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That’s A-OK


It-girl Kiko Mizuhara and her sister Yuka spread some happiness with an I.T Blue Block pop-up collaboration

That’s A-OK


It-girl Kiko Mizuhara and her sister Yuka spread some happiness with an I.T Blue Block pop-up collaboration

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

That’s A-OK

September 12, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

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There are icons – and then there’s mega-wattage Kiko Mizuhara. The Japanese-American cultural polymath, based in Tokyo, is the 21st-century It-girl of the fast-paced global fashion aesthetic and digital ecosystem, mashing-up her singular stylish spin from haute couture to street fashion with effortless chic. That adaptability sees her walk the runway for heavyweights such as Dior, while she’s also brand ambassador for Dior Beauty and Coach, and represents a range of brands the likes of Adidas, Marc Jacobs and Diesel. 

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Little wonder, then, that Mizuhara has launched her own label last year, OK, through which she has collaborated in a pop-up store at I.T Blue Block in Causeway Bay’s Hysan Place. “I first had this idea to launch about one year ago and I founded this company with the name Office Kiko, or OK,” she says from inside the buzzy, happy and fun-festooned pop-up, sitting beside her similarly muse-y sister, Yuka, who DJed at the store’s launch party later that evening. “OK felt like a good name for the brand because everybody gets it and there’s an instant likeability about that. It’s simple and easy to remember.” 

The dynamic duo designed all the looks for their OK x I.T Blue Block collaboration, which incorporates colourful girly motifs – think blue skies and cotton-candy clouds – across a variety of products including accessories, swimwear, yukata and limited-edition pink crewneck T-shirts with embroidered peach-coloured Kiko logos. There’s also a special showroom featuring OK bedding and decorations, with pyjamas, slippers and socks. The pop-up is a joyous fantasy world. 

“I wanted to do the clouds because everywhere I go, I watch the sky,” says Mizuhara. “It always makes me happy. When you’re having a stressful day and you look up at the sky, you chill out and feel better. So for this very positive feeling and effect, I wanted the sky and also the idea of the rainbows – a sort of cute, happy element, with lots of flowers, butterflies, fruits and more. So designing wasn’t that hard. I went through all the old Japanese magazines from the ’90s and had a feeling about the patterns we wanted to go for.” 

The collection is also very affordable. “I know that many of my fans are young – say 12, 14, 16 or older – and they think because I’m in high-fashion, it will be expensive. But it’s not,” she says. Part of Mizuhara’s appeal is that she spends half of her life having couture imposed upon her – and knows all too well the rigours of wearing it. “Couture is not always easy to wear,” she says. “So when we designed for OK x I.T Blue Block, I didn’t want anything too complicated or hard to wear. Every product is affordable and young people get it.” 

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What’s Mizuhara’s style advice to a bunch of young girls or women who’ve never worn the traditional Japanese yukata, which features in the collection? “Well, two ways,” she explains. “It’s a whole set with three must-have items: the geta sandals, the obi [sash] – which is like a corset – and the yukata. So first, buy the whole set and wear it once. It’s nice to try it once if you haven’t. Otherwise, you should do it traditional, but mix it with accessories. So wear the obi and yukata with heels, or try off-shoulder and put a flip-dress underneath. You can do whatever you want!”

That could be a mantra for OK. The sisters have created an accompanying book that involves their Tokyo friends. “We wanted to make the book very special and artsy, with the art and visuals being very creative,” says Mizuhara. “So we used [Tokyo photographer] Monika Mogi; she’s my best friend and so talented.”

All of which gives OK a collective sense. “I think OK is like a platform for girls to have a feeling of belonging and friendship, and I feel like we didn’t really have that feeling in Asia yet; it’s a sort of girl-power feeling to the brand,” says Mizuhara. With openings in Hong Kong and Taiwan, OK is also launching in Indonesia and Thailand. “So far, it’s been amazing to see all of these girls enjoying our products and just being themselves.” 

In the meantime, Mizuhara’s OK will soon debut a collaboration with iconic Japanese shoe brand Esperanza from October 1; OK is also in discussions with Opening Ceremony. “They want to do something in Los Angeles,” she says. The multifaceted and much-in-demand Mizuhara also mentions upcoming projects with a transgender artist, a potential photo exhibition and a book with Yuka. For would-be Mizuharas in the making, head to Hysan Avenue before September 18; thereafter, I.T Blue Block will continue to sell Mizuhara’s wearable happiness as part of its retail attractions. And that’s A-OK with us. 

