Wardrobe Voice: Asian Influence Part 1: China

By Renata - марта 19, 2018

Mysterious and exotic Asia, an inspirational world with ancient traditions, philosophy and a different understanding of the world. Lands of peaceful religions, where physical strength cannot be achieved without a strong mind and inner harmony. Lands of philosophers and calm, where observation and steadiness give you more than a basic everyday rush. Most of all, a land where humans and nature are one.

Since ancient times western people have been attracted to Asia for many reasons: political, economic and, of course, cultural. Nowadays, countries such as China, Japan and South Korea still excite people around the world with their distinctive and authentic culture. People are seeking peace, harmony and inspiration in such countries, and a breath of fresh air; designers are no exception. I have noticed that season by season eastern references in fashion collections have been increasing; from small Asian details to whole Asian-themed and inspired collections. The Metropolitan Museum exhibition “China Through the Looking Glass” and the spectacular Met Gala 2015 event only confirmed my thoughts

Following steps of fashion luminaries, I want to invite you on an exciting fashion journey through time and space, to China, Japan and South Korea. I will try to study the main idea of their traditional clothes, their modern influence and perhaps predict some future trends. Let's go!
Anna Sui s/s' 17; Prada s/s'17; Dries Van Noten f/w'17; Gucci f/w'16

Do you hear that loud drum beat? Where are we? The country with the highest population, first place in the world in textile production at 35%, with the most rapidly growing economy in the world, that's all modern China. We cannot imagine modern fashion and textile without this country. However, China can give us more than cheap textile and clothing production: specifically, a never-ending source of fashion ideas and inspiration.
Hero, 2002; The Banquet, 2006, Mary Katrantzou, traditional Chinese paintings
The celestial empire is one of the most ancient of the world's civilizations. A bright and enchanting culture with a rich and absorbing history; it couldn't help but affect on national clothing. It had been developing since the second millennium BC to the collapse of the Chinese empire in 1911. Changing dynasties which had their own style and clothing rules; different cuts, decoration, even different meaning of colours. Layer by layer, clothing traditions of different dynasties were creating original and beautiful variations in traditional costume. The Chinese fashion timeline illustrates which historical stages the country has been through: for example, Mongolian influence during the period of the Yuan dynasty, or Manchurian clothing traditions which were imposed on Chinese people during the Qing dynasty. Despite all this diversity in style of Chinese traditional attire, people associate China with only a few wardrobe subjects, which became the country's symbol and have been reflected in many designers' work.
left to right: Hero, 2002; Dries Van Voten s/s'16; Fan BingBing Madame Figaro May 2012; House of Flying Daggers, 2004; Valentino Pre Fall 2016; Valentino Haute Couture f/w'13
When I think about China, I immediately imagine a beautiful picture of untouched nature, and women in long gowns with wide sleeves fluttering in the wind. These cinematic associations are the result of many hours watching Chinese movie masterpieces, which I think only encourage my costume history study. And after this game of associations, we can mark the first Chinese costume essential: Hanfu. A long crossed collar robe with wide sleeves and a 3000 year history that became a traditional Chinese gown for 20 centuries until the reign of the Qinq dynasty. The only thing left from this majestic gown in modern interpretation is crossed collar, which became absolutely independent. Nevertheless, it was used in the Asian-inspired Proenza Schouler and Rag and Bone collection in a/w’12, and also in Haider Akerman s/s’11.
left to right: Proenza Schouler f/w'12; Emilio Pucci s/s'13; Liu Wen in Vogue China December 2012 wearing Dries Van Voten f/w'13; Zuhair Murad Haute Couture f/w'11; Jason Wu f/w'12; Zuhair Murad Haute Couture f/w' 11
However, above all spectacular gowns is the cheongsam dress, with one more movie association “In the Mood for Love” by Wong Kar Wai, where the female lead wears different variations of this beautiful dress. Body hugging silk dresses with the a mandarin collar and frog buttons are a result of a mix Manchurian, Chinese and western clothing traditions. The origin of the Cheongsam was the changpao dress, which became traditional Chinese dress with the Manchurians conquest. As a great example of Asian style adaptation and symbolic Chinese clothing it has many different fashion variations: it has appeared in many collections, TV shows, movies (not only Chinese period dramas) and on red carpets. A very elegant version of cheongsam was presented by one of the most famous Chinese representatives in the fashion world, Jason Wu, in his fall-winter 2012 collection which praised Chinese clothing heritage. Another beautiful feminine variation of this dress is from Zuhair Murad Haute Couture Fall’11 with one more Chinese basic essential dragon embroidery, light textiles with a slight hint of the Japanese obi belt. Embroidery is a very important part of Chinese clothing - not just decoration, but detail with deep meaning and a complex art. It could be a protection, but first of all it is a sign of status. It is well known that the emperor wore a gown with dragon embroidery,  symbolising wealth, strength and power. One of my favourite brands that love Chinese references is Valentino, since the fall-winter Shanghai collection and between Slavic-inspired collections,  there were always little signs of Chinese fleur, for example, the pre-fall’16 collection reminds me of theTang Dynasty costume with its cropped jackets and transparent light fabrics and again - gold mighty dragon!
Hero, 2002; In the Mood for Love, 2000; Empress Ki, 2013-2014; The Banquet, 2006;
All these facts are just a tiny part of a huge centuries-old culture, but the thought that such a country and culture exists makes me very inspired and curious - what else we can find there, what else we can discover? I hope that designers keep digging and find lots of subjects for Chinese clothing which will later be adapted for the catwalk.

Filled with right Qi and millions of beautiful and spectacular images and ideas in our head, we can say xie xie (thank you)and zai jian (bye-bye) and move forward!

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