REdesigning A Unique Style

Only 18 months into her new career as a handbag and shoe designer, Xin Zhao is finding her way and carving a fashionable niche in Shanghai’s design scene.

A graphic designer by profession, Xin Zhao, started her accessories brand, REdesigns, almost by accident.

As a side line, Zhao had spent a few years slaking her thirst for vintage clothing and accessories with a personal collection she trundled out to sell at markets around town.

A friend, who knew of Zhao’s love for high quality vintage pieces, gifted her a clutch bag sourced in Germany, which Zhao loved, but was hesitant to use because it was in rather poor condition.

Around the same time, Zhao had taken possession of some beautiful European tapestries and had the idea of getting the clutch copied, with the bulk of the bag done in leather, and the tapestry used as an accent.

When it became apparent that local, independent customised leather goods operators were going to charge an arm and a leg for the copied bag, Zhao had the idea to approach a factory.

“Eventually, I approached a factory and the minimum quantity was 50 or 60 bags. The first sample he made me was exactly what I wanted, I put a logo on it and just like that, I had my own label”, Zhao explained with a smile and a shrug.

Though it may seem as though this was a rather genteel introduction into the world of fashion, it wasn’t long before Zhao was learning some tough lessons.

“At the beginning, my concept was about recycled fabrics and styles with the vintage pieces. The first collection was leather, but I lost a lot of money because it was my first time doing a collection and the factory really tricked me. I hadn’t done my research and had no experience”, she said.

Undeterred, Zhao went on to create another collection, this time expanding her range to include cross body bags and a large tote bag.

This time around, with her new REveries collection, the young designer has distilled her aesthetic into one style of bag, a leather and patterned straw jacquard convertible shoulder bag/backback (RMB 1,280), in two colours, along with matching loafers (RMB 880) in the same summery mint and peach shades.

According to Zhao, many new customers baulk at buying a matching bag and shoes set in one go, though those who work in the art, design and fashion sectors seem to get a kick out of it. This being said, Zhao is now finding more and more customers will buy one piece, then return for its partner piece before too long.

In terms of inspiration, Zhao is adamant about following her own instincts, rather than the collective wisdom of the fashion crowd.

“Loafers are very popular at the moment, but the biggest motivation for me is that I like to wear loafers; I design things that I want,” she said of her current shoe collection.

This being said, as her fan base grows, so does the feedback from customers, some of which is also being incorporated into each new collection.

“Even though I still have a very independent idea about what the designs should be, I couldn’t ignore the voice of customers who are giving me feedback on the size they want, the colours they want, the styles they want,” Zhao said.

Though it’s early days for REdesigns, Zhao’s plans for new designs and capsule collections are already plentiful, now, she says. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable with the cycle of design and manufacturing collections, as well as building a sustainable customer base, before we see a greater range of Zhao’s distinctive designs hitting shelves around Shanghai.

In many ways, Zhao believes she has come into the game in the right place and at the right time to make a mark with her one-woman operation.

Whereas five years ago, there wasn’t a fashion-forward crowd in China willing to forgo the safety of big labels, more and more young people are embracing fashion as a manifestation of their own uniqueness. leading to a greater need for distinctive design voices such as Zhao’s.

“For years, the whole Chinese culture was about staying low key and not standing out because people will be against you, but now young people more and more want their own voice to be heard and to find a different way to represent ourselves,” Zhao said.

“I am doing this by making my own things and if other people can express themselves by buying and wearing my stuff, that makes me so happy”.

REdesigns products are stocked at boutiques around Shanghai. For more information, visit