Written by Gioia Zhang


We can read a lot of from the color of traditional lingerie. There are different colour schemes for different scenes, areas and identity, as well as other aspects of life.

Different colours have different symbolic meanings and have different connotations to different people.

Red: happiness, marriage, elimination of a disaster, passion, indulgence


Corset: Period – Middle Qing Dynasty


Yellow: royalty, value, power, religion (Buddhism) and fantasy


Dudou: Period – Early Qing Dynasty


Dudou: Period – Middle Qing Dynasty


Purple: wealth, mystery, power, depression and melancholy


Dudou: Period – Middle Qing Dynasty


Green: nature, civil, purity, life and youth

302.pngDudou: Period – Middle Qing Dynasty


Blue: elegance, purity, civil and modest

308.pngDudou: Period – The Republic of China Era

311.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty


Brown: maturity, honesty, modesty and tolerance

315.pngPaddy Field Dudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty


Black: stability, strength, mystery and depth

301.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty


White: simple, childish, bright and religion (Muslim)

303.pngPart Dudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty


Gold and silver: success, luxury, auspiciousness and nobility

317.pngPart Dudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty

321.pngPart Dudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty


Traditional Chinese underwear often uses progression of colour gradients.

312.pngPart Dudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty


Like traditional Chinese clothing, traditional lingerie also shows class through use of colour. There is an order of colour that shows one’s class, from nobility to middle class: bright yellow, gold and silver – purple – red – brown – green – blue – black, white and gray.

The colour of lingerie is also related to age. Dark colours such as dark brown, dark blue and black are often used by middle-aged women.

At the same time, the use of colour in ancient Chinese lingerie has a strong geographical connection. Such as:

– Jiangnan (an area in southern China) woman love light green and light blue.
– Shaanxi (province in northwest China) people prefer to use a variety of colour combinations  containing gray.

– The Saibei plateau (a region in northwest China) like to embroider colourful patterns on white cloth.

– The Minnan (region in southeast China) loves geometric patterns as well as embroidery of birds and flowers on a black and white background


The different colours used will bring different visual effects and feelings to people.

319.pngPart Dudou: Period – The Republic of China Era

Using intense colour contrast brings strong emotions.


316.pngBody Coat: Period – The Republic of China Era

Low saturation decor with a bright red background displays an elegant style.


322.pngPart Dudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty

Good use of complementary colours creates a strong visual impact.


309.pngPart Dudou: Period – Early Qing Dynasty

The use of similar tones creates a subtle and reserved feeling.


318.pngPart Dudou: Period – Middle Qing Dynasty

The combination of small usage of light colours and a small amount of pure block colour makes the piece seem harmonious.

314.pngDudou: Period – Middle Qing Dynasty

The decorative use of the same colour is simple and generous.


The rich knowledge and intuition of this traditional lingerie colour shows the exquisite thinking of the ancient people of China.




Find your own oriental pieces on Interactchina as well as other beautiful things!


About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at, we would love to hear from you!


Written by Gioia Zhang


Throughout the development of Chinese women lingerie, ancient Chinese lingerie has been used to express the yearns for beauty and the performance of feeling and of body in delicate, subtle ways. Almost every piece of lingerie has a theme and story. The Dudou is a bodice that has been used by women since ancient China. The production cycle of each piece lasts from a few months to several years, and there are differences in craft techniques used to produce them. The Chinese women of the past conveyed the voices of their hearts through the sewing, and colourful totems to convey their deep wishes.

屏幕快照 2017-06-16 08.48.03.png

Dudou: Period – The Republic of China; Totem – three wishes

Pomegranate, Bergamot and Peach-Shaped Flowers express the wish for more children longevity and happiness.


100.pngCorset: Period – The Republic of China; Totem – fame and wealth

In Chinese, “公(公鸡)鸣” (Gōngmíng) meaning a rooster’s crow sounds like “功名”(Gōngmíng) meaning fame. The peony is a symbol of the rich.


111.pngCorset (back): Period – Middle Qing Dynasty; Totem – safe and prosperous

In Chinese, “瓶”(píng) means vase and “平(平安)”(Píng’ān) means safety. This homophone along with the varieties of blooming flowers symbolize a rich and powerful family.


131.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – highly incorruptible


101.pngCorset (back): Period – Early Qing Dynasty; Totem – fragrant lotus

The lotus is a symbol of incorruptibility, it is rooted in mud and has luxuriant foliage which symbolizes a stable career and prosperous family.


