When we first met Lin Lin from the brand Eno in 2007 at United Fashion Trade Show”, we were intrigued by her passion for her home city of Shanghai and the inspiration taken from her country when it came to the emerging China youth and street culture scenes, including rise of indie bands, social networks, and corresponding lifestyle apparel. We met up with Lin Lin and her partner Yvette again at MAGIC in the South Hall last month where they represented not only one of the few women’s contemporary streetwear brands in the area (despite the growing marketplace) but also were the only ones from Shanghai–a burgeoning hotspot of designers and rockers inspired by street culture.
“Designers coming from China are very very interesting,” explained Lin Lin about the scene coming out of Shanghai, Beijing, and other parts of China. “Not only are they looking West yes, but they are looking at their own culture and have created a certain nostalgia and creating contemporary art and design from this mix.” Interestingly, there’s a massive generation gap in China among parents and now, 20-somethings or the new growing middle class. “It used to be that parents warned their kids and only thought that jobs such as being a doctor or a lawyer were respectable. But now they are slowly starting to realize that being a designer is a proper job in China now.”
Lin Lin’s brand Eno is a result of this growing youth culture of talented designers coming out of China. For the collection they were showcasing at MAGIC Eno designers went around the country for 3 months, studying the minority cultures, their music, dance handicrafts, and arts. As Lin Lin explained in our Label Networks TV interview, there are 56 minority tribes in China which make up only 9 percent of the population. And many of these tribes do not always look Chinese, but rather like different parts of Asia such as Mongolian. Eno took aspects of all of these cultures, their patterns and designs and created one of the most unique women’s contemporary streetwear adaptations from these cultural influences.
Word is spreading and the youth and street culture movement in China is growing massively, thanks to the internet, rise of more indie musicians and designers, and social networks such as NeoCha. At the opening launch party of NeoCha for example, they invited all sorts of independent creatives, according to Lin Lin, and had exhibitions like a giant flea market where people could show their collections and sell their handicrafts.
Eno is a brand like many that is very inspired by music, working closely with top Chinese indie and rock bands. Their flagship store in Shanghai has hosted the popular band PK14 before. “We are more than a retail space in Shanghai,” explains Lin Lin about Eno, the store. “We also do gigs with bands in the store, it becomes a place where people can get together and exchange ideas and listen to music on Saturday afternoons.”
The Eno collection specifically includes inspiration from the last emperor and the Chin Dynasty, which is actually Manchurian. “We did several pieces that reflect the Manchurian woman, who is a powerful woman, opinionated, and stronger than men in some ways, so we thought that this would fit our women’s streetwear.”
Other key pieces include an apron skirt taken from inspiration of a tribe that uses dancing to celebrant their harvests. As Lin Lin explains, it’s cute to wear over shorts or tights, and could become a new silhouette in women’s contemporary streetwear. One of the most unique pieces is a bright purple peacock head with stripes created into almost an animated picture. “The peacock is inspired by a tribe that does the “peacock dance” and we made it cute by making it into romper-shorts,” explains Lin Lin.
Overall, the Eno collection is colorful, fun, and definitely unusual when you look closely at the graphics which tell the stories of Chinese inspiration. The line also includes bags and clutches -all done in corresponding colors and patterns -making Eno the apparel brand and store, a well-rounded company that’s pushing trends in new directions in women’s contemporary streetwear today.