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Fashion


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Fashion


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Spicy Street


Among the stranger things seen at New York Fashion Week was a streetwear pop-up featuring images of famed Chinese chilli sauce brand Lao Gan Ma

Spicy Street


Among the stranger things seen at New York Fashion Week was a streetwear pop-up featuring images of famed Chinese chilli sauce brand Lao Gan Ma

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Spicy Street

November 7, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

At the recent New York Fashion Week, Tmall China Day vaulted Chinese fashion designers into the public’s eye. Organised by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Chinese online retail giant Tmall (owned by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group), three rising Chinese brands – JNBY, Particle Fever and Angel Chen – made their runway debuts. 

Amid all the excitement, one famous Chinese woman who has absolutely nothing to do with the world of fashion also attracted a great deal of attention. She’s 70-year-old Guizhou native Tao Huabi, the founder of the well-known chilli sauce brand Lao Gan Ma, which means “old godmother” in English. Founded in 1997, Lao Gan Ma is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and is pretty much everywhere that Chinese people live. Like sriracha, it’s branched out into the wider public consciousness through pages like the Lao Gan Ma Appreciation Society on Facebook, where members share their creative ways to enjoy the sauce, such as with avocado. 

But this was Tao’s time to be thrust into the fashion spotlight. Her iconic portrait from the jar’s label was printed on hoodies that were sold at Opening Ceremony’s store on Broadway. Besides Tao’s portrait, this chic red product also includes the phrases “sauces queen” and “national diva” (in Chinese) on the sleeves. Specially made black aprons with “sauces queen” and the Chinese characters for “Lao Gan Ma” were also on stylish offer. 

Interestingly, Lao Gan Ma wasn’t the only Chinese company involved in this crossover event. Famed herbal medicine brand Yunnan Baiyao and bottled water giant Hanyangquan also joined the party. The pop-up events at Fashion Week may have been relatively small, but these Chinese brands’ ambition to go global is clear. 

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Winter is Coming


As the mercury drops, 43-year-old Chinese brand Bosideng presents a stylish collection to keep you warm and snug

Winter is Coming


As the mercury drops, 43-year-old Chinese brand Bosideng presents a stylish collection to keep you warm and snug

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Winter is Coming

November 7, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

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Chinese down-jacket maker Bosideng made quite a splash with the unveiling of its 2019 spring/summer collection at New York Fashion Week, challenging market-dominant brands including Moncler and Canada Goose. Committed to producing top-quality garments, Bosideng, founded in 1975, has long enjoyed a leading position in the Chinese market, much of that, has struggled to reach a younger audience. Unlike the older generation, who tend to focus more on warmth and durability, fashionability is part of the game for younger shoppers – and Bosideng hasn’t always ranked high on that scale. 

However, the brand’s New York Fashion Week debut could be the turning point to change all that. In cooperation with famed fashion stylist Law Roach, supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio walked the runway for Bosideng as Hollywood actors Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Renner watched from the front row. Featuring references to traditional Chinese architecture and painting, this much-anticipated show presented a blend of high-technology fabrics and ancient eastern cultural elements, with a palette of black, white and grey, adorned with touches of yellow, red and silver. The jackets are also practical, as the fabric is both waterproof and windproof. Winter is coming, but if you’re stuck out in the icy winds wearing a piece from this reborn Chinese clothing brand, you’ll certainly stay warm – and chic. 

Image: Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images North America / AFP

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Brand Aid


Luxury brands are looking to address sustainability and climate change for a healthy future

Brand Aid


Luxury brands are looking to address sustainability and climate change for a healthy future

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Brand Aid 

November 7, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Having a conscience is totally in this season. A recent report titled Disrupting Luxury: Creating Resilient Businesses in Times of Rapid Change makes specific recommendations to address climate change and biodiversity loss, with the participation of giants from the luxury sector including Kering (owner of Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and numerous other brands), Cartier, Ralph Lauren, The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels (owner of The Peninsula), and more.

