China Fashion Week : Expect The Unexpected
China Fashion Week (CFW) Fall/Winter 2012 started Sunday and runs all this week with shows split between the stately Beijing Hotel three blocks from the Tiananmen Square and also at Beijing’s D Park art and creative zone. I’ve covered CFW in earlier posts here and here and also discussed its intricacies in interviews with Designer Guo Pei and Pauline Su from the China Fashion Association. This week I only had time to go to one show, but in an odd sort of way She Guang Hu’s show it was the perfect summation of how CFW can be completely random, yet maintains a sweet innocence as China races head over heels to become a country full of fashion fanatics.
The randomness began just when the lights began to dim as five impossibly tall blond lassies strode in and set themselves down in the front row opposite me. All wore shoulder sashes with ‘Mrs Multiverse 2nd, 3rd, etc. Place emblazoned across them. One young lady also wore a dazzling crown upon her head earning gawks and gasps from the crowd.
The show begins and nothing too out of the ordinary except the overpowered spotlight that the production team deemed necessary. Perhaps they were being paid per unit of wattage used. I did however happen to notice a fruit branded laptop sitting on a pedestal off the left off the runway. I figured it was there for some presentations that happened earlier in the day, or after the show. How wrong I was!
After ten or so models had done their lap of the runway there was a break. Assuming the show was a short one I anxiously awaited the finale, yet it was not to be. Instead a young foreign lad in aviator sunnies and a Mad Men suit motioned his way towards the pedestal. Obviously well rehearsed, the young man proceed to mimic the motions of a DJ, bouncing to the growing beat of the music and making debonair mixing motions on the laptop.
As the music crescendoed a foreign female model suddenly appeared and carried herself along the runway in a massive black Gothic and Victorian Era inspired ensemble. This single piece created such an impression that surely it must have been the final piece of the collection, the absolute best being left till last. Again I was mistaken as designer She Guang Hu played tricks with my expectation register and had even more fabulous creations stashed up his sleeve way past the frontier where cufflinks dare to fasten. Instead of venturing back behind the curtain from whence she came, the model took up residence next to the superstar DJ and from out of thin air produced a microphone. I expected her to make an announcement of some kind and yet again I was duped. (By now I should have learnt to expect the unexpected.)
Through either production wizardry or simple will power, the fake DJ changed the tempo to a thumping house soundtrack with operatic backing vocals that the young lass seamlessly began to mime as once again models streamed out onto the runway.
This third section of the collection was a star studded line up of, well, just that – stars and studs. All manner of sparkles and studs, studs and more studs gave a heavy Goth and metal feel to the jackets, dresses and gown that swathed their way down the aisle.
With all this excitement Designer She Guang Hu had still kept his secret weapon till last. A glittering and studded gas-masked model with wild birds nest of a headpiece and shimmering dress emerged from the curtains and maneuvered her way down the catwalk. With this final piece there was no way the designer could or should attempt anything bolder and so the show ended with the customary finale. The music continued and the designer himself emerged in a purple jacket, harry potter glasses and a gravity defying mohawk.
The instant the show concluded the designer was mobbed by media who willing or not found a handful of microphones thrust into his hands and a barrage of questions about the collection ensued. The impressively educated media asked about inspiration from the collection, parallels to Alexander McQueen and the various inspirations that influenced the designs. She Guang Hu answered all the questions eloquently and seemed born for the role.
The cult of the fashion designer is something I haven’t witnessed at CFW before. Obviously some of the bigger shows and designers such as NE Tiger wouldn’t permit media to storm the runway after the show but for this emerging designer looking to build his name and brand it served his purposes perfectly. The beginning of the ‘fashion designer cult’ is just another symbol of how fashion is emerging in China. If designers are getting mobbed and becoming darlings of the media it can only help to build their success and fashion design as a career in China.
Of late I developed a new appreciation for the weird and wacky things that permeate much of the Chinese fashion world. Instead of thinking “what on earth are they doing?” I now appreciate more the unique ways of Chinese entertainment, innovation and creativity and think to myself “wow, that’s cool, us Westerners would never have done that!” Despite the complete randomness of my one CFW show, overall I’m very glad I had the chance to go.