For Chinese fashion icon Mark Cheung, an outstanding Chinese designer must have a deep understanding of his own culture and land to be able to make beautiful designs.
Cheung is regarded as representing of the first generation of Chinese designers and his annual fashion show is seen as the most important event in Chinese fashion circles. The 45-year-old wears many hats, including vice-chairman of the China Association of Fashion Design and chairman of the China Fashion Committee of Asia Fashion Union.
Whereas Zhang’s collections incorporate underlying ethnic tones, Cheung’s work has widely recognized landscapes and patterns of China as its crucial motifs.
Since 2000, the veteran designer has held fashion shows every year featuring Chinese landscapes and ethnic culture. For instance, The Soul of the Nations collection expresses the splendid and varied styles of 56 minorities; Royal Flavor radiates the glory and luxury of royal courts of the different dynasties of the past; Forbidden City reproduces the beauty and grandeur of the old buildings, and South China captures the striking scenery of ancient water towns and gardens.
All of Cheung’s collections are known for their rich palette, which includes pure whites, darker tones of brown and jade, bright red and the shining yellow of the imperial Forbidden City. Cheung’s fascination with ancient building styles can be seen in the lavish use of symmetry, bias cutting, pleating, carving lace-trimming, fagoting, sequining and beading. These techniques, combined with pure innovation, have enabled Cheung to fuse traditional culture with cutting-edge fashion.
Unlike Mark Cheung and Zhang Zhifeng, young designer Ma Ke has taken a different route.
Ma caused a sensation in February last year with her debut during the Paris ready-to-wear season. More performance art than fashion show, her models appeared on the catwalk with their clothes and skin caked in mud, like warriors from the terracotta army of Emperor Qinshihuang.
Buoyed by the success of her Exception label, which is sold in around 50 boutiques across China, she has recently launched her couture line Wuyong (“useless” in Chinese.)
And at the recent Paris Fashion Week, her invitation to show on the sidelines of the collections presented by the grand couture houses is a first for China, which has already marked a presence in the ready-to-wear segment in Paris since 2006.
The Chinese designer is also the only newcomer this season among the 20 or so would-be couturiers invited to show their collections alongside the houses officially deemed worthy of the “haute couture” designation.
Ma has given up the stereotyped Chinese elements such as stand collars and embroideries in her designs. A naturalist, she uses cotton and flax in all her collections and focuses on simple and natural styles in white, brown, grey and blue.
“Promoting Chinese fashion doesn’t mean you have to stick to Chinese icons. Heavily Chinese designs are not trendy and can hardly be accepted by international fashion circles,” says Ma. A believer in the philosophy of Lao Zi that sees clothes as the servant of the wearer’s soul, Ma Ke is recognized for her silent, organic and reflexive clothing that is creative and experimental. She has been praised by Le Monde and Vogue as a genius and her collection lauded as everlasting artwork.
by Xiao Xiao firstname.lastname@example.org
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