Love List

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chinese people have no style?

So many designers and luxury labels are targeting China now, it's hard not to notice them. While China's economy has been growing at the rate of an average 9-10% per year, its middle income earners have also increased exponentially such that there are now many young and affluent Chinese. And where the money is, the world will follow, so it's no surprise that all these designers are flocking to China.

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.
With so many designers wooing China, can the Chinese consumer still maintain an individual style or can they only blindly accept trends dictated by these designers? And is it true that most Chinese still prefer covet brand names and have logos plastered all over their bags to appear rich? It worries me a little to see the big fashion conglomerates like Prada, LVMH, Fendi, Dior, Chanel etc using their economies of scale and opening so many stores in China, but younger designers such as Thakoon, Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang are being squeezed out of the game. I bet if I walk down the street and ask any Chinese, most of them would be able to name those big labels than be able to recognize A Wang.

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.


  1. Vera! Thanks for sharing. I just watched the Chanel video and I have to say that I'm a little insulted that Chinese people were being played by Europeans. Freja is gorgeous no doubt but I don't understand the substitution of a real Chinese couple. Anyhow I love how they swapped jackets- giving a cultural mix to traditional dress both French and Chinese.

    Are you planning to see the Culture Chanel exhibit in Shanghai? I hope to go before it closes in March. Keep blogging in Singapore! And I love the maxi chiffon skirt with the chunky sweater.

    Essay comment ends here. :P


  2. I like this post, you have so much information for us its great. I am now following you and hope to learn more!

    I think we should follow eachother, I am just starting out :) plus I have a giveaway that ends in a few days. Have a look.

  3. @Sam

    Hi Sam! Yay so happy to see you here :D Have I told you that I absolutely love your blog? Haha.

    Anyway, I think Karl Lagerfeld is a very knowledgeable person but he lacks knowledge about Chinese and our culture, hence the wrong portrayal.

    Haha I wanted to see Culture Chanel so much that I considered taking a train from Beijing to Shanghai just to see it! But of course my mum didn't allow it. Go see it and share on your blog! (:

  4. @stacey margaret
    Hi Stacey! Thanks for visiting and following (: I'll have a look at your blog I promise.

    But remember - content is king!

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