“Many luxury companies came together to contribute to this report, signalling that while competition may be alive and well in the commercial space, luxury brands recommend that collaboration towards social and environmental progress is essential to the future of the industry,” writes Elisa Niemtzow, the managing director of BSR, a non-profit organisation that spearheads the Responsible Luxury Initiative that led the report. 

Disrupting Luxury advocates engaging in the circular economy to reduce waste and increase recycling, contributing a positive impact on society through business strategy and philanthropy, and increasing the transparency for consumers and investors about the progress made on such initiatives. 

Kering and H&M have also been working to address the clothes-to-landfill issue with the company Worn Again, whose recycling technology can separate and extract polyester and cotton from old or end-of-use clothing and textiles. Meanwhile, in the start-up sector, Fashion for Good is a global initiative that funds promising newcomers that conform to its “Five Goods” framework of “good materials, good economy, good energy, good water and good lives”. For the fashion and luxury sectors, sustainability appears to be the new extravagance. 

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Selves Set Free


Saudi film director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s The Wedding Singer’s Daughter delivers a game-changing message for Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales series

Selves Set Free


Saudi film director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s The Wedding Singer’s Daughter delivers a game-changing message for Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales series

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Selves Set Free

October 10, 2018 / by Sonia Altshuler

I want to continue making films. It’s hard to deal with societies that are very conservative, but patience pays off – especially with cinema, which in Saudi Arabia was illegal until recently
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It’s night-time in 1980s Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Glittery and glamorous heels climb out of cars. Women shrouded in traditional black abayas make their way into a wedding hall, where they reveal what’s underneath: dazzling dresses and wild hair. Their true selves are set free, unseen by the male gaze. There are strict segregation rules in Saudi weddings. All eyes and ears are on the wedding singer, until the electricity suddenly cuts out. “This is the worst wedding singer ever,” guests mutter condescendingly. Will the young daughter manage to save her mother’s dignity? 

The Wedding Singer’s Daughter, directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, is the 16th commission from the Miu Miu Women’s Tales short-film series, which each year premieres at the Venice Film Festival in September. The works invite contemporary female directors to investigate vanity and femininity in the 21st century; previous directors have included Dakota Fanning, Celia Rowlson-Hall and Chloë Sevigny. 

Al-Mansour felt a wedding was the best encapsulation of Saudi Arabia today. “I always felt a wedding is like the actual mirror of society in Saudi Arabia,” she explains. “We are always segregated and our societies are fragmented. People don’t really get together so much in Saudi Arabia, apart from weddings, schools, et cetera. In a society where music is illegal and forbidden, I wanted to capture that tenderness, and that kind of tension between the bigger society and people who entertain – those who are meant to bring joy and be celebrated… but that doesn’t happen so much in Saudi Arabia.” 

Known as the country’s only female film director, the success of Al-Mansour’s 2005 documentary Women Without Shadows influenced a new generation of filmmakers. Her inaugural feature, Wadjda, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first by a female director. She also directed this year’s Mary Shelley, with Elle Fanning playing the lead role of the author. Al-Mansour is also the first artist from the Arabian Gulf region to be invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Al-Mansour’s game-changing career has mirrored the fortunes of Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been overseeing new freedoms – women can now drive (as of June this year), visit the cinema and work in shops. But Saudi women must still dress in abayas – full-length robes – and many but not all wear the niqab (face-covering veil). 

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“I want to continue making films,” says Al-Mansour. “It’s hard to deal with societies that are very conservative, but patience pays off – especially with cinema, which in Saudi Arabia was illegal until recently.” The Saudi government has given the go-ahead for her new film, The Perfect Candidate, to be shot in the country, with the backing of the new national Saudi Film Council. It’s a huge victory for the director. “I have backing and funding from the government now that cinema is legal again, so I will not be hiding in a van and I will be able to shoot in the streets – more relaxed, more engaged with the art.”

