Hailing from Beijing, Paris-based fashion designer Dawei Sun founded the eponymous fashion house DAWEI in 2016. Graduated from L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in 2005, Dawei Sun has interned, worked and creative directed in brands like John Galliano, Balenciaga and Cacharel before deciding launching his own label.


In occasion of the launch of his Resort 2024 Collection, CAP 74024 shared a lovely talk with Dawei Sun on his journey in the fashion world in the past 15 years, the story behind the foundation of his own label, and his philosophy of life and design.

Hi Dawei, how are you today?

I am good, thanks. Enjoying Paris before my regular travel to Beijing.


Are you currently based in Paris or in Beijing? 

Our studio is in Paris and we have an atelier in Beijing. Normally, I split my time between the two cities. But the pandemic has restricted my freedom of travel. Hence, I spent most of the past two years in Paris, and then after each fashion show I traveled back to China, where my family lives.


So how does the division of labor and the workflow of the brand go?

Most of the research, design and fabric collection take place in our studio in Paris; while sampling and final product inspection are done by our atelier in Beijing. We also have professional exterior teams handling our marketing, sales and public relations. We are a small but well-structured team.

portrait of DAWEI’s founder, Dawei Sun

DAWEI’s Pre-fall 2023 Collection

Would you like to share with us a bit of your background and what is the story behind the foundation of the brand?

I first moved to Paris in 2001 to study in L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne (which has merged with Institut Français de la Mode in 2019). After my graduation in 2005, I started to intern and work in different brands until 2010, when I co-founded the brand Belle Ninon with my then business partner. A few seasons after the launch of our first collection, we were recruited by Cacharel as their creative directors. We stayed in Cacharel for a couple of years; during that time, we still designed a couple of mini collections for Bell Ninon in order to keep the brand alive.


However, designing for two brands and four seasonal collections were really exhausting. So, after our departure from Cacharel, my business partner decided to take a break from the fashion world. I realized that I couldn’t manage Belle Ninon’s more feminine design alone, so we shut down the brand. I also took a break for around two years, but my interest in fashion never faded. Considering that I still want to design in the style I like and to grow together with the team I’ve been working with for many years, I founded DAWEI in 2016, and this is where we are now.


It must take a certain amount of courage to restart everything from the scratch again.

Indeed. In fact, it was around the time when my first child was born. The birth of new life somehow rekindled my passion to fashion and encouraged me to start doing something that I’ve always wanted to do, so I decided to “give birth” to my own brand DAWEI.


What’s the biggest difference in between of designing for other brands and designing for your own brand? 

When we designed for other brands, we were trying our best to respect the style and requirements of the brand and design accordingly. By the time I started DAWEI, I was hoping to combine my preferences with my aesthetics, and to design from my own perspective. I think the biggest difference between them is the change of roles and the state of mind.

You have interned and worked in major fashion houses like Balenciaga and John Galliano before being appointed as the creative director of Cacharel. What have you learnt the most from these experiences that helped you to develop your own brand?

The most influential designers to the young designers of my generation are definitely John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. I was lucky to have the chance to learn alongside John Galliano. Learning from him has broadened my horizon because he was someone who has been exposed to many different cultures and has a wide range of interests in many things. Through the experience, I understood the essence of teamwork and acquired the skills to be a good designer. Whenever someone’s tenure at John Galliano ended, the team will tell that person: You are now a qualified fashion worker.


Also, top designers like John Galliano and Nicolas Ghesquière have their own ways and techniques when dealing with different problems in design. These might not be my usual methods, but they can serve as my reference when I encounter some specific or unexplored problems.


After creating your own label, the design is to stick more to your preference, aesthetics and originality. Where do you usually get your inspiration from?

A lot of my inspiration during the pandemic actually came from the movies I watched in lockdown. When we are allowed to leave our house, I get expired by the exhibitions I visited, or some contemporary architecture I stumbled upon. I like to explore what is happening at the moment, so some current events and trends could be my source of inspiration as well. Also, I love to go to nature. The colors I see in nature inspired me a lot on my use of color.


I sometimes enjoy seeking inspiration from the books I read. Even if it’s simply a sentence or a paragraph that has nothing to do with fashion, I could find a correlation between them and base my design on that.


How many seasons do you have every year?

We have four collections every year. Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter main lines, resort collection and pre-fall collection.

DAWEI’s Fall/Winter 2023 Collection

DAWEI’s Resort 2024 Collection

ince the beginning of DAWEI, you have done several collaborations with other independent designers and brands. What are the reasons behind these collaborations? What are the positive things that the collaborations brought to you and to the brand?

I’ve always been a guy full of curiosity. Working with brands from different disciplines allows me to explore these uncharted territories. Throughout the collaboration process, I had the opportunity to get an overview on how things work, delve into the parts that I was interested in and gain some expertise in the unknown fields. For me, every collaboration we have is a win-win situation for us and for our partner, and every process is an interesting learning experience.


In hindsight, do you think it is a right decision to found your own brand DAWEI?

It definitely is. Deep in my heart, I always knew that I would create my own brand at some point in my life, I just didn’t know when. After starting my own label, I started to realize that fashion design is not just about my aesthetics and personal preferences, it also a synergy with my client and the market. I have to also take care of my team and take their needs into account.


Many people view the pandemic as a crisis, but I see it as an opportunity to learn how to manage a fashion house better. The pandemic was a challenge to an independent designer like me, but it has also taught me to better control the budget and to meet KPIs. Overall, it reinforced my sense of responsibility.


What are the plans for you and for DAWEI in the near future?

After creating DAWEI, I start to transit the center of my life from work to family. In fact, since last year, 50 percent of my energy has been devoted to taking care of my two cats.


Yes, I was guessing that you love cats! Because even the cursor on your website is a cute cat-faced icon!

Yes, I am a cat person! And since both of my cats are quite old and sick, I spent a lot of time taking care of them. If their health situation is better, I think my life will return to normal. Also, one of my sons will be visiting me from China next week, so I will take some time off to show him around. I wish I could spend more time with my loved ones in the next few years!

Interviewed by Yves Tsou