When Sing co-founded the independent clothing label Y-Vison, the focus was on menswear, and today, the brand is worn by boy bands and male idols such as Li Yifeng, Huang Bo and TFBoys. But when asked for his outlook on the market segment in China, Sing doesn't have much to say. "To be honest, I have no expectation on the future of independent menswear designers," Sing told the Global Times.
Y-vison Homme debuted in 2014 with menswear, but by the end of the following year the company expanded into women's clothes just to sustain its business.
Now operating simply as Y-vison, the company produces three times more women's clothes than men's.
China's modern fashion industry started late, with the introduction of foreign brands and international fashion magazines in the 1990s.
But unlike women's wear, which has developed quickly over the decades into a mature market with a comprehensive range of styles, men's fashion is trudging forward on account of many Chinese men's conventional mentality toward clothing choices.
A college tutor surnamed Lu in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, is one of the many Chinese males who profess no interest in fashion at all.
He said he buys clothes every two months, mostly formal outfits, and that he purchases only "masculine" colors such as black, white and blue.
He doesn't do jeans with holes or colorful T-shirts, because, he said, they're either too "special" or a bit "unmanly."
Traditional values of men
"I'm kind of a traditional man," Lu told the Global Times.
He said that men, unlike women, don't need to dress in style, but simply neat and clean.
Moreover, traditional roles in China dictate that it's women who chase beauty, while men should pursue academics or success in their careers. And even today, a man who dresses in style may get the side-eye from others.
Sing said he knows exactly how that feels.
"You can tell when others are staring at you, and that some even whisper comments to their friends," Sing said.
He said he loves rock and Gothic styles of clothing, and that he is wistful for the time when he studied in London, where men dared to try every possible style - from vintage to Gothic, rock to cowboy - and nobody judged them.
"Maybe Chinese men are still under the influence of traditional values of conformity, and that individuality should not be given significance, so they're reluctant to dress differently," Sing said.
That may also explain why those dressed to the nines during Shanghai Fashion Week (SFW) are quickly surrounded by spectators and photographers excited by such uncommon appearances.
Basically in China, there are only two dressing styles for most men: formal and casual. But driven by the desire to bring more interesting elements to menswear, a number of independent designers have entered the industry; meanwhile large commercial brands are also absorbing more and more fashionable elements in their designs.
Together with designer Ye Weicheng, Sing co-founded the brand Y-Vison Homme, debuting with their fall and winter line at SFW in 2014. The label won the Best Vitality Award.
Each season, SFW features about 50 independent fashion brands, most from China, but among them often only a dozen deal with menswear.
Like Y-Vison, Xinyuhu by Shanghai designer Hu Xinyu has been a notable men's fashion brand frequently spotted on SFW's runway.
Hu, who graduated from the London College of Fashion in 2013, also made her debut show at SFW's 2014 Spring and Summer show, becoming one of the few designers of the fashion week to show a collection right after graduation.
Xinyuhu specializes in high-end menswear featuring asymmetric designs, geometric shapes and lines that add a sense of smartness to gentlemen's wear, while Y-Vison Homme catered to the 1980s and 1990s generation with fun, printed patterns, fancy structures and combinations of colors.
Although the two both received overwhelming attention from SFW, the marketing process for them has been full of pains and challenges, especially when compared with commercial brands that can rely on a more mature business model and sales network.
In the past few years, China has witnessed a growing number of fashion retailers expanding their businesses from Beijing and Shanghai to second- and third-tier cities.
According to qdaily.com, most fashion retailers sell women's clothes, and the highest proportion of menswear in their product lines is about 30 percent.
Only a few stores in first-tier cities are dedicated to men's fashion, and most of their brands are from Western countries.
Due to the feeble domestic market for independent designs for men, currently most shops across the country offer only consignment sales for designers, which means that only when the clothes are sold will those designers be paid by the shops.
Both Sing and Hu are frustrated with the contracts, because as independent designers they bear all the economic pressure on their own shoulders.
After debuting at SFW, Sing consigned products to several fashion retailers, but he said the reception was pretty poor as "our designs proved not suitable for the market."
"I think fashion has nothing to do with age; it's related to one's attitude toward life," Hu said. "And as modern men have more and more roles to take on in different life situations, it will be possible for them to try more various styles in dressing in the future."Read more at:purple formal dresses