At Paris Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection presentations that ended Monday, Chinese labels were out in full force alongside their French counterparts. Four Chinese designers who staged runway shows as members of the official French calendar delivered assured collections highlighting their ever-ascending impact on the global fashion scene.
Among the most critically acclaimed, Taiwanese label Shiatzy Chen drew a front-row celebrity crowd that included actresses Xu Qing, Sun Li, and Ady An who told us, “I’ve fallen in love with the shoes.”
Staging her collection in Paris’ famed Grand Palais, the diminutive designer’s hypnotic prints were steeped in mythology. It was a masterful show illustrating her boundless skill with color codes that traversed pink skies at sunset to the deep blue sea.
“My inspiration is the ocean and the famous Botticelli painting of Venus,” Chen said. “At first, you see the ocean as two-dimensional; the white foam and the deep, black depth. In fact, it’s a myriad of color.”
Pink and blue—that eternally seductive partnership—locked hands in Chen’s below-the-knee tunics with deep side slits, sunray pleated skirts, and flirtatious silk prints with images of coral and jellyfish.
Throughout the show, the audience saw intricate beading and whimsy on glittering yokes, a cuff bracelet or handbag—all seemingly supported by a laboratory of technical innovations and age-old skills.
In Masha Ma’s much anticipated show, a converted garage in the trendy Marais district became a backdrop for a clever take on slick modernity where her pollution masks made a second-season appearance.
Ma gave short shift to trousers (there were none) and skirts hiked way above the knee to minidresses. Call it “sport-chic”; this eminently wearable (the buyer’s word for “saleable”) collection was a wellspring of ideas.
Quilted bomber jackets, lycra-tight dresses with cutout, peek-a-boo midriffs, and tiered shorts with two flirty layers of fabric looked ready to pass muster in a creative Beijing office. Her white-on-black “M” logo also found it’s way to one pretty, ruched jacket and gauzy, flying panels over slit skirts gave a femininity to this youthful collection.
Backstage, Ma, who is Beijing based, said she wanted to free women to make a statement about “what they wanted to be now…how they want to dress.” She praised Nadja Swarovski (who supports young designer talent through her Swarovski Collective initiative) for her consistent sponsorship. “I embellished the quilted jackets and masks with Swarovski crystals; it’s young and fresh,” she said.
The collection hit a note with blogger Tina Leung, who has 38,000 followers on her Instagram account. “This is a very strong story from Masha, I love the layers, I want to borrow a dress now to wear the next show (Moncler).” It wasn’t possible—Ma’s buyers were already lining up to see every piece.
In Yiqing Yin’s experimental show, dancers from the world of both classic and jazz helped Yin realize her desire to show clothes made for real women and the many different ways they express their freedom and personality.
She’s an intellectual designer who was born in China, raised in Paris, and whose clothes sell in Paris, Milan, New York, Hong Kong, and Beijing.
This show was more “art gallery” than “runway” with dancers on low podiums bringing life to her feather-light chiffon evening dresses.
They swirled around her dancers—with an acutely dramatic effect. In Yin’s world, you can be a mermaid, goddess, or wear a sheath. Her black evening cocktail frock was pure whimsy with a flight of feathers scattered across black lace.
Other pieces in the collection, including perky shorts, were staged as exhibits, where the intricacies of luxurious fabrics told her story of “environmental chaos.” There was exquisite beauty here with silk, lurex, and jacquards interwoven to symbolize crumbling walls, deterioration, and decay, resulting in great beauty, albeit with a darker meaning.
Yin can afford the luxury of experimentation since she wears another hat as design director for Léonard. She delivered her first collection for the distinguished French house for Fall/Winter 2013-14 and this season won reviews for her lightness of touch and flower prints for the brand.
Yang Li, the London-based designer who interned with Dior design director Raf Simons and showed his third collection in Paris said he wanted to infuse “romantic minimalism” into his pieces this season.
Those viewing the collection sensed the delicious contrast as he showed fitted dark sleeveless jackets and tunics, softened with draped chiffon in contrasting neutral shades of taupe. Li’s tailoring is precise enough for the most discerning clients and his humor is bold enough for his teen clients with T-shirts bearing the messages “Silk-Worm” or “Bore.”
The Chinese presence at Paris Fashion Week extended beyond the main runways. Uma Wang, who now shows in Italy, the country that first fell in love with her chic boho garb, also had a small showroom in Paris. Meanwhile, Hong Kong brothers Eri and Philip Chu, who started their Ground Zero label in 2008, showed a youthful collection based on graphic prints. The season’s standout was a barbed wire print—looking prettiest on a powder blue shift.
Italy and China are forming ever-stronger fashion bonds, with Zhu Chongyun, the glamorous Chinese entrepreneur and designer, recently taking over the ailing Krizia for a reported $35 million.
As fashion’s centrifugal force, Paris is likely to give a major boost to the success of these labels. As any young fashion designer knows, if you show in Paris, your global reputation is assured.
Susan Owens is the founder and editor of Paris Chérie, a Paris-based fashion website dedicated to bringing French style news to Chinese readers.