Uooyaa: The Brand Clearing ‘Made-in-China’ of its Bad Rep
With its modernised traditional Chinese designs, dainty elf ears and decorative black bin bags – Chinese haute couture brand, Uooyaa, have given the Made-in-China fashion label a rebrand.
Words By Francesca Ricciardi
The infamous Made-in-China clothing label comes with an unfair share of bad reputation – one that automatically sets it at an all-time low when it comes to the place it holds within the fashion world. Poor materials, cheap prices and sweatshop labour exploitation, or so that’s how the West likes to think. And while there are brands that will exploit the low-cost labour of sweatshop workers to make a profit, Jinxia Yin, founder of haute couture Chinese fashion label, Uooyaa, begs to differ.
Uooyaa (pronounced as “ow-ya”) made its debut in the fashion industry in 2014 as a size-friendly fashion brand that doesn’t sit well with what Chinese mainstream media and beauty ideals stand for. The name itself was born out of the willingness to break apart from a white-centric idealisation of beauty, typical of China, that idolises white western women. In fact, “uooyaa” means “the girl who was born with a darker skin”.
“I am a UK size 14, but, back then when I was in China, it was hard to find my size because Chinese clothes are normally smaller than the western sizes system,” says Moira Niu, managing director of Crescent Fashion Agency, representing Uooyaa in the UK. “I know that, if I go to a Uooyaa store, I can find something. It’s not only its style I like a lot, but also [the fact that] I can really find my size.” Uooyaa’s project focusses on retrieving women’s self-confidence by knocking down decades-old harmful stereotypes about what a beautiful woman should look and dress like.
Uooyaa’s 2019 Autumn/Winter collection sees the inclusion of traditional Chinese design elements with a modern twist, like the Chinese workman jacket, which founder Jinxia Yin totally re-invented to suit women and men alike, making it one of the main elements of the collection. The jacket comes in different colours and shapes, and it is designed to be worn on different occasions, from formal to more casual ones.
Special to the collection is also the choice of bright prints, unique accessories and playful cuts, with garments’ sleeves designed to look like a dinosaur’s face and shirts’ prints picturing anime characters, as seen in the Uooyaa x Ultraman series, a collection dedicated to the Japanese anime, Ultraman.
The incorporation of peculiar accessories such as elf ears and black bin bags in the models’ hands on the runway hints at Uooyaa’s desire to steer away from conformism.
In fact, the brand, which appeared at Paris Fashion Week early in October, has distinguished itself for the choice of employing a team of salaried in-house clothes makers and designers in China. A step forward in determining a new identity for China’s clothing manufacture industry, in its attempt to break free from the stereotypes and bad practices attached to the quality of production and workers’ rights in Southeast Asia.
“The fact that people can say that something is made in Portugal or Italy cancels in a minute the sweatshops. That’s the thing, there’s been the case of things made in America by Mexican immigrants or people in jail,” says Acer Anderson, PR manager at Crescent Fashion. “Uooyaa makes sure everything is ethically made.”
Despite being stocked in over 90 shops in mainland China, Uooyaa’s international outreach is still very limited, as the brand eyes global expansion. And it is with this thought in mind that the Uooyaa x Lacroix collection came to be, a collaboration whose resulting clothes Uooya produced themselves with the sole introduction of Lacroix’s print designs.
The collection includes an array of loose-fitted long tops that merge Lacroix’s romantic and sophisticated prints with Uooyaa’s fun and colourful streetwear style. The line is made up of twelve highly aesthetic pieces appealing to a specific kind of woman – one who doesn’t abide by the rules and would rather be wild and free, without taking herself too seriously.
With an out-of-the-box selling strategy that focusses more on building a sense of trust and respect within its customer, Uooyaa’s journey to international acclaim remains long. In fact, the brand completely rejects the notion of employing an aggressive marketing strategy to make a profit fast. A choice that places Uooyaa outside of the realm of capitalism, both geographically and ethically speaking.