121.pngPart Dudou: Period – The Republic of China; Totem – eight treasures of Tai Chi

In Chinese mythology there are eight immortals. Each carry a treasure that has been bestowed with their own power. The treasures embroidered on this Dudou express the deep desire for good luck.

103.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – mandarin duck

Mandarin ducks express the love and happiness between husband and wife.

104.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – to meet on the broken-bridge

The embroidery on this Dudou expresses a deep missing for a lover.


150.pngCorset: Period – Early Qing Dynasty; Totem – dragon that plays in the sea


153.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – dragon

A dragon on underwear symbolizes bravery, honour, wisdom and unpredictability.


119.pngPart Dudou: Period – The Republic of China; Totem – Qilin stepping on clouds

Qilin is regarded as a mascot and blessing of national peace and order, It is also a messenger of happiness and posterity.


107.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – tiger


161.pngPart Dudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty;·Totem – tiger


109.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – tiger driving away the five poisonous pests

The tiger is a symbol of a spirit that drives out demons.


160.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – a lion playing with a ball


108.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – gold lion

The lion is regarded as a mascot and blessing for driving away evil, praying for good health and is also a symbol of festive events.


134.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – butterflies in love with flowers


112.pngDudou: Period – Late Qing Dynasty; Totem – butterflies in love with flowers


113.pngDudou: Period – The Republic of China; Totem – butterflies in love with flowers

In Chinese, the ” 芙蓉”(Fúróng) meaning Hibiscus and “夫荣”(Fūróng) meaning Husband’s glory is a homophone. Hibiscus flowers with butterflies is a symbol for a woman of low birth may marrying a man of high status and can therefore enjoy a life with the benefits of her husband’s glory however to be a good wife she must dance to her husband’s tune in order to have a harmonious marriage.


The extended meaning in the totems expresses people’s life expectations, and also allows for future generations to interpret them.



Find your own oriental pieces on Interactchina as well as other beautiful things!


About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at, we would love to hear from you!

Mongolian Jewelry

Elaborately detailed filigree and brilliantly colored enamels are the signatures of Mongolian jewelry making. This traditional technique has distinctive Russian and Chinese influences and follows a process that has remained unchanged for generations.

Mongolian Jewelry Making

549The filigree work is typically hand-fashioned with tweezers using silver wires which are shaped into flowers, butterflies and other subjects. At approximately 1700 degrees F, the wire structure is then carefully fired in a kiln where they are fused together with silver dust. This first process provides the framework for the piece. Fine enamel powder is then blended and packed into the frame, and briefly fired in the kiln again several times at 1500 degrees F. During this second firing, the enamel fuses into a durable glasslike finish.

Finally, gemstones are set, and the piece is typically plated with 24KT gold. Stones such as Chrysocolla, Rhodocrosite, Chrysoprase, Water Sapphires and Black Star of India are favorites of Mongolian artisans. Semiprecious stones like Garnets, Lapis, Amethyst, Madeira Citrine, Onyx and Turquoise are also popular in traditional Mongolian designs.

The work is exacting and demanding, since working with any filigree frame could involve destruction of the fragile framework. The artists are all extensively trained in the basic techniques and over time are considered master craftsmen. Interestingly, because filigree and enameling are very different skills, many Mongolian jewelry items require two artists to complete. No one artist is trained in both procedures.

Many of the young people of the area are turning their backs on the old ways and going into urban areas of China to make lives for themselves. It is an endangered and dying art form and because of the sheer beauty and quality of the jewelry, several museums around the world are selling the works of art in their museum shops. They consider it a Chinese cultural treasure.

Caring for Filigree Jewelry:

Although it is sterling silver and very sturdy, it is made of hundreds of fine wires. The brilliant colors are achieved by the use of enamel powder, kiln-fired to create “glass”. Consequently, gentle care should be used with these unique pieces. Keep in a plastic bag with the air expelled to minimize oxidation. Clean with a liquid cleaner acceptable for use with pearls, lapis, turquoise or other porous stones.

Garments Change in China Modern Times

Big Differences between Cities and Countryside

After the 1911 Revolution, the garments changed greatly, and the dresses and the official cap buttons were eliminated. Particularly, hair plait was cut off, but chi-pao / qipao (one-piece mandarin robe) still existed. The Blue Short Gown of schoolgirls was the main style, and it gradually became popular.

Along with the emergence of cinema, film stars became eminent persons gradually. Shanghai City became the fashion center of women’s wear in China. The garments of Guangdong Province and Hong Kong became one of the branches of Shanghai City garments.


