Animal attraction

Updated: 2011-08-26 12:05

By Alexandra Leyton Espinoza (China Daily European Weekly)

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Animal attraction
Fur designer David Ubl says China has allowed his career to flourish because age is never a barrier. Alexandra Leyton Espinoza / for China Daily 

World's youngest chief fur designer set to launch own label and tap into huge China market

He is the youngest chief fur designer in the world, a runner up in Germany's top-rated TV show Project Runway and winner of the 2008 Gold Hempel award for young designers. For 27-year-old David Ubl the next step on his successful career ladder will be to expand his own brand, David UBL, across China.

"I am so excited to show my summer collection in Beijing in September. The line is very clean, sexy, young with a touch of luxury. A little twist to the more conservative fashion scene in Beijing," he says.

Ubl has dreamt of becoming a designer ever since after his mother showed him how to use a sewing machine. At age 10 he started making his own clothes and soon after was creating costumes for his friends.

"I have never stopped sewing since. My mom says that I can sew better than her."

After high school he moved to the United States to study creative fashion design and pattern making in Boston, followed by stints at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology and elite fashion design schools in Berlin and Paris.

"When I was chosen to come to Beijing and compete in China's International Fashion Week (2008), all I knew about China was that the Italian brand Fendi had had its first ever fashion show on the Great Wall and that Chinese people love the color red," Ubl says with a smile.

After winning the Gold Hempel award for best international collection, Ubl went back to Berlin to finish his studies. During graduation he was chosen by Hempel, one of the biggest textile producers in China, and in 2008 was sent back to Beijing as the company's creative director.

"I trained Chinese designers to be more open minded in their way of designing. The creations in China can sometimes tend to be too extreme. They are either overloaded or too minimalistic. I had to try to help them to find a good balance."

One year later he was offered the role of chief designer for Beijing Sunry Longtai Fur Manufacturing Co Ltd, one of China's largest fur fashion houses.

"I had never worked with fur when I first came to Beijing, but I still said, 'yes' when Sunry Longtai offered me the chance to design a collection for the Fur Fair in 2009. I had to learn and follow the whole process from scratch," he says.

Ubl's natural talent was soon noticed. During one of the International Fur Trade Federation events the IFTF director inquired about Ubl's age. Soon after he was handed a certificate that recognized him as the world's youngest chief designer of fur.

But becoming a fur designer in the 21st century had its challenges. The high-profile anti-fur campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s, involving celebrities who boycotted wearing fur, took its toll on this traditional industry.

Many fur companies closed down and a generation of fur designers retired without passing on their skills. But according to Ubl, China's booming fashion scene, new wealth and increasing market demand has made fur profitable again.

However, Ubl says he still has his critics.

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