Images: provided to China Daily

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Athletics Ascendant


Witness the rise of Li-Ning as it skyrockets in the world of sports fashion

Athletics Ascendant


Witness the rise of Li-Ning as it skyrockets in the world of sports fashion

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Athletics Ascendant

September 12, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

  Li Ning / summer Olympics, August, 1984

Li Ning / summer Olympics, August, 1984

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It’s not just for sport anymore. At the recent New York and Paris Fashion Weeks, Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning unveiled athleisure-influenced collections, marking its impressive foray into the high-fashion industry. And with an innate ability to influence fashion trends, supermodel Bella Hadid (right) donned a white T-shirt with an eye-catching picture of the company’s eponymous founder in Paris. “We do not have any co-operation with her; she just likes our product and feels happy to wear it,” says Hong Yuru, the vice-president of Li-Ning. 

Founded in 1990 by Li Ning, the successful businessman and famed gymnastics world champion (who won six Olympic medals), this Beijing-based brand has enjoyed a leading role in the Chinese sports field for many years. However, since the New York show in February, Li-Ning has shifted its focus towards the world of style. 

At the Paris fashion gala in June, elements such as the Chinese characters for “China Li-Ning” and “gymnastics”, as well as the English slogan “Leaning on Li-Ning”, caught the public’s eye. Since these events, consumers in China and beyond have shown even more enthusiasm towards the brand. “This time, there is a new trend – many rich Chinese people are buying our products for their kids living overseas, which is a reverse of the past,” says Hong. “We are happy that as a Chinese brand, Li-Ning can make Chinese people proud and confident. And it’s really interesting that even during the hot days of summer, the thick hoodies from this collection can’t even keep up with the demand.” 

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The fashionable vintage-influenced design is quite a departure from Li-Ning’s previous products and the new image has proven to be a big surprise for many. “Designers this time around are all from the Li-Ning company; we didn’t co-operate with outside designers,” says Hong. “We have our own fostering system and the ability was there already. These two Fashion Weeks were a great chance to change people’s impressions of Li-Ning.”

After the warm reception, the brand’s not resting on its laurels. In August, a Li-Ning pop-up shop in Shenzhen, called Ning Space, lasted ten days, blending high fashion and sportswear. The mirrors and lighting there formed a fantasy world filled with technology and mixed concepts of space. “We have received numerous invitations for collaboration,” says Hong. “In the second half of 2018, we have plans for crossovers and joint co-operation.”

The proof’s in the numbers. On August 13, Li-Ning revealed its half-year performance, with a 17.9% rise year on year and RMB 4.713 billion in revenue in the first half of 2018. With that momentum, Li-Ning may have the potential to reach a milestone of RMB 10 billion in annual revenue this year.

“Worship of sports, champion quality and never being content with the current situation – these form the Li-Ning spirit,” says Hong. This 28-year-old Chinese sports brand has never stopped moving forward with ambition and confidence. In a fast-changing and rising China, there’s certainly much more to come from Li-Ning.  

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Images: Li-Ning; Li Bohan (male model); Getty Images/Pierre Suu (Bella Hadid); Jean-Claude Delmas / AFP

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Optical Collusion


Shady Character brings the flavour of film noir to eyewear – and style sleuths are hot on the trail

Optical Collusion


Shady Character brings the flavour of film noir to eyewear – and style sleuths are hot on the trail

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Optical Collusion

August 29, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Glasses don’t have to be geeky or gawky – now you can exude an air of fatalism and even a hint of menace with these ’70s throwbacks from Shady Character.

Like some nefarious conspiracy, the original brand was hatched in a basement in Manhattan back in the city’s Gotham days. It gained notoriety after conspiring with the James Dean Foundation to resurrect the movie star’s eyeglasses look. But it was to be a short-lived caper, as the eyewear racket was on the wane and the Shady crew had no choice but to pop a cap in it. 