Garments during the Republic of China period in (1912-1945)

The government specified formal dresses of men and women in the first year of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Men wore suits which were day suits and evening suits. Day suits were of Western style and Chinese style (e.g. long gown and mandarin jacket). There is collar for women formal dress and was long to the knee with buttons down the front. Skirts were decorated with cartouches in the front and back, both sides were sewn with pleats, and both ends had patterns of knots.
At the wedding ceremony, the urban girls were in full dress of silk, wrapped white gauze over the head and held a white bouquet to celebrate the wedding, while the rural girls still followed the tradition and wore red robes and a hat decorated with jewels, riding in red sedan .

490Girls wearing western style dresses to a wedding in Shanghai

During the period of the Republic of China, the government specified new dress code, and men wore western-style clothes and Sun Yat-sen’s uniform (Chinese tunic suit). These two styles of clothes were foreign styles, and most officials and intellectuals more usually wore them. White garments were worn in the summer, but black or dark garments were worn in other seasons. The style with a mandarin jacket over a long gown was still one of the common dressing styles. The student’s clothing with erect collar, three pockets and seven buttons were mainly the uniform of students of universities and colleges. The style with a sleeveless jacket or a waistcoat over a long gown was also a common style. In addition, the common dressing style of rural men and women was a jacket and trousers or covered with a ramie skirt (long or short small skirt fastened on body).

Women’s costume changed greatly during the period, some kept the Qing Dynasty (1644-1840) style of trousers and clothes with curving front, some imitated western-style with a jacket and a skirt, most schoolgirls wore black silk skirts and short jackets that had a large front, a round lower hem and short sleeves to elbow. The common garments of social women were mainly Chi-pao / qipao.

The overall tendency of new garments was in two types: one type was the long Chi-pao / qipao was in solid color and made of fabric with laces and patterns were added to the edges. The small waistcoat and silk scarves were over the jacket. Other than qipao, the upper garment and lower skirt separated for other types of garments.

In the 1920s, people began to wear Chi-pao / qipao whose style was mostly the same as that of the Qing Dynasty. Later, the cuff was reduced gradually, and embroidered edge was not as broad as previously. By the end of the 1920s, dressing style was affected by Europe and America, and the style of chi-pao / qipao changed significantly. By the early 1930s, Chi-pao / qipao was very popular. The main changes of garments in that time were the modifications of collar, sleeves and length. The garments with high collar were popular at first, and the higher collar, the more popular. Gradually, garments with low collars began to be popular, and the lower collar, the more modern. Finally, people wore collarless and sleeveless Chi-pao / qipao.

 Influence of Foreign Costumes from 1930s to 1940s

With the import of foreign products into China, western life styles penetrated into the people’s life. Women living in big cities in China began to attend social events in the 1930s and 1940s. This resulted the change of social morals accordingly. Women wore western-style clothing and skirt together with glass and watch, and gloves, looking more modern and romantic. The modern and fashionable dress of Europe and Japan affected Chinese women in terms of short skirts, underwear and colors, etc. More and more women began to imitate them, and some even imitated the simple dressing style of America. Ladies who liked sports always wore red pleated skirts and bras to replace the old-time Dudou (an underwear that was made of red embroidery cloth and hung from the neck with gold or silver chains, it came down from ancient times). In addition, women’s one-piece dress was more popular. During the 1920s-1940s after the founding of the Republic of China, fur coats were still popular in rich families.

The hairstyle with bangs or buns was fashionable at the time. The dressing style of slim coat, black skirt (without embroidery pattern), watch, elliptic sunglasses, cuspidate leather shoes, handbag and umbrella was brought into China by Japanese Ladies. This dressing style, called the dressing style of Free Lady, first appeared in Guangzhou City at the end of the Guangxu reign in Qing Dynasty (1875-1908), showing that their thoughts and behaviors were open.

The influence of western-style garments in China mainly appeared after the World War II. Many Chinese students studying abroad went to famous cities of Europe and America to seek spouses, so they brought the oriental ornaments to western countries and took western garments and adornments back to China.

The big inflow of foreign cheap goods greatly oppressed the production and consumption of Chinese goods of the same kind, and the sales of Chinese goods went sluggish for a time. In order to open the sales channels of Chinese garments, relevant personages held the Fashion Show of Chinese Garments at the Shanghai Dahua Restaurant on January 9, 1930. It can be considered the first fashion show in China.


Modern Chinese Clothing

Historical facts about Chinese clothes

Chinese clothing is as both gracefully as it stands for tradition and shows living power. Archeological findings from the Shantingtung early civilization excavated items obviously pointing out that embellishments have been used already at that time. Outfits combined with colors were common; for instance green was used for spring time, the hot seasons color was red, white stood for autumn and the color of winter season was black. Ancient Asian clothing preferred darker shades and a sophisticated scheme of fitting, aligning and opposed colors and shades was used in garments. Nowadays it joins the old motives of luck with the more recent fashion designs of the modern dressing.


