Nana: Fashion has infinite possibilities, and new power is born from it. As a carrier of culture and times, fashion encompasses everything. From trendy to traditional culture, from celebrities, idols to everyone’s daily life, and from West to East, it is our discourse, our power, our time. Through Asian Voice, we hope to spread the local Asian fashion culture to the world by moving cross languages and borders.
The brand’s mission is to spread happiness and affection through their knitwear creations. Utilizing vivid colors and lively depictions of love, the two designers convey their deep affection for the world through their clothing. With this innovative design approach, they aspire to encourage individuals to treasure each and every beautiful moment in life.
Can you give us an introduction about your brand briefly?
Cynthia: The brand is called CYNTHIA & XIAO. It’s myself, Cynthia, and also my business partner, Xiao. We are a knitwear brand who specialize in very colorful, very playful, very graphic kind of knitwear.
The whole mission of the brand is about spreading joy. We want the clothing to give people this feeling of happiness, this love. I think it’s a little different from what’s available elsewhere. And we really do care about comfort and quality. We hope it could be something that is very timeless as well, and we want each person to have their own story within the clothing.
So I think that’s the kind of joy we get from making the clothes as well.
How you two meet and decide to work together initially?
Cynthia: She and I actually attended the same school. We both studied at a university in London, and that’s where we first met. When I decided to start the brand, my major was in woven textiles, while she specialized in knitwear. It was around winter season when I began the brand, and I felt that knitwear was a crucial element for our collection. In the previous class, our focus had been primarily on woven textiles, but we decided to make a slight shift.
I believed she would make an excellent partner as a designer for the company, not just because of her skills but also because she’s a very close friend. We know each other well. When we started, it was about having fun with the process. While we recognized that it’s a serious business, we wanted to enjoy the journey and collaborate with someone I knew well and trusted. We found that we worked together exceptionally well, even though we have our differences. Fortunately, everything fell into place, and she has always been there to support me.
What inspired to create your own brand and how you work together?
Cynthia: I think it’s something that we’re very passionate about. It’s something we really want to bring to life, and that’s why we started it. In terms of how we distribute the work, Xiao knows she’s actually based in Beijing, so she’s closer to the factory. She’s good with our distribution within China, so she usually handles the China market. I work more closely with markets outside of China. Design-wise, we split it 50-50, but when it comes to manufacturing and other aspects, she takes on more of that responsibility.
Nana: It’s new to me that I met the two co-founders who do the design work.
Cynthia: Sometimes, if you try to do everything by yourself, you can get stuck. So it’s nice to have someone else to come in. Xiao and I work well together, so in some ways, we can compromise and not get too frustrated with each other.
What type of lifestyle is encompassed by the vibrant and playful aesthetics that your brand embodies?
Cynthia: We often emphasize one of our slogans, ‘Life should be colorful.’ It reflects our belief that everyone’s life should be filled with happiness, where each moment, no matter how ordinary, is appreciated. It’s about embracing the presence of the people you love. This philosophy embodies the spirit of our entire brand, and we aspire for our customers to embrace this lifestyle and carry the same positive vibe.
How do you describe CYNTHIA & XIAO in three word?
Cynthia: Joyful, bold and probably comfort.
It’s not just about spreading joy and fun. As a fashion brand, Cynthia Xiao also pays significant attention to social issues such as environmental protection and animal conservation, and more. How do you come up with the collection every time?
Cynthia: I believe it depends on the current global context and what we personally care about. For instance, Xiao has a deep love for animals, which is a significant factor for us. Additionally, we’re mindful of the fashion industry’s environmental impact, so we’re actively exploring more sustainable practices. Fashion, to us, is not just about looking pretty; it’s a powerful medium for storytelling.
Every season or at least once a year, we strive to weave a meaningful narrative into our collections. Our hope is that people will embrace these stories, help spread them, and come together as a community to make a positive difference.
Is it possible for you to recommend any noteworthy designers, artistes, movies, or brands that our readers might find inspiring?
Cynthia: We have a few artists and designers we admire. One of them is Nicholas Party, known for his captivating and playful yet serious artwork. His colorful installations are truly intriguing.
In the realm of furniture design, there’s a brand called Montana that catches our attention. They produce vibrant, colorful furniture with a beautifully minimalist touch. If we envision having a physical store, we believe our brand’s customers would also be drawn to such designs.
What are some of the challenges you have faced during the building of the brand?
For a small brand, one of the most significant challenges is dealing with limited resources. You have to be extremely conscious of where your spending goes, often requiring you to handle various aspects yourself. Design, while essential, becomes just a part of the whole picture. Much of your time is spent on paperwork and accounting, which might not feel like typical designer work, but it’s a crucial part of running the company.
When we initially started, finding the right manufacturing partner took some time. There are many options out there, which can be overwhelming. While some factories may boast about their quality, it doesn’t always align with reality. You have to try and test them to find the right fit. It’s a process of trial and error. Once you find the right manufacturing partners, they become valuable allies.
Finding your target market also takes time. As a designer, you may have an ideal consumer in mind when creating, but the reality may differ. It’s essential to adjust your brand based on who actually buys your products and spends on them throughout the year.
So how do you stay on top of the game, and how do you make sure people are still interested in your brand? It will be the big challenges for us.
What are some advices would you give to someone who is interested in starting their own business in the fashion industry?
Cynthia: Discovering your true passion is essential, and it’s far from dull. I’ve always believed in pursuing something that sets you apart, rather than following trends or the status quo.
Being authentic and experimenting is key. It takes time, and you need to stay updated with the latest developments, especially in fields like design. But, sticking to your genuine beliefs is crucial. There’s a market for everything; the challenge is finding those who genuinely appreciate your work. This requires dedication and substantial effort.
From this, you can build a captivating company. Collaboration is essential. Doing everything on your own is often impractical. Even though I multitask, I still rely on partners for various aspects such as business operations and manufacturing.
Finding the right partner can be challenging, but it’s necessary unless you have the financial resources to assemble a complete team. I’ve noticed that when someone embarks on something new with limited resources, having a partner is indispensable. It’s motivating, as partners push each other to excel and improve.
Pursuing something that sets you apart, rather than following trends or the status quo.
Text by Yiyao Zhang