Ralph Lauren, traditionally an American heritage brand, has recently sent models clad in jade earrings, red lacquered shoes and clothes embroidered with Chinese motifs such as dragons. I feel that this collection is still beautiful with its choice of fabrics and its colours.
Ermenegildo Zegna recently showcased a mens fashion collection in Milan, but with plenty of Chinese models walking to Chinese classic songs - Bu Liao Qing 不了情 and Wo Deng Zhe Ni Hui Lai 我等着你回来. Using "Live-D" video technology, the models appeared to stroll off the Great Wall and onto the red lacquer runway. It's no wonder with China making up 25% of Zegna's current sales.
Marc Jacobs recently unveiled a LV S/S11 collection centered entirely on Chinese influences. It was such a blatant reference to traditional Chinese dressing that you had to be blind to miss it. The models walked down the runway clad in high mandarin collars and traditional mandarin buttons, with maxi skirts with slits up to their thighs - which was very similar to the traditional Chinese qipao worn mainly by Shanghai women in the 1920s. Not only that, some of the clothes were sequined and embroidered to make up the panda face, while others had a douse of tiger stripes, both animals being national symbols of China. I like Marc Jacobs, but this S/S11 collection for LV was just hideous in my opinion. The clashes of fuschia, fire engine red and bright purple just don't work for me, it was just an eyesore. Design wise, there was nothing really new or creative in the way Marc Jacobs has interpreted the Chinese qipao, leaving most elements in tact.
Besides blatantly putting Chinese motifs onto their designs, designers are also flocking to China to stage shows as well as retrospectives to show off their heritage.
- Prada held their first show outside Milan in Beijing on 22 Jan 2011
- DvF staging retrospective "Journey of a Dress" at Beijing's art district 798 this May.
- Phillip Lim held his 5th anniversary collection at Beijing's Forbidden City last year.
- Chanel staging retrospective in Shanghai, following a pre-fall collection in 2009.
- Dior staged Resort 2010 collection in Shanghai.
- Hermes in collaboration with Chinese lifestyle luxury brand Shang Xia
- Even Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons has opened I.T. Beijing this year at Beijing's luxury goods shopping district - her first standalone megastore stocking many other labels including Junya Wanatabe, YSL, Alexander McQueen, Celine and more.
For Chanel's pre-fall 10 collection in 2009, Karl Lagerfeld made a short film about Coco Chanel's dream visit to Shanghai, with Freja Beha and Baptiste Giabiconi acting in as Chinese. Freja's character expressed interest in Chanel's tweed suits and instead shuns her own Communist uniform, which I interpret to be seemingly mocking Chinese people of being unable to appreciate their own culture and the workmanship of their clothes.
While this is so, young Chinese designers whom have studied overseas at Parsons and Central Saint Martins have now graduated and launched collections that carries the influences of both the East and West. As China continue to advance economically, I believe the Chinese would gradually refine their taste and develop a demand for well-made luxury goods to suit their needs, instead of to add to their status. After all, China is a big country harbouring people of schools of thought and in such a big country, one never runs out of creatives.