‘Made in China’ has, rather unfortunately, been considered a symbol with negative connotations, denoting as it did historically that anything made in China was cheap rubbish. Thankfully in the last decade or so, this misconception has been mostly overcome, particularly in the areas around technology.
However there has continued to be a perception that when it comes to original creativity, the work coming out of China is less refined, more derivative, and not as stylish as that of the rest of the world, indeed, even the rest of Asia.
Japan has long been considered a bastion of high design, from ceramics and architecture, to fashion and technology; in the last five years South Korea has also been seen as owning a particular type of original design. China, however, has not.
Which is a shame. After all, the core design traditions of both Japan and Korea are Chinese. The form of writing, building, traditional clothing … All can be traced to China.
In current times China’s impact on the creative world has been seen mostly through the lens of business and money. Chinese luxury buyers are to be tempted with red and gold versions of existing products … ‘just in time for Chinese New Year’, but the majority of creative brands have not only patronised the Chinese market, they have also appropriate its culture and used blatant racism in its advertising.
All of this leads one to wonder why more attention hasn’t been given to the current crop of quality creatives now coming out of China. There are a number of highly regarded architects and artists, for example, that do appear to receive accolades, so why not the fashion designers?
There are a number of Chinese designer names who have managed to make enough noise to be noticed, mostly because they are based in Europe. Masha Ma, Angel Chen, Yiqing Yin, Ryan Lo and Yang Li are all based in either Paris or London.
This lack of attention towards Chinese fashion designers is due to the tendency of Western fashion media to ignore anything that isn’t right in front of their noses.
In an attempt to try to remedy this attitude, here is an interesting Chinese fashion brand worth discovering.
Founded in 2010, by Yang Fengrui, Hemu is a modern take on traditional Chinese clothing without too many of the obvious cliches.
While there are definite straight nods to tradition – mandarin collars, frog closures, long loose layers, tassels – they are used in a relatively sparing manner to create the impression of histroriosity, rather than a direct knock-off like you find on Hanfu clothing websites.
What strikes the eye immediately is that Yang is moved mostly by fabric; every piece of the Spring 2020 collection depended on the fluidity of the silk used to impart the meaning and even structure of the garments.
The focus on the texture of the fabric, in plain swathes of white and black showed a very modern take on a traditional qipao. Muted shades of gold and umber, plus a single shot of red, held the collection together.
Less clever are the menswear pieces (see the video) that take a more obvious leaf from the traditional garment book; however in the current age of non-gendered dressing the sheer fact that most of the menswear garments could be interpreted as long gowns is an interesting perspective. The traditional Chinese dress style, after all, offered long, flowing garments for both sexes.