Contrary to belief, the dead do tell tales, and the Shady legend eventually reached the ears of The Light Company in Japan. They made comic artist Aaron Lang an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he put pen to paper to exhume a few shifty types from the past – and from a familiar dystopian future – to sport the new Shady Character autumn/winter 2018 collection. Styles include Alpha, with classic Wellington frames, “bowtie” rivets and a “keyhole” nose bridge. These are fairly close to the James Dean model, but Alpha gives them a superfly ’70s flavour. Then there’s Mechanic, which combines Wellington and titanium frames, and features bowtie rivets adorning both arms and frame – channelling that Charles-Bronson-with-a-death-wish look. For the ladies, there’s Sailor, a clever reinterpretation of the Wellington frame with a slightly raised “cat’s eye” – perfect for dames with a burning secret.   

Word on the street is that there’s a Shady shipment coming in at the bay – Causeway Bay, to be exact – at I.T Hysan One, along with I.T Silvercord. But if you want to be in on the big buy, you’ll need to look for the elusive Neith brand kiosks. Shady Character offers models for both sunglasses and spectacles, and there’s a whisper that optometrists will be there to help with various lenses when the standalone store opens later in the year. Things look to be on the level. 

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Summer Sneakers


In the fast-forward world of fashion trends, sneakers are the darling of everyone. But with so many choices yet so little time as consumers, which pair will get you over the gain line with maximum style? See our crushes of the month at all price points. 

Summer Sneakers


In the fast-forward world of fashion trends, sneakers are the darling of everyone. But with so many choices yet so little time as consumers, which pair will get you over the gain line with maximum style? See our crushes of the month at all price points. 

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Summer Sneakers

August 29, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Sneakers or trainers need no introduction. They have invaded fashion from high street to haute couture as designers have experimented more and more. So which pair fits your look best this summer? Take a sneak peek at this CDLP selection.

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Chasing the Pavement


Ms Min: the journey from Taobao to Lane Crawford

Chasing the Pavement


Ms Min: the journey from Taobao to Lane Crawford

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Chasing the Pavement 

August 15, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

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Before starting her own shop on Taobao, London College of Fashion graduate Min Liu worked with contemporary Dutch house Viktor & Rolf and high-end Canadian brand Ports 1961. She didn’t sell her own clothes at first, though; rather, she sold vintage fashion items sourced from all over the world, photographed by her in a whimsical style that mixed and matched the pieces with masks she bought in Europe. In 2010, she debuted the first fashion collection from her brand, Ms Min, on Taobao.

Within three years, Ms Min was noticed by high-end department store Lane Crawford and ended up being sold at its Shanghai flagship – she was one of the first three Chinese fashion brands selected by the store. A number of other renowned retailers followed, from Saks Fifth Avenue to Opening Ceremony. In 2016, Min opened her own boutique in Shanghai’s most lavish shopping district, in the Shanghai Centre next to Christian Louboutin.

Now based in Xiamen, the fashion designer conveys classical Chinese beauty through modern aesthetics; her statement is vibrant, sharp and feminine. For the spring/summer 2018 collection, she crafts traditional mulberry silk floral motifs in golden threads and bold orange colours. In 2017, Ms Min launched a rouge collection with cosmetics brand MAC, inspired by the Chinese mythology of “round sky and square earth” (tian yuan di fang), using the traditional girly make-up hues of red and pink with hints of gold and silver. It marked the fourth China-themed limited collection presented by the cosmetics brand, following collaborations with photographer Chen Man, jewellery designer Baobao Wan and fashion maverick Chris Chang.

Focusing on e-commerce or not seems to be a question facing many fashion brands, but Min thinks that Taobao has given her a great opportunity to stay close to the market from the very beginning of her business. And though she’s seen tremendous changes in the Chinese fashion market since she began – the rise of homegrown designers, global brands moving in and increased consumer purchasing power – she thinks there’s still plenty of room for independent domestic designers to grow.

Images: ©2018 Ms Min 闽ICP备11025064号-1 厦门旻刘服装有限公司

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The Little Master


Couture’s rebellious outsider Azzedine Alaïa and the exhibition he helped create before his death last year

The Little Master


Couture’s rebellious outsider Azzedine Alaïa and the exhibition he helped create before his death last year

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

The Little Master 

August 1, 2018 / by Sonia Altshuler

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There have been numerous tributes to Paris-based designer Azzedine Alaïa since his death last November, but none as pertinent as Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at London’s Design Museum. Conceived and co-curated by the Tunisian-born master of the cloth, the first exhibition to be shown in the UK on the renowned designer spans his career from the early 1980s to his final works in 2017, and includes many of his greatest hits – the bandage dress, the zipped dress, the corset belt and the stretch body. His dresses have embraced the bodies of the world’s most seductive and successful women, and the name Alaïa was always synonymous with high glamour, sensuality, style, cut, self-confidence and independence. 

