China's potential usurpation of Italian fashion manufacturers has been a source of anxiety over the last decade, but Italian savoir-faire and creativity have been more or less nationally preserved. The industry here has never seen a Chinese woman buy and design a reputable Italian brand. Until now.
One of China's wealthiest entrepreneurs, 50-year-old Zhu Chongyun is also co-founder of the Shenzhen Marisfrolg corporation that bought Mariuccia Mandelli's Krizia in 2014.
At a packed presentation on the edge of Milan's Giardini Pubblici, Milanese ladies and fashion leaders crammed into this windowless space, curious to see how this historic collection would compare to the '80s glam fashions designed by its former Italian owner. Anyone who expected it might pale in comparison was proved wrong.
Models alight with white fluorescent rays stood stoically in fiberglass cocoons in a surreal installation symbolizing the rebirth and, more importantly, the metamorphosis of the brand, which saw its luster fade as Mandelli aged.
Asymmetrical jumpers and clean, rigid sartorial silhouettes infused the collection with a hint of sexual ambiguity. But the textiles, the patterns and the prints were indulgent like the ceremonial vestments that adorned the Chinese empresses of antiquity.
Animal eyes and bird wings were reinterpreted onto paper maché-looking capes and shimmering jacquards dripping with dragon-red silk strings. Panther maul marks were textured onto silk evening jackets, indicative of the power and the potential of the new Chinese leadership at the Krizia house.
"It was beautiful, and from a sartorial aspect she evolved some traditional Chinese emperor vestments. It was truly modern, full of volume," said one elegant Milanese signora. Krizia's collection will continue to be 100 percent made in Italy.
Mrs. Zhu, dressed for the event in a minimalist floor-length black dress, little makeup and dark-rimmed eyeglasses, told NOWFASHION that she is not currently considering any other acquisitions in Italy at the moment. "There is a lot of work to do (at Krizia)," she said.
With a bigger budget than most Italian luxury companies, one might ask why her company chose Krizia. "Everyone knows that Krizia has a high position. It is an important brand. The other reason is that the elegant style is in line with my own," she said, adding that the DNA of the Krizia woman will not change.
"Whether she is a woman of today or the woman of the past. No matter if she is 30 or in her 50s, what is most important is her elegant spirit."