from Apple which was recommended by my boyfriend [so that] we can share our inspirations. It feels like a combination of a PureRef [image-organising programme for Windows, Mac and Linux] inspiration board with Notes and Keynote, and you can share with [other] people.
I do find it tricky when pricing or [creating] linesheets. It just makes everything seem so expensive, especially when our items are so handcraft-heavy.
We are thinking of maybe making some [of our] items online-exclusive, as I worry that as wholesale item it would look too expensive. [With] some [products], we just have to keep the margin as [the products are] so labour-intensive. [With other products], we’ve had to lower our margin a little.
Exhalation by [American science fiction writer] Ted Chiang. It’s a collection of sci-fi short stories, about how the future may be. [It’s] fantasy combined with a bit of philosophy. I was just really amazed by one of the short stories about these AI animals slowly growing awareness and having their own learning abilities but because they were having their own personalities, their memories have to be wiped. It felt a bit like the ChatGPT and Bing situation lately [Microsoft has employed an artificial intelligence-powered tool capable of carrying on a conversation into its search engine]. So much of what we imagine is becoming true!
Its really amazing how with the social media you can now be inspired by so many people. I’m inspired everyday by how Susie Bubble [born Susanna Lau, Chinese-British journalist and blogger] creatively ensembles and styles her pieces, and how our stylist Phoebe Lettice gives character to our pieces.
[My inspirations] used to be Hussein Chalayan, Kei Kagami, Issey Miyake, these amazing designers who changed the expression of fashion and creates these imaginary new worlds, but now I feel I’m finding inspiration from so many people, especially those who are such amazing supporters of fashion and creative individuals and building culture like Susie, Phoebe, [stylist] Declan Chan, [journalist and blogger] Yumasui and my boyfriend who’s in industrial design.
I enjoy creating a new playlist every month which I reference [in my designs]. Usually they are indie artists and their music is sometimes less commercial or mainstream and more creative and an interesting combination of tempo, melody and instruments.
I try to find new music every day or week while working and also collect songs that would work for our [upcoming catwalk] show, as each time I need to make sure the title and lyrics match with the message of that season’s collection. Sometimes when I find new music hard to find I may go back to 1950s jazz or Nat King Cole or Stevie Wonder, just for some positive energy.
Susan Fang during the SS20 collection campaign shoot at Jade Lake in China, January 2020.
Even at university, I loved popping into [childrenswear stores] Bonpoint or Petit Bateau. It’s just so adorable to see all these designs that make your heart melt and you can imagine which pieces you would love to wear as a child.
Children have so much imagination and energy, and clothing in a way connects deeper into their fantasies. I always wished to do childrenswear but originally [I wanted to do it] when I had my own daughter. I really enjoyed my childhood and loved being a girl. My mother never restricted my wildness – I was running around freely at restaurants, I could dress in floral, bright-coloured dresses that made me imagine myself as cartoon or fairytale characters.
Our Zara collaboration [released in January 2022], for which we did [22 pieces of seasonless] womenswear, childrenswear, menswear and accessories, was very successful and childrenswear sold out instantly. We saw many social media comments from mothers saying how their children were so happy, full of joy and dancing when wearing our pieces.
The design process was very smooth and enjoyable, and we learned a lot about children’s lifestyles and wearing habits and [the childrenswear] market from Zara, so we thought that maybe it’s a good time to launch [our own] childrenswear to match our collection message this season.
[Even though the] market is a bit unstable lately, parents are still enjoying dressing their children.
I think it may be partially Lanvin, my mother, and just my imaginary child inside. I loved the story of how Lanvin started as childrenswear [before transitioning into womenswear in 1909 and menswear in 1926] because [founder Jeanne Lanvin] had a daughter. Everything was made with love.
I am so thankful that my mother gave me such a healthy childhood. I could sing, dance, play anywhere and anytime. In my childhood photos, I’m always playing in my dresses: climbing on different outdoor sculptures or sceneries.
That is why I think some childrenswear is so charming, as you can feel it’s made with so much love, and why this season was so enjoyable for me and mother [who also manages Fang’s Shanghai studio] to design. It’s just our dream outfit for my future daughter or her future granddaughter, how she can be happier [and] feel like a flower or fairy.
Susan Fang AW23
This season was really amazing. It was very stressful as we were ambitious in our pieces, venue and our water-mist wings and dresses [see below]. We hope everyone who came had a special experience and memory of love. Luckily, everything went really well – people enjoyed the childrenswear, our handmade pieces, the rose-scent-filled venue, the rose-scented, mist [emitting] dresses.
A lot of people were playing with rose petals like a snow fight or laying down [and taking] selfies. It was about uniting nations as one world with love and [I’m] truly so happy everyone felt the love, and it was so amazing to work with many talented creatives to produce this show as well.
This season we didn’t get to attend any shows as we were making and preparing the show to the last minute. I signed up for the Moncler [Art of Genius event at Olympia Kensington on the evening of 20 February] which was the night after our show, but when we arrived 30 minutes before the show the line was already many many streets long, and decided to give up. It looked super cool on Instagram though!
Do things that you truly love, because if you love them, others will as well. Work with people you admire and inspire you – they will allow you to flourish and you will also have amazing memories and learnings.
Susan Fang AW23
TagsAW23 childrenswear kidswear London Fashion Week luxury childrenswear Susan Fang
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