To substantiate the point about the growing narrative of feminine power, Al-Mansour cast Los Angeles-based Saudi pop singer Rotana Tarabzouni, a role model to women world over, as the wedding singer in The Wedding Singer’s Daughter. “I feel like I truly represent the growing pains of Saudi Arabia,” says Tarabzouni. “And I have lived on both sides of it. I think of myself and women of my generation as the necessary and exciting growing pains of any society going through a reform and artistic renaissance.”

“I’m really proud of Miu Miu doing all those Women’s Tales,” says Al-Mansour. “It’s often hard for women to tell their stories, especially in filmmaking – an industry so much controlled by men as financiers, producers or directors. Now, women are moving forward and having a safe working environment. My goal is not to condemn someone, but to try to make beautiful films. Women also need to support each other at the front and back of the camera to create solidarity and power. We can’t move alone. We have to focus together.” 

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All photographs by Brigitte Lacombe

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Pleasure and Pain


Powerful indicators of gender, class, status, wealth and sexual preferences, shoes define the path the human race continues to tread

Pleasure and Pain


Powerful indicators of gender, class, status, wealth and sexual preferences, shoes define the path the human race continues to tread

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

Pleasure and Pain

October 10, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Image above: Rainbow sandal by Salvatore Ferragamo

The Cinderella shoe designed by Swarovski

The Cinderella shoe designed by Swarovski

Shoes have caused pleasure and pain – often simultaneously – throughout history, and their designs have influenced human and societal behaviour. And perhaps above all other human appurtenances of dress, shoes hold the most distinct place as objects that, at their most basic, are intended to aid one of our most practical functions – transport – yet which have come to hold such symbolic and aesthetic importance. In some cases, they’re so far removed from functionality that they cause pain to their wearers. The glamour and desirability of such provocative creations tells us much about the complex and enduring link between suffering, sex and style. 

Charting the long development of shoes from ancient Egypt to the contemporary catwalk offers nothing less than a fascinating, alternative history of the world. It’s a chance to, quite literally, put yourself “in the shoes of the past”. The perception of shoes as signifiers of power and even objects of desire dates back many centuries. Indeed, their hold on our imagination is such that they have passed into myth and fiction, and their different meanings have become deeply embedded in our psyche from childhood. 

Extraordinary shoes feature as magical objects in stories and folklore from all over the world (from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes to Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz) – and modern myths include the concept of fairy-tale shoemakers, whose creations will magically transform the life of the wearer. Who doesn’t, for example, recognise the transformative power of Cinderella’s glass slipper? 

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Height is perhaps the most noticeable signifier of status and identity, and examples of elevating footwear can be found all over the world, making their wearers stand above the crowd. The pedestal-like chopine of late-16th- to early-17th-century Europe, which was particularly popular in Italy and Spain, transformed upper-class women into towering figures, sometimes so exceptionally high that their maids had to be used as human crutches.

And even when otherwise naked, wearers have expressed their status through decorative (but very tall) footwear. In China during the Qing Dynasty, elite Manchu women wore high, centrally heeled shoes, producing a distinctive swaying walk, while men wore shoes with stacked platforms. The geta, the traditional, simple wooden clog worn in Japan, became richly decorated for the nobility and took its wearer to extreme heights during the Edo period (1603–1868). Indian silver toe-knob sandals, known as paduka, were probably a wedding present to the bride in 19th-century India and, although mainly ceremonial, would make the bride stand out when they were worn, so that she was easily spotted and admired in the gathering.

Even when shoes appear to be functional and comfortable – like the soft, flat pumps favoured in the Western world for the first half of the 19th century (and the similar-looking ballet pumps today) – they can be as physically restrictive as high heels. The silk-satin uppers and very thin soles of such shoes were not made for walking, and in effect limited women to the domestic sphere.

