Is this the next great brand in women’s loungewear? Well, yes and no.
Loungewear, in fact, is just the start of things for Meng, whose stunning kimonos, kaftans and beach cover-ups will reach customers this fall in some of the world’s most prestigious retailers.
Based in the UK, the year-old Meng has already adapted its lavish prints for use in scarves and home linens and is eyeing both sleepwear and womenswear for future brand expansion under its corporate parent New Silk Road.
“We aim to be a complete lifestyle brand and our vision is to realize this as soon as possible,” founder Meng Zhang told Lingerie Talk. “We are working very hard to achieve this.”
The ambitious Meng enters the market with a sparkling pedigree from the business side of the fashion industry. She has an MBA from the Columbia Business School and the London Business School and an MA from the London College of Fashion, and enjoyed a 20-year career first as a product manager for Chanel, then as merchandising head for Lane Crawford and eventually as a director of the Spanish clothing giant Inditex, which owns Zara and other brands.
But “something was missing,” she said. Meng grew up in China with a passion for art and an eye on a design career, but was encouraged to pursue a more practical line of work. The love of design never left her, though.
“I always wanted to design but I never had the opportunity working in the roles that I did,” she said. “I had managed those other brands and I wanted to see if I could build and grow my own brand.”
Early indications are encouraging, to say the least. Meng’s line of bold, vibrant silk loungewear will be stocked by Selfridges in the UK and Neiman Marcus in the U.S., as well as Russian luxury retailer Tsum and Austrian department store Steffl.
The instantly noticeable signature for Meng is those wildly exotic prints, which appear vaguely Asian but are in fact an original hybrid of folkloric and contemporary design inspirations. It’s not too much to say that Meng may do for Asia what Dolce and Gabbana did for Italy — reinterpreting the region’s design heritage for modern consumption.
“If the Chinese elements are in there, it is natural and effortless,” she told us. “You can’t help but be inspired by the history that you learn about and that you see around you. Everyone comes from somewhere with a history behind them.
“When you’re born and bred (in China) you’re immersed in those elements and they’re linked to your emotions and experiences. So when you come to design something inspired by those elements it comes from a very deep place within you and puts passion into your creations.”
At the same time, Meng is mindful not to recycle Asian design clichés, blending familiar florals with ultra-modern geometrics and fractals to create her unique aesthetic.
“When I’m looking for inspiration, I’m looking for something exotic and fresh,” she said. “With many of the Asian elements, they are still a mystery to the eye of Western cultures so they give a new look whilst also remaining modern in style.”
Her approach to design also helps explain why Meng decided to build her brand around loungewear instead of any other fashion category. Quite simply, it gives her a bigger canvas on which to create.
“We started with loungewear because you get a much bigger surface area to display the prints and our design is really focussed on the print. It also enabled us to work with silk which gives the prints a really glamorous edge, and the colours stand out beautifully,” she said.
“It’s also an opportunity for us to be more creative with our prints because loungewear is designed to be worn at home where women are more willing to be braver with their style choices and more expressive.”
Meng‘s debut collection includes a variety of lounging styles and even gowns in five print patterns, with two tropical beach-focused prints called Coral (above) and Phoenix coming in 2015.
Meng is a luxury line that uses high-end silks and UK and Italian printing mills to create their fashionable masterpieces, so expect to pay accordingly.
Retail buyers got an introduction to the brand during a runway show at the recent Mode City lingerie show in Paris, and American buyers will see Meng at next week’s Curve Expo lingerie and swimwear exhibition in New York.
Here are some more remarkable images from the first five style ranges in Meng‘s gorgeous lookbook.