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Alaïa constructed each garment by hand and refused to bow to the pressures of Fashion Week deadlines, instead working to his own schedule. His collaborative approach earned him an esteemed client list including Greta Garbo, Grace Jones, Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell and Rihanna. “My obsession is to make women beautiful,” said Alaïa. “When you create with that in mind, things can’t go out of fashion.” Ultimately, he dedicated his life to a more utopian vision than just fashion, believing that the clothes he made furthered the empowerment of women and became part of a broader cultural conversation. Says Jean-Paul Gaultier of the designer: “A big master! Brilliantly combining the technique, the sewing know-how, the tradition and the modernity!” See it all until October 7. (designmuseum.org

Images: © Pierre Antonie (colour images with background); Patrick Demarchelier (left); courtesy of Ellen von Unwerth (top right); ©Pierre Antoine, courtesy of the Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris (black reptile dress); Azzedine Alaïa, 1998, courtesy of the Groninger Museum, Holland

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Blah, Blah, Blahnik


Renowned shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, about to open his first men’s store in London, is the subject of a retrospective in Toronto

Blah, Blah, Blahnik


Renowned shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, about to open his first men’s store in London, is the subject of a retrospective in Toronto

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Blah, Blah, Blahnik

July 18, 2018 / by Sonia Altshuler

Image above: Design for the film Marie Antoinette

If God had wanted us to wear flat shoes, he wouldn’t have invented Manolo Blahnik…
— Alexandra Shulman
  Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik

His Instagram entry reads thus: “My shoes are not designs, they are gestures.” And, as British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman once quipped: “If God had wanted us to wear flat shoes, he wouldn’t have invented Manolo Blahnik.” This near-idolatrous position occupied by Blahnik in contemporary fashion reached a peak in recent years, when his shoes became the coveted favourites of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, and his regal collection was created for and popularised by Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette

In 20 years of temporary exhibitions at the Design Museum in London, the retrospective on Blahnik, staged in 2003, still holds the record for the most-visited exhibition in any week. Now Blahnik has announced he will open his first men’s shoe store in London, at Burlington Arcade this July; the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is also running Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes, a touring exhibition, until January 6, 2019. 

However, the path to this apotheosis began much earlier – in the early 1970s, through his association with maverick British designer Ossie Clark. The son of wealthy parents, Blahnik grew up in the Canary Islands, then moved to London in the late ’60s after a stint studying art in Paris. His parents had wanted him to be a diplomat, and he had studied politics and economics before changing tack. 

Like many such legends, Blahnik’s story contains one pivotal moment. Diana Vreeland, editor of US Vogue (and whose influence on fashion history has been far greater than any other fashion editor), hated his early attempts at couture and insisted he try his creative hand at shoe design instead. Blahnik obliged and opened a store in London’s fashionable Chelsea district, but faltered at first. He started with men’s shoes and quickly found that conventional restrictions hampered his creativity. At that moment, Blahnik might have disappeared for good, had Clark not invited him in 1971 to produce the shoes to accompany his next collection. 

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Blahnik’s flamboyant, experimental designs were the perfect accompaniment for Clark’s couture – and his Ossie shoe became iconic. However, his imaginative flair was as yet untempered by technical know-how, and the teetering shoes proved perilous to wear – “like walking on quicksand”, Blahnik later recalled. But comfort (or lack thereof) never stood in the way of fashion, especially in matters of shoes, and the visual bravura of his Ossies drew plaudits nonetheless; the designer, an inveterate socialite, found himself lionised. In 1974, he gained the distinction of becoming the first man to appear on the cover of British Vogue

The Vogue connection has defined Blahnik’s entire career. Even today, US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is rarely seen without her Blahnik slingbacks, which he designed for her in 1994 and which she has in numerous colour iterations. “I can’t remember the last time I wore anybody else’s shoes – I mean, I just don’t even look at them,” she claimed in a recent documentary on the shoemaker. And says supermodel Naomi Campbell, who knows his wares better than most: “Manolo is the king of shoes.”

  1971 design for Ossie Clark

1971 design for Ossie Clark

Images: Courtesy of Manolo Blahnik; Carlo Draisci (Suntaxa)

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