MF: Fashion for Urban Warriors

Monika Figlewicz knows exactly who she is designing for. The woman behind brand new Shanghai-based fashion brand, MF, is making clothes for strong women who know what they want and aren't interested in following the mass market crowd – in short, women rather like herself.

Monika Figlewicz’s studio and boutique sits in the tranquil surrounds of Enso Temple – a lane house conversion in the French Concession that houses not only the MF brand, but also offers personal training and martial arts. Just weeks away from giving birth to her first child, she couldn’t look any more chic as she recounts the whirlwind of activity that has taken her label from a personal project to a professional launch in less than a year.

“The designs came out of my need for self-expression and my need to get the clothes I wanted,” Figlewicz explains. “It just happened in a very spontaneous way. Friends started asking, 'Can you design a shirt, or top, or dress for me?' Then eight months ago I decided to do something more about it and design my first collection.”

MF's debut collection, entitled 'Wickelt and Belted', launched in June with a fashion show in the courtyard of South Bund's shabby-chic boutique Waterhouse Hotel, which proved a perfect backdrop for the clothes' minimalist aesthetic and distinctive, though not extensive, colour palette.

Figlewicz has developed an immediately recognisable ‘fashion language’ for MF, which includes an exclusively black and white colour scheme, asymmetric cuts, high quality fabrics (predominantly cotton, silk, chiffon and leather) and the S&M-esque accessorising that inspired the first collection's name.

“Wickelt comes from German and it means 'wrapped', then Belted is because I accessorise almost every piece with leather belts, in a quite unusual way. I use it more like jewellery,” Figlewicz explains.

Though the 'MF look' seems out of place with the particularly feminine street style we usually see from Shanghainese women, Figlewicz believes the city is large enough to accommodate a number of different looks and she is not interested in chasing the mass market dollars on offer.

“There are many kinds of Shanghainese women. They are very courageous women and are open to wearing almost anything,” the designer says. “I think there is a new generation coming in now who have started to develop their own taste and pay more attention to individual fashion rather than mass fashion. I am targeting those women.”

With pieces priced from RMB 699 to 5,900, and design elements drawn from both contemporary European styling with a touch of Asian-inspired styling (for example in qipao-like high-necked collars and kimono-style sleeves), Figlewicz's designs reflect her own experience as a transplant in Shanghai. But the most obvious theme that ties each piece in the collection is a particularly female brand of power – this is fashion that can be wielded as both armour and an attitude.

“MF is a fashion concept. It's also about working with the attitude of the women who wear it,” she says. “I am creating for what I call 'urban warriors', so women who are already quite self-confident and they want to underline their own personality, rather than jumping on every trend. They are independent and they know what they want.”

Enso Temple. Lane 215, 10 Taiyuan Lu. Tel: 2428 7044. Web:

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