Of all the major Asian countries, China is the one that has the most difficulties breaking into the fashion scene. Perhaps it comes from the carefree, almost casual approach that Chinese people have long cultivated towards their clothes, or the general disapproval of frivolous pursuits put forward by the Cultural Revolution. But while this time is no more, Chinese designers are still a novelty on the runways.
Taiwanese designer Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia drew her inspiration from the millennia-old art of paper cuttings, which came into broader focus in Western fashion and beauty with the popularity of paper lashes featuring traditional Chinese themes such as peonies and horses.
Her integration of traditional Chinese elements shows promise. A qi-pao became a sweet pink A-line mini-dress, a mandarin jacket is cropped to become a silk top. Even the dreaded “pajama” suit gets city-smart, dressed in a paper-cut print. Detailing was not left behind: pearl closures finished off collars, a peony knit pattern created a waffle texture on twin-sets. However, at times, the modernity felt forced, and despite Tsai-Hsia’s best efforts, a little too faux-traditional-but-reworked. There was not enough movement, not enough soul in these pieces to make it truly shine with something other than a “new silk” sheen.
But more than the clothes, it was the accessories that attracted the eye, a lavish combination of leather and exotics, jade and silver handles, bejeweled straps coiled around the arm like bracelets and contemporary shapes. When Hermès announced its desire to create a purely Chinese brand, adhering to its core values, the fashion world all but scoffed at the mere idea of a Chinese luxury brand, despite a market ripe for the picking. Shiatzy Chen’s accessories carry the promise of those brands soon to become globally known, with not only customers demanding them but also having the means to purchase them, if the star-studded celebrity section was anything to go by –unfortunately, for those not familiar with Chinese cinema and TV, only Michelle Yeoh was immediately recognizable.
If anything, this showed that the Empire of the Middle is on the cusp of coming into its own, and the Shiatzy Chen spring/summer 2013 collection was a confident step forward in the right direction.
- Lily Templeton