Today’s clothes styles

A wide scale of remarkable styles for teens and young women’s sexy wear is created in today’s China, which involves cats, gods and masks of Chinese opera. Fashionable shapes are applying motives and colors from the old Asian outfit. Images, textiles, ornaments, and motifs from old traditions are combined with modern materials and designs to create today’s fashionable outfits and Oriental fashion. Traditional clothes from China originate from customary motives and rites. In modern Chinese clothing ancient motifs as dragon, phoenix and flower embellishments, which have been used on garments of emperors, are returning. These symbols and styles on the one hand are beautiful and on the other hand stand for ancient tradition. There was a nine dragon and five cloud symbols which should bring luck to the person, and this symbol today also gets the same importance for this kind of wear.


The combination of recent and old apparel, style and imagery is winsomely and natural. The old-school macramé is widely spread in modern Chinese silk clothes for the outfit’s decoration. We can find it on hems, shoulders, buttons, buttonholes, pockets, holes, silk corsets and edges. For instance the recent wedding tiara is a further established fusion of customary style and fashionable design. In the Hunan province currently can be seen scarves in old-fashioned red, green and blue ornaments. In general Asian clothes are made of different high quality fabrics, like brocade, satin, cotton, silk brocade and Thai silk. Various motives are used for Chinese style clothing, like dragon, phoenix, butterfly, plum blossom, cherry blossom, fish, flower, peony, chrysanthemum, peacock, longevity, bamboo, lotus and you can get them embroidered.


Ancient and modern styles

On nowadays social events you still can watch men in a sophisticated traditional wide robe. And often ladies dress up an altered kind of garment from the Ch’ing Dynasty. In Asian dresses there are uncountable modifications in size, style and embellishment. Yet the silk producing, weaving and yarning old-aged methods have been refined by recent garment factories. Traditional Chinese fashion as a result gives it’s wearers over the whole world the possibility to delight ancient characteristics and modern style in garments. You can compress the same thing though by wearing fashion which has seen lines, and bows around the waist area too.

Chinese silk clothing

The traditional silk garment is apparently varying because utterly anchored and merged with old traditions. Ancient silk clothing from China nowadays will continue to affect recent Asian fashion greatly. Without doubt the Shang dynasty with their weaving, yarning and producing of silk has the greatest impact. From cultural view China is not completely modern nor totally traditional; this is important for the daily life of Chinese people, for recent modifications of traditional garments and certainly for old-fashioned art styles shown as symbols and patterns on modern clothes. Notwithstanding the arrival of Western values impacts China, but modern sexy Chinese silk clothing persists deeply in it’s own history and traditional rites. This can be seen in different kinds of clothes like Chinese shirts and Chinese vests for example.

Chinese clothing within the fashion scene

Sexy Chinese apparel becomes more and more popular especially in Western culture. It combines the elaborate elegance of Chinese tradition with unique elements of style. Because of its particular charm it is like a wonderful flower in the colorful fashion scene. Another beauty is that it is made of high quality material and to varying lengths. It can be worn either on casual or formal occasions. In either case, silk garments create an impression of elegance. With distinctive features silk outfits enjoy a growing popularity in the international world of high fashion. For convenient movement and display of the slender legs of women female Asian dress generally has two big slits at either side of the hem. The slits expose a woman’s legs indistinctly when she walks, as if there was a blurred emotional appeal of “enjoying flowers in mist”.


Today you can get it with different lengths and kinds of slits (one slit on the side or front as well as two slits). The material: Chinese attire usually is made of excellent materials like silk, silk brocade, satin, satin brocade or velour’s. Nearly all colors can be used. Often it gets a certain pattern, such as Chinese dragons, different kinds of flowers, butterflies or other typical Chinese icons (e.g. prosperity, wealth). Asian outfit has close links to social status and identity. Thus a modern Chinese outfit serves as a magnifier for examining transformations in the lives of individuals and communities undergoing change. You can get Chinese dresses for evening, party and cocktail events for both summer and winter.



Differences between Chinese and Western Clothing

Firstly, there are obvious differences on clothing concepts between Chinese and Western people. Influenced by Confucian value and ethical function, Chinese people have always maintained an eastern style conservative. Skin is closely covered and concealed. To some extent, Chinese clothing culture is a kind of “cover” culture. People should not “reveal” body shape and even skin. A large space is maintained between clothing and the body. This kept clothing relative stable in change on form, but to develop more surface decoration, patterns, colors, material textures and decoration styles. These developments have always kept Chinese clothing in strict form, except for some Men’s clothing.