This all changed with the arrival of the 20th century. Fashion Institute of New York curator Valerie Steele once suggested that some men exhibit an almost Pavlovian response to the sight of a woman in high heels. Shoes play an important part in what is culturally considered to be sexy and have long been objects of fetishism. The erotic aspects of footwear can be an empowering expression of sexuality or can identify the wearer as a passive source of pleasure.

The sexualisation and genderisation of high-heeled shoes, especially, exerts a constant fascination on the popular imagination and a particular way of walking – epitomised by the stylish wiggle of Marilyn Monroe, who is intimately associated with this phenomenon. The allure of high heels, it has been argued, is down to the way they force out a woman’s breasts and buttocks, and make her hips move from side to side as she walks. The attenuated position of the feet in high heels has even been compared to the flexed feet of a woman during orgasm.

Boots designed by Salvatore Ferragamo for Karen Mok’s recent concert series

Boots designed by Salvatore Ferragamo for Karen Mok’s recent concert series

Parakeet shoes by Caroline Groves

Parakeet shoes by Caroline Groves

Learn (and see) more at Pacific Place in Hong Kong as part of the touring Victoria & Albert Museum’s Pleasure and Pain exhibition. The collection of more than 140 pairs of shoes invites visitors to gaze at unique creations by the likes of contemporary legends including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Salvatore Ferragamo. There’s also a capsule collection of shoes designed specifically for local celebrity icon Karen Mok on the occasion of her concerts, which have pushed the Hong Kong foot and shoe fetish envelope over the years, as well as those at her wedding, film appearances and luxury events. The Ferragamo HQ in Rome even has one with her name on it. Take the measure of mankind’s standing until October 28. 

A pair of paduka

A pair of paduka

The 90-degree high heel shoe called “Estelle”

The 90-degree high heel shoe called “Estelle”

Images: provided to China Daily

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All Dressed Up


Move over, cheongsam – the traditional hanfu is having its moment in China

All Dressed Up


Move over, cheongsam – the traditional hanfu is having its moment in China

Lifestyle > Fashion


 

All Dressed Up 

October 10, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

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When thinking about traditional Asian dress, what’s the first item that comes to mind? Is it the Japanese kimono, the Korean hanbok or the Chinese cheongsam? Though many regard the last as an enduring symbol of Chinese culture, some, especially those in the younger generation, have shifted their preferences to hanfu, a traditional costume that originated before the Han dynasty and has been popularised through TV and movies. 

A big supporter of hanfu, Chinese actress Xu Jiao impressed the world by wearing an exquisite piece to the Venice Film Festival last year. Featuring white gauze fabric, a black belt with beautiful fringe in the middle and an embroidered pattern of a golden bird, this V-neck hanfu dress is a great example that blends traditional and modern elements.

However, as of yet, the hanfu hasn’t grabbed as much attention as the kimono, the hanbok or the cheongsam. To address this, the popular blogger Miqiujun is determined to spread its culture around the world. With 16.8 million followers on her Weibo account, she now runs a brand called Jieziji with her husband. “As my parents and grandmother are tailors, I have had an interest in clothing and design since I was a little girl,” she says. “I took part in some hanfu activities in university and then started my own company four years ago.” 

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With her husband serving as the photographer, Miqiujun has put a plethora of gorgeous hanfu pictures on her Weibo. “I usually do my own haircut and make-up,” she explains. “In the second half of 2016, I shot a video about women in different dynasties and their ways of dressing up. I looked up many books and sometimes used pottery figurines to get useful information.” This hit video introduced four dynasties – Han, Tang, Song and Ming – as well as the women back then, their lifestyles and their pursuits of beauty.

Miqiujun has also started an outreach activity called Travel with Hanfu – a world tour to educate and showcase the garment in 15 countries and counting. “Our first stop was Nepal and we just came back from Japan,” she says. “Many people mistake the hanfu for a kimono or a hanbok. We explain the history; they also think it’s beautiful and want to give it a try. The cheongsam enjoys more popularity and wider recognition. But it would be great if people could also think of hanfu.” 

Images: Miqiujun

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