It was standing room only at the Simon Gao show on Saturday night, as China’s young fashion designer of the moment showcased his spring and summer line for 2014 for Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week. Set against a soundscape of dark and pulsating ambient electronica, models strutted the catwalk adorned in deceptively simple cuts, with flowing layers accented and contrasted with heavy footwear in dark colors. A number of the designs featured white on black, traditional funeral colors in China, for a striking effect in both a visual and figurative sense.
Gao’s keen sense of texture was also on display, mixing various fabrics and using the colors of the body itself showing through transparent shirts. In one of his more stunning pieces, Gao played with dress designs from the Han dynasty, subtly layering golden Chinese opera masks on top of an elegant black gown, an intelligent and playful combination of traditional Chinese styles with modern sensibilities. What was notable about Gao’s collection was that his designs appeared wearable, artistic yet accessible.
The efficiency and professional execution of the show itself is an indicator of a growing maturity in China’s fashion scene. Guests were shown to a queue, when the doors opened they were quickly escorted inside. Photographers and videographers were set up without issue, and security prevented any mobbing of celebrities in attendance. In China, large-scale events can often end in confusion and disorganization, and the planning and attention to detail here speaks to a readiness to compete at an international level.
Gao, a Beijing native, is one of a young generation of Chinese designers that is quickly gaining attention from players in the international fashion scene. His show at this year’s fashion week comes on the heels of his collaboration with the Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette—the store’s first-ever collaboration with a Chinese designer. Simon Gao for Galeries Lafayette opened with the store’s new location in the capital’s Xi’dan shopping district on September 28.