It is different in western culture, except for a period when people are influenced by the Christianity. Denied the existence of human and human body’s performance, western clothing was used to present body shape in a very realistic and even exaggerated way. This is reflected both in ancient “loose clothing” culture and “close-fitting clothing” culture since the Renaissance. Clothing has been  used to “stand out” and even “intensify” different sex characteristics between male and female, and skin were more and more exposed (especially for women’s clothing). They have also found some methods to “further expose” skin. This brought many profile changes and man-made structure to western clothing.

Secondly, there are differences on function awareness of clothing between Chinese and Western culture. Chinese people attach great importance on social ethics function of clothing since ancient times. They defined the function not only concerning warm and decorative features, but more concerning social status. From the Xia, Shang to the Zhou dynasty, this concept has never been given up in the improvement of ceremonial costume. Every ruler in every dynasty has attached great importance to unify people’s thought by wearing and clothing.

Although the Romans attached great importance to identity function of clothing, and have introduced a variety of apparel ban in feudal times. Very few cultures have such social function development of clothing as in China. Most of them focused mainly on wealth and aesthetic functions of clothing.

Thirdly, the human beings in different environment have created their own material culture since the end of Primitive society. From long time ago, Chinese people have begun to use plant fiber, such as linen, ramie, etc., and animal fibers, such as wool to weave, and they have begun to weave silk sericulture. Silk is a great contribution to human life from Chinese people, so it is impossible  to talk Chinese clothing culture without silk.


Different from silk culture in China, flax culture prevails in ancient  Egypt, wool culture prevails in the Mesopotamia and cotton culture prevails in India. Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome have no pioneering work in materials, and they imports flax and wool cultures from Mediterranean coasts and Upper Paleozoic civilizations. As for silk, although ancient Rome has touched silk from Far East through Silk Road in BC, they were never able to  understand the mysteries of this beautiful fabric. Lately, they knew the secrets of silk from two missionaries sent to China by the Byzantine Empire. Then one century later, the first silk is produced in Byzantine Empire, but Europeans produced first silk until the Italian Renaissance in 13-14 century.


What’s more, there are also different dressing ways between Chinese and western clothing cultures. Chinese clothing is featured of upper and lower part separated, with opening in front  and using ties to fix clothing for the convenience to wear off; and western clothing developed from put-on style to cast-over style, and then to front-open style in various forms and complex dressing skill, in which, pins or buttons are often used to fix clothing. It is hard to see cast-over clothing method in China. However, this style is very sophisticated in western countries from Tunic in ancient Egypt to Tunica in ancient Rome. Cast-over style is often found in one-piece clothing, a very sophisticated women’s clothing in nowadays, or in other words, the most formal clothing is still in cast-over style. Although “long gown” has shown in the Spring and Autumn Period BC, it is front-open style from the start, and all kinds of gowns, shirts later on are still in this style. The Western shirts in front-open style nowadays are also developed from cast- over style in the past. Front-open shirts emerged only since mid-19th century.

In addition, put-on style clothing are popular in western countries, but it is only introduced to China with Buddhism from India far later, and it only can be seen on monk’s robes even in nowadays. The clothing going with a piece of cloth, focuses on fold down effect when put on. This is also a style different from traditional Chinese costumes and dressing way. The words “loose clothing” has totally different forms, content, concept and effect in Chinese culture and western culture.

Lastly, the color of clothing is also different. We all know that red is known as the Chinese element,which represents happiness, so when holding wedding ceremony ,everyone is supposed to wear red clothes. And yellow is     considered as a kind of special color, only used by emperors. In the West, red is the unlucky color. They prefer white, on behalf of purity, integrity, or black, representing the noble and mysterious.

Although the Chinese and Westerners have established their own cultures, world view, sense of worth, aesthetic standard and clothing cultures in different geographical environment, as the human living together Earth, there are still some forms and cultural patterns in common when facing survival issues. Therefore, in addition to the differences in clothing culture mentioned above, there is something in common.

At present, the development of Chinese clothing should take on the path of both learning from the advanced technology and culture from the West, and maintaining the unique culture of Chinese people. In so doing, China clothing will be improved and recognized as a new Oriental art form by people around the world, and thus it will make its way to the world stage.



Chinese Fashion Designer Displays Beauty of Traditional Chinese Culture to World


Chu Yan has scored some remarkable successes in her dual roles in life: As a teacher, she has gained rich teaching experience — at Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT, China’s premiere educational facility associated with fashion) — over the past 10-plus years; and as a fashion designer, she has won prizes at many national and international fashion-design competitions. Even better, she created her own fashion brand — “Chuhe Tingxiang” — in 2011. In recent years, Chu has been dedicated to showing the artistic beauty of Chinese dresses to the world.

Amazing Chinese Fashions

The China Cultural Center (established by the Chinese Government, with outlets in many cities in the world), on the left bank of the Seine River, in Paris, had a full house during the evening of February 25,2013 when Chinese and French models strutted along the catwalks flaunting the latest Chinese fashions.

The show was sponsored by the China Cultural Center and the International Cultural Exchange Center (under China’s Ministry of Culture) in Paris. Chu Yan’s fashions — the models wore 29 of her designs — impressed many of the spectators. Many celebrities, from Chinese and French cultural, fashion and business circles, shared their favorable impressions of the young Chinese fashion designer’s works.

Chu, born in 1975, was hired, in 2001, to teach at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT) after she had received a master’s degree in fashion design from the school. Ten years later, she created her own fashion brand — “Chuhe Tingxiang.”

Chu applied the vegetation-dyeing technology (an ancient Chinese dyeing technology, in which flower and plant extracts are used to dye materials) in her designs for the 2013 spring and summer lines of clothing. She hoped, through her fashions, that people would perceive the elegant, serene and beautiful taste of traditional Chinese culture. Now, Chu custom tailors dresses and develops designs for famous-brand clothing suppliers.

“Paris’ China Cultural Center plans to organize fashion shows every year, to offer Chinese fashion designers opportunities to display their talent,” says Chu. “I’m lucky enough to be the first Chinese fashion designer chosen by the center.”

Chu is grateful for the foreign models, who went to the extra effort to receive training, prior to the fashion show, so they could get used to strutting along the catwalks to slow, melodious tunes played on the guqin (seven-stringed plucked Chinese instrument, which is similar to the zither).


Why China Sitting on Fashion’s Front Row

“Chinese designers raising profiles in the traditional style capitals like London, Paris”

“Haizhen Wang epitomizes subtle Chinese influences in Western-educated design generation”

“China is key driver of global profit for fashion industry”

 “Chinese tastes moving away from flashy designer logos to be more refined”

From Selfridges in London to Fifth Avenue in New York’, the sight of Chinese shoppers flocking to luxury clothing stores is now a familiar one for many in the West.

With its seemingly insatiable appetite for European and American luxury brands, China accounts for more than a quarter of the global luxury market — and that number is growing, according to market analysts like McKinsey & Co.

But the rising fashion credentials of the country’s consumers is not the only reason people are talking about China on the sidelines of this season’s runway shows in London and Paris. A new, young generation of Chinese fashion designers is causing a stir within stylish circles.

460Haizhen Wang Won the Fashion Fringe Award

As Paris Fashion Week begins Tuesday, marking the culmination of the fashion world’s twice-yearly dash between New York, London, Milan and Paris, these Chinese designers are yet again raising their profile in the traditional style capitals of the world.

One of those hoping to show that the flow of sartorial capital not only goes from West to East, but also vice versa, is Haizhen Wang. Originally from Dalian in northeast China, he trained at Central Saint Martins in London, graduating in 2005. Wang then came to the attention of the fashion world last year after winning the Fashion Fringe Award for young designers and was mentored by Burberry’s chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey.

461Haizhen Wang and Christopher Bailey

Like many of the emerging Chinese-born, Western-educated generation of designers, the influence of Wang’s home culture on his work is subtle. While his collection was inspired mainly by gothic architecture, Wang says his Chinese roots underlie everything he produces.

Made in China’ is finally cool

“Even if you can’t see any obvious Oriental influences, like dragons for example, across my pieces, the man who made this collection — me — is Chinese and that will always be there, even though I was trained in the West.” – Haizhen Wang

 Also epitomizing this new generation of Chinese designers is 29 year-old Huishan Zhang. He combines his Western training — he spent a year with Dior in Paris — with his Chinese heritage.

462Tipped by international fashion insiders as the one to watch in 2013, his first collection — stocked at London boutique Browns — sold out within a month.

Zhang spends several months each year back in China, where he sources all his hand-sewn fabrics from near to where he grew up in Qingdao, on the eastern coast. He says that a big challenge for Chinese designers is convincing people that “Made in China” can mean high-quality.

“We are really trying to learn and show people what we are capable of,” Zhang explains. He says China and the West can learn a lot from each other when it comes to design.

Zhang’s Autumn-Winter 2013 collection incorporates some noticeable Chinese influences. One piece in particular provides more than a nod to China’s recent history.

463Huishan Zhang’s version of the ‘Mao Suit’.

 His version of the “Mao Suit,” a staple symbol of uniformity under the Communist regime, has been updated with pink lace and diamante buttons and is the center-piece of his collection. Traditionally worn by men, Zhang says the piece partly represents giving “the power back to the woman and not the man”.

Huishan Zhang’s works

As designers like Zhang tap into the changing social norms of Chinese society, so he and others are taking note of the evolving fashion tastes in the country. He notes how much things have changed since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s when China was largely cut off from the rest of the world.

“We now have this amazing opportunity to get in touch with the whole world,” Zhang says. He explains that because Chinese people until fairly recently had very limited wardrobes, there is a now a huge hunger there for new fashion.

China is now such a key driver of global profit for the fashion industry that Burberry’s stock price sank in early February after China announced it would ban advertising of luxury goods.

Tom Ford, the designer and film director whose name is almost synonymous with luxury and style, says he is closely watching how Chinese consumers are maturing. Ford observes that — as in other emerging markets — China is moving away from the initial lust for designer logos that tends to characterise the newly rich. “Tastes become quite refined and equalized with the rest of the luxury consumer all over the world … I think that’s really starting to happen in China and it’s moving very quickly.”

Angelica Cheung, founding editor of Vogue China, agrees that Chinese consumers have been on a huge learning curve over the last decade, and says her magazine has played a significant role in their sartorial education.

“We constantly emphasize the importance in knowing how to appreciate fashion, for example, we educate our readers on the history of couture and the great couturiers,” Cheung explains. “These are all aspects that, due to historical circumstance in China, our readers had little exposure to previously.” She adds that niche Chinese designers are doing increasingly well not because of patriotism, but because people appreciate their designs and their quality.

Haizhen Wang recognizes that his home country has huge market potential for him, but he feels that he still had to come to Europe in order to create his brand and get the training that would make big buyers take him seriously.

“China’s education system has a long way to go before it can produce a designer capable of being a global brand and taking on the international market,” he says. “I’m sure one day it will happen though.”

Fashion legend Giorgio Armani seems to agree, recently declaring he was sure that sooner or later China would produce a designer who shows in London, Milan and Paris.

It might be a while before Beijing Fashion Week is taken as seriously as Paris by the fashion cognoscenti, but industry heavyweights are switching on to the fact that China is now firmly on the front row of global fashion.





Exception, Home-Grown Chinese Fashion Brand, Has Its “Jason Wu Moment”

Several months ago, a photo of China’s new first lady, Peng Liyuan stepping out of a jet on a state visit to Russia, wearing a dark trench coat and toting a leather handbag, went viral on Sina Weibo (China version of Twitter), as users speculated on the brand of Peng’s bag.


Initially, Weibo users speculated that the bag was by Italian luxury brand Tod’s, but others were quick to identify the brand of the purse — as well as Peng’s jacket — as Guangzhou’s Exception (Exception de Mixmind). After being confirmed by an Exception PR representative, the discovery immediately set off a firestorm of interest in the brand on Sina Weibo.


While it’s too early to say whether Peng Liyuan’s endorsement of Exception is the brand’s “Jason Wu moment,” it’s certainly a big moment for the company, which already has its fair share of high-profile admirers. As CKGSB Knowledge wrote of the label last December:

“Exception has built a significant presence of over 100 stores in the Eastern cities of Beijing and Shanghai as well as their home base, the growing metropolis of Guangzhou. Exception is touted as the Chinese fashion industry success story and has an estimated annual turnover of more than RMB 900 million a year. Founder Mao Jihong claims that he’s the biggest in the market. Industry observers such as fashion media mogul Hung Huang have put the brand at the top of their watchlist for homegrown brands with the potential to make it big abroad.”

457Peng’s Exception handbag
458Tob’s handbag
Netizens initially thought Peng’s bag was this model, made by Italian brand Tod’s

The more interesting long-term implications of Peng Liyuan’s domestic-label style are that home-grown Chinese designers and brands could ultimately play a part in the central government’s ongoing frugality campaign in Beijing. While it’s unlikely that high-ranking bureaucrats will ditch their Audis for Red Flags anytime soon, we’ve already predicted that China home grown fashion brand sales will be better in 2013 than in 2012. The most visible government officials are already leaving their Swiss watches and Hermès belts at home for fear of netizen scrutiny. Now, led by Peng Liyuan, we just might see the wives of top officials doing the same with their Birkin bags and Burberry trenches.



China’s First Lady Sparks Interest in Home Brands

Chinese fashion label Exception is leading an unexpected surge in interest in domestic fashion brands after Peng Liyuan, China’s First Lady, was spotted wearing the label during a four-nation state visit with President Xi Jinping, her husband.

Footage of Peng stepping off a plane wearing a double-breasted black coat and carrying a leather handbag quickly went viral online, with Peng winning praise for her elegance and fashion sense.


“Her handbag will become a hot item!” said “shishangbozhu-YY” on Sina Weibo, China’s major microblogging service.

“Domestic brands are on the road! The Chinese dream is on the road!” said “Chenjiangningv” on Sina Weibo.

Fashion bloggers soon identified Peng’s outfit as the work of Guangzhou-based Exception.


Established in 1996 by a couple who shared a love of design, Exception now has nearly 100 retail stores nationwide. Its success has largely relied on its inexpensive prices and close connection to Chinese consumers.

Soon after Peng was photographed wearing the label, Exception spokeswoman Tan Jiayi said the company received multiple interview requests and the company’s website crashed due to heavy online traffic.

The company also said many VIP clients have asked whether Exception still sells the clothes worn by Peng. The Exception store in Chengdu has sold out of handbags similar to the one carried by Peng.


The high-profile display of confidence in domestic fashion is a contrast to China’s normal passion for foreign luxury brands.

Despite being the world’s greatest consumers of luxury goods, Chinese have rarely been big fans of their own brands.

In Hong Kong, Macao, London and Paris, Chinese shoppers can be seen in force at Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci stores.

Luxury cars have also flourished in the Chinese market. British automaker Bentley Motors said last week it sold a quarter of its production last year in China.

Increasingly affluent Chinese surpassed U.S. consumers to become the world’s top spenders on luxury products last year. However, about 60 percent of their purchases were made overseas, according to a report released by the consulting firm Bain & Co.

After decades of rapid economic growth, China has seen some of its local brands enter Western markets. For example, telecom manufacturer Huawei and computer giant Lenovo have gotten a foothold overseas.

However, most Chinese brands remain virtually unknown to foreign consumers. Meanwhile, many Chinese are obsessed with foreign luxury brands, especially when it comes to fashion.

The lack of competitive brands has harmed Chinese entrepreneurs and also pushed the government to support indigenous brands.

For example, the government is considering purchasing fewer foreign vehicles for use by government officials. Last March, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a draft catalog of car models for government procurement that included only domestic names.

Government pressure is starting to have an effect. The Hongqi H7, a luxury car model manufactured by the China FAW Group Corporation, has been ordered by more than 10 provincial governments and some ministries, company president Xu Xianping said earlier this month.

However, Chinese enterprises still have a long way to go in forging powerful brands, said Xu Haoran, deputy chairman of the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.


Industry insiders are celebrating the recent attention paid to Exception, hoping it will create good fortune for the budding fashion industry.

Angelica Cheung, editorial director of Vogue China, said the buzz will create new opportunities for Chinese labels that are competing with Western counterparts.

On Monday, the clothing and textile sector of China’s stock market saw a 0.5-percent rise, bucking an overall downward trend, and over half the stocks in the sector rose, with three climbing by the 10-percent daily limit.

Peng’s impact has been described as similar to the “Kate Middleton effect,” a term coined after Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton brought attention to British fashion brand Issa after wearing one of its blue gowns to announce her engagement.

“Peng’s attire is likely to kick off a domestic-brand boom,” said “ShaoliBryant” on Sina Weibo.

Official figures indicate that China’s garment industry earned 1.51 trillion yuan (243.4 billion U.S. dollars) last year, up 11.2 percent year on year.

However, challenges have surfaced as the fashion industry matures.

Cheung said the amount Chinese companies spend on branding is low compared to foreign brands.

“Domestic companies are encountering fierce competition. Higher standards should be introduced and promoted,” Cheung said.

Cheung noted, however, that Chinese designers have started gaining global recognition as well as attention from home consumers, who have more “confidence and understanding” regarding domestic brands.

Su Baoyan, acting president of the China Fashion Association, said China’s fashion industry has a lack of high-level designers.

“Good designers are not only creative, but also able to take control of the entire process from production to marketing,” Su said.

In a commentary published on Tuesday, the Beijing News called for developing premium-quality domestic products rather than seeking profits through volume.

The trend that Peng has sparked might lead to the public paying more attention to Chinese clothing brands, giving such labels a rare opportunity, the Beijing